My mother used to say a phrase I'll never forget.
As a teenager, there were times that I would refuse to do as she asked, would stomp my feet in anger, or argue that she didn't love me. But she would always reply, “Wait until you're a mother and you'll see why I worry about you so much.” After becoming a mother three times over, I practically laugh when I remember those words. I know what she means.
My parents always wanted the best for us four children. They tried their hardest to provide for us financially, keep a comfortable roof over our heads, give us the education that we deserved. We were pushed to understand the value of a dollar, the value of family, the value of hard work. We weren't allowed to talk back, we had to respect their authority at all times. I wasn't allowed to drink until I turned 18, and I wasn't allowed to date until I was out of high school.
At the time, I hated it. I hated the power they had over me. I hated the restrictions they had over my life. I hated the fact that they wouldn't let me 'have fun'. I thought all they wanted to do was control me.
I longed to have the lifestyle my friends had: going out on school nights, drinking alcohol at birthday parties, dabbling in dating, doing what typical teenagers did.
But I grew up and my outlook on life started to change. I turned 18, had a party with a few friends, had a couple drinks to celebrate, and that was basically it. I was busy studying at university, and having recently met my future husband, I didn't wish for that life any more. I still haven't changed, and it doesn't bother me one bit.
However, I know that not everyone feels the way I do.
It's hard to deny that there are many news reports of drinking-related violence and car accidents. The federal government is being pushed to raise the drinking age to 21, which has sparked some controversy. Some are on one side of the fence, arguing that this has been a long time coming, while others believe this change will do no good to curb the number of drinkers, the violence and car accidents.
The Alcohol Use and Harms in Australia Information Paper of 2009 states that "the age at which Australians are having their first drink is continuing to decrease", as around 90 per cent of young people have tried alcohol by the age of 14. It also reveals that 80 per cent of alcohol consumed by people aged 14–24 is consumed in ways that put the health of drinkers (and others) at risk. The figures show that about 70,000 people are involved in alcohol-related assaults per year, costing Australia $187 million.
I love a good drink just like everyone else. I love a beer when socialising with friends; I love sipping on white wine, too. But my parents, who I once believed were too 'hard' on me, taught me the importance of moderation.
And the values they instilled in me weren't just my attitudes towards alcohol. They taught me how important it is to show others respect: I said 'thank you' whenever my mother cooked me dinner, I always spoke politely when I asked for a favour. I was taught that these were the right things to do.
But hearing about the recent abuse on public transport has me incredibly disturbed. In a video filmed on a Perth train, a woman in her early 20s is seen refusing to move her books from the empty seat beside her. This leads to a vicious argument with an expectant mum who wants to sit down. And on a Melbourne train, Roger Stapleford, 56, was verbally and physically abused by two teenagers. One teenager refused to move her foot off the only vacant seat, so he chose to move it himself. This resulted in a drink being poured over him and a can thrown at his forehead, leaving a 5cm gash. Both videos were shocking to watch.
I know that all of us parents do the best we can. We aren't perfect; we make mistakes. I also know that sometimes we're afraid to do what's right for our children, opting to do what they want instead.
But I can tell you, from my own experience, being raised by 'tough' parents is something I'm very grateful for.
My parents taught me that you have to work hard to get what you want. Sometimes you'll have to follow rules that you don't like. Sometimes you'll come across people whose opinions you clash with, but you need to learn to accept those differences. You shouldn't disrespect others, and you shouldn't verbally or physically abuse them.
I know that my children and I won't always see eye to eye. I know they'll probably get angry when I refuse to let them go out late at night, when I tell them they're too young to date, or when I ask them to do their homework before playing video games.
But I also know I'll try to be the parent who isn't too lenient nor too strict; the sort of parent that gives my children independence but also unconditional support. The sort of parent that my children will respect, admire, and feel grateful to have.
And I hope that one day, when they've grown up and are raising their own children, they'll be glad I was hard on them too.
What sort of parents did you have? And what sort of parent are you? Have your say in the comments below.