I warn you not to be young

18th November, 2011 5:22 pm

I warn you not to be conceived. It wasn’t a difficult birth, so you and your mother are sent home just hours later, to make room for one of scores of new mothers that need the bed. She’s coping with the demands of being a new mum, but feels very low, and could do with some support. The hospital has midwives, but they are overstretched, and have little time to dedicate to postnatal care. You’re alone.

I warn you not to need. There hasn’t been a Sure Start centre nearby for some years now, and your mother spends a lot of time travelling around with you on buses to playgroup, to the health visitor, to the library. The opening hours don’t always match up, and you spend a lot of time waiting around…bored, frustrated.

I warn you not to cry for help. You have been living with abuse for as long as you can remember. You have forgotten what it is like not to feel hurt, afraid, guilty, if you ever knew. But eventually, Social Services come. Your social worker cares, but you are one of 75 on her caseload, and she misses some vital signs. The local authority lets you down. It continues. Unable to bear it any longer, you call Childline, and they do help…but without access to legal aid, you don’t have the support to collate all the evidence of your abuse.

I warn you not to live. Like everyone on your street, you live in an old house – and as the year wears on, it gets cold and damp. You and your siblings have near permanent colds, asthma – it keeps you awake for hours at night. Your parents are worried: they’d like to leave the heating on to help you, but can’t afford the fuel…and that’s unlikely to change. Double glazing and solid wall insulation would help a lot, but it’s too expensive. You deal with it. What else is there to do?

I warn you not to care. You give up time with your friends because your granddad needs someone to look after him. Your parents can’t give up work, and the council’s social care budget doesn’t extend to much support: 15 minutes a day, maybe half an hour. You love him, but your schoolwork is suffering – and because you’re under 16, you aren’t entitled to state support. You feel like you’re missing out, and it makes you unhappy.

I warn you not to learn. You want to go to college, but the numbers just aren’t stacking up…you can afford the bus fares, but not all of the books…and certainly not the time you need to study. Your parents aren’t unsupportive, but you know that they could use the extra income now that you are old enough to work. EMA doesn’t exist anymore, so you leave education, and extend your hours: reasoning that you are bright and dedicated enough to work your way up. In reality, you take on extra responsibility for no more money, and bide your time. After all, with people working well into their 70s, it is hard to progress.

I warn you not to be young. Because if you are, you’re on your own.

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