Christine’s family was a typical 1960 family, with mum taking care of the house and kids while dad was the sole breadwinner. But this family was not the typical loving family where the children are loved and supported and mum and dad love and support each other.
Extract from No Fourth River: “Fear was the first emotion any of us ever learned.’ while most young children are given lots of love and made to feel safe.”
Christine’s father was a domineering, strict and selfish character who ruled the roost with a firm hand.
Extract from No Fourth River: “Everything had its place- and the children were no exception.”
Although he came from a modest background as a mechanic, Christine’s father made his fortune in the diamond industry. He was a rich man but never gave his five children much. When he died, one of his children took over the business and kept most of the money for himself without sharing it with his family.
He constantly reminded his wife and children of his position, he was the one in charge and he particularly delighted in reminding everyone that he was superior, he was successful and he knew best.
He told his children over and over again that if they didn’t follow his rules, they wouldn’t do well.
He took reprimanding and disciplining his children too far. He was physically as well as verbally abusive.
He punished his children with long hours, often days of isolation, withholding meals, painful stress positions and physical blows. One of his favourite punishments was to make the children trim the grass or hedges with a blunt knife.
The family took care to stay out of dad’s way. Extract from No Fourth River: “My father was the hunter and we were his defenceless prey.”
Christine fell out with her father when she left home, and the two never reconciled.
Christine’s mother was the only female role model Christine had for a long time. She was fearful of her husband and she was not exempt from his cruel words, physical blows or punishments.
She had four children in four years and had trouble coping and keeping her children safe. Christine ended up with a disfiguring injury that marked her for life.
Extract from No Fourth River: “She would regularly let things happen to us, preferring a distant style of parenting that led to a lot of wounds, scars, and burns.”
Christine’s relationship with her mother improved as the two got closer after the death of Christine’s father and after Christine ended her first marriage. Christine looked after her mother, during the last stages of her dementia, until she passed away (see photos in the photo section).
Breaking the cycle of abuse
Christine parenting style differed wildly from that of her parents. From her own hands-on experiences, she knew how disastrous the effect that lack of support, love and understanding can have on one’s life.
She endeavoured to provide love and security to her twin daughters, making up for what she lacked during her own upbringing.
Due to her own past, Christine was anxious when her daughters hit their teenage years. She was a strict but loving parent. However, she had to find the right balance of giving her daughters advice and letting them find their own path.
Extracts from No Fourth River:
“I found myself getting too strict with them. The more they pushed for new freedoms, the tighter I clung to them in fear of what mistakes they might make. I worried, though, that I was starting to make the same mistakes as my dad. He’d been right about the people I was mixing with, but he had failed to explain it to me, and I just thought he was cruel.”
“We were all survivors, programmed from the very start of life to tiptoe around the pillar of fury that was my father.”
“Mum could never do anything right in my father’s eyes. She was, just like the rest of us, constantly told that she was useless.”
“Mum never got involved in any decision about our education. She could never say anything that was acceptable to him. Her opinions were always considered useless.”