02 Sep 2007
Where were social services in the 70s and 80s?
Social Services seem to yo-yo in the media's opinions between overdoing it and not doing enough. I don't know which is worse but I do wonder what changed in recent years - is it all the "political correctness" and ban on smacking that has led to children being taken into care wrongly?
I'm aware of several instances of what would be considered abuse or just generally poor parenting which should have been stopped - if it had been perhaps it would have saved eating problems, confidence problems, depression and many mistakes made by the children concerned. It would have saved the NHS some money in the repeated counselling required to keep the adults the children became on the straight and narrow. Not to mention the drugs required, the health problems caused by depression!
It's a wonder that so many children who suffer ever manage to make good parents, but they do. Perhaps they finally gain strength from knowing that they became good people in SPITE of their parenting, instead of because of it.
In the 70s some parents believed it was OK to physically reprimand small children. They thought it acceptable to leave a 9 year old child to take a younger sibling to school, feed her and generally look after her until the male parent returned from the pub. No after school clubs, no babysitters - didn't want people knowing their business did they? So every summer holiday instead of playing outside as their parents had the children would stay in together creating what entertainment they could from beads, rice and a tiny Sindy cooker and the TV.
They thought leaving young children in a dark car park with a drink and packet of crisps whilst they went into the pub to drink was OK. Personally I'd be worried about them wandering off, wrecking the car or being kidnapped - maybe I'm over protective?
Sexual abuse by a step-parent went un-noticed or perhaps ignored for the sake of "what people might think". Any behaviour borne out of such abuse added to the physical and confusing mental behaviour by the child was dismissed as "troublesome pubescent years", or perhaps an inherited "blue devil".
If the behaviour was too bad the troublesome child might even have been sent back to the abuser until police became involved. Never mind that the child spent every night in fear with furniture pushed against the door to prevent the drunken advances of the abuser. Never mind that the child had to listen to the wife of the mother's new partner crying down the phone bemoaning her own situation.
Children were banished from being in the sitting room and the dining table - to eat yesterday's reheated meals in plastic sectioned microwave trays at the tiny kitchen table alone. Step parents refused to speak to the most troublesome child, favouring passing messages through a sibling for years on end. While the mother looked on and did and said nothing, allowed accussations to be upheld that were cruel and untrue.
Children were made homeless at 16, left to find accommodation alone, abandon further education and fend for themselves.
This would have perhaps been easier to bear if friends had been allowed to visit or even telephone. It would have been easier to bear if friend's families hadn't taken pity on them and tried to show them what a loving family was like. Ignorance is often bliss, but then again if it weren't for the families who looked out for these uncared for, unwanted children they wouldn't have had a clue what family life was supposed to be like would they?
As a parent if my children show signs of being unhappy I talk to them, show them I love them, hold them when they cry and talk softly to them. Try to get to the bottom of their unhappiness. Guess what - it works! If you stop stressing about how people view your child's behaviour and take the time and interest to get to know them they learn to trust you and return your love with honesty. They start to tell you their problems without you having to probe for answers.
The thing is if children are left to spiral into depression and disorders they become adults and the usual coping mechanism is to block it all out until some life changing event brings back flashbacks and old memories.
When something triggers these memories and opens old wounds the whole sorry process of recovery starts all over again.
There are a lot of things wrong in the world but I do think in this country the stiff upper lip and keeping family secrets doesn't help our society one bit. I've worked with people who are obnoxious to deal with, usually I am drawn to these people because I believe their attitudes stem from a deep unhappiness - do you know what I'm usually right. The times I've shared a tearfilled coffee with work colleages who are going through their own private hell. How broken souls continue to hold down jobs and maintain any kind of relationships is testament to the human spirit.
I know this is not a modern dilemma and my generation have been spoiled by the post war generation because so much became available. But it didn't necessarily breed good parents who forgot their own parents values in favour of a newfound freedom. Extra marital affairs and repeated marriages increased. Monogamy and fidelity started to go downhill - look how much worse it's got!
I stopped watching the news, just the odd local program usually, many years ago when my first two children were stillborn on the living room floor. I couldn't cope with my own grief and memories that were triggered and certainly couldn't cope with seeing such a destructive world being broadcast in front of me. Yet my desire for a living child meant I still brought more children into the world.
Many times I've regretted this because of the place I know now we live in, which only time can teach you. Many more times I am eternally grateful for their prescence, their smiling faces that have some of my features, their own brand of humour which is sometimes so intelligent it makes me cry. Seeing their excitement on discovering new music or better discovering old music that I felt the same joy over and them liking that too! Having them understand that money is a bit tight and they themselves choosing one inexpensive gift for Christmas "if there is any money left" made my heart swell - luckily a remortgage went through in time.
Yes we have teenage moments, yes I complain at the self obsessed thoughtlessness of a mirror obsessed chld but we laugh and we cry together.
We eat together, we sit in the same room together, we are a "disfunctional" but happy family, not without our problems. I believe I'm equipping my children for their future without making them grow up too fast, allowing them to be children while they still can.
This is all the more important to me knowing I may not see them reach 18 or 21.