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  • Charlotte John

‘Her sons are criminals, you see….and the apple never falls far from the tree’?

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Today’s guest blog…wow…. where do I start. I could say so much about todays blogger and her Son’s…yet…I can’t. Today’s blogger is a woman who I have known a long time. When she speaks I feel like I am back at home….We speak the same language…if you know what I mean. Out of the Shadows is about giving people a voice. Those who need it. But she…she thinks that people will judge her. I told her…Some people might. But some people will learn from what you have to give…. So she is using this blog to reach out and tell people how it is . Ladies and gents may I introduce you to “mumzy”….

My sons have criminal records see…..and they say that the apple never falls far from the tree. 

I am the ‘mumzy’ they all came to in our ends, still do. As youngsters my sons were seen as lovable rogues, cheeky chaps.  Their friends too, most of which I took in at some point. Always a warm hug for them, home cooked food, plenty, a bath and a pull-out bed.

I was brought up poor, hardworking immigrant parents, no handouts. I achieved a good education despite going to a rough school, worked hard, furthered my education, made my own money, bought my own house.  Then my sons were born and life changed. My life revolved totally around them, their needs. Full on mum, nothing else mattered. I brought them up with a balance of love and discipline, as my parents did me. They had firm boundaries, manners were very important, respect for all people, good communication skills, and kindness was paramount. I took them places, different countries, made them get involved and commit to things, gave them responsibilities to take seriously, made them try new experience, do chores, cook for themselves. I wanted them to learn things that the national curriculum won’t ever teach you. We went regularly to museums and galleries, exhibitions and events.  Took their friends sometimes too. They said it was ‘education for their soul’, but they still broke the law.

I spent most of their Secondary School years in and out of meetings. Liaising with educators, trying to save them.  I would tell them often ‘I love you son, I will not give up, but I hate your behaviour’. I was losing any control that I had over them. Next came the Police. The knocks on my door. Night time raids were the worst, waking up to that fear. I thanked all the gods that my little one was such a heavy sleeper, never woke up, not once.

When my first son went ‘down’, it was a shock. It happened so fast. I told him it would happen one day, but still it shocked me. Emotionally, it’s up there with deep grief, but there is no ‘rest in peace’ about it.  There is no peace on the wing.  There is fear. The unknown. The letters, the visits, the raw pain of it. The ripple effect on family, siblings, grandparents. I am alone, so no support there. A few close friends to lean on, but they have not experienced it. The same youngsters that I took in are supportive, when they are not locked up themselves.

Will it be in the papers? Who will know? Will it affect my job? I need my job, I have a child to support. Will it affect the little one? So little, so innocent. Play grounds can be cruel. Must keep it private. Hide it.

When my second son went ‘down’ I thought I would be ready. At least there was a trial. We could prepare ourselves. Lots of heart to heart talks, tears, a last home cooked meal, bags packed. I was losing my younger one and the difference was he still lived with me when it happened. One day he is there, next he is gone. Deep pain. Deep grief, no peace.

He got a long sentence, wanted to make an example of him. I got it, after all he had broken the law. To me, his mum, they read him so wrong in court. I wanted to scream out ‘he has morals, compassion, he is kind, he is giving, has a sense of humour to die for, is a great cook, best hugger ever’. I couldn’t say a word.  He mouthed ‘stay strong mum’ from the dock…and I do.

They shipped them both out. Up north. I would leave home at 6am, take 6 trains in all, and be back home by 10.45pm, just for a 2 hour visit. It took nearly a whole weeks wage to fund the journey. Nobody knew, I would be back at work every Monday after my visits, smiling, positive and happy to work. What people don’t know, they can’t judge you on.

Visits open your eyes to the ‘hidden sentence’ that families and especially children cope with.  The knock-on mental health issues, the trauma the hell of it. I met many people from literally all walks of life. Professionals, house wives, clergy men, ex forces, young, old and every race, colour, religion and gender. They were all visiting and all grieving.  Many of the young men locked up are dads and so many of the visitors are children. I watch them quietly; I study their behaviour before and after their visits.  Leaving their dads behind is the hard bit. I watch how some mums cope well, others less, as they struggle to cope with their own emotions first. It is these kids that I want to reach out to. I know enough to help them. Start the healing process, at the very least, help them understand their own feelings.  I watch the prison staff and how they deal with the children visiting. The pat down searches and the drugs dogs, their general attitude towards the kids. Just like the Police, some are aware and effective, others, not so much. I have visited in four different prisons across the country, are the staff all trained in the same way I wonder?

I am good at my job, some would say very good. I have a position of responsibility, trust. If they knew though…how would they feel? People judge, make assumptions all the time. It is not just play grounds that are cruel.

Release for one son offered comfort. A light at the end of the tunnel. A very dark tunnel. As I move forward in my life I know that I have a lot of invaluable hidden knowledge.  As an educator I could do more if I used it. That would mean exposure though.  I fear the knock on affect, again, I need to earn a living.  I am raising a young child alone. How would exposure affect the little one?  How would others that have known me, worked with me over the years feel if the truth came out? Deceived maybe? Although, I never lied to them, I never told them either.  How would my actual sons feel? Is it disloyal? It is primarily their business after all and it isn’t easy trying to make a fresh start when people know your past.  IF I raise my game and use my hidden knowledge to help others, how would it impact me and those affiliated to me?

I sit on the fence, unsure of my next move, but silently frustrated that I am not doing so much more with what I know.

‘Her sons are criminals, you see….and the apple never falls far from the tree’?

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