A Mother’s Hope
As we approach Christmas and are reminded of the traditional nativity and the birth of Jesus, I find myself drawn to imagining the story from Mary’s perspective.
Maybe it’s because I’m a mother myself that I cannot escape the very real and raw feelings Mary must have experienced throughout her life, not just as the chosen virgin, but more specifically as a mother. A mother who probably felt very alone at times, and I am sure went through the same difficult stages of parenthood that all mothers do. But the sting in Mary’s story is the fact that eventually her son was taken from her in a brutal way. As a mother, every fibre of her being would have wanted to fight against that outcome. We know that the bond between a mother and a child is unique but there is also something special about the distinction between the bond with a son and the bond with a daughter; each have wonderful and challenging elements because they can be very different relationships.
I spoke with a mum of an eighteen year old son living on Angell Town. She spoke openly about how the issue of local youth violence is impacting many areas of their lives. We spoke specifically about what it was like to see this issue unfolding in respect of her son and how they have had to make adaptations to their way of life.
“I would say one of the biggest concerns for some mothers in Brixton is safety. Most people used to think that if your son was caught up in gang activity that he could end up with a stab-wound or being shot and even killed, but I think nowadays more people are beginning to understand that these horrendous things can happen to someone simply because they were in the wrong place at the wrong time. You could be just walking to the shops, but because of where you live and where you’ve chosen to walk, it could be dangerous for you.
When my son takes a trip to the shop I will call him ten or twenty times to ask where he is, I know how long it should take him to reach certain destinations, my mind Is always making the calculations and on high alert. If I can’t get hold of him when I call my mind runs wild. If we’ve agreed a time he is coming home after being out for an evening and it runs past that time (as can typically happen with teenagers) I am instantly wired because I know how dangerous it can be. He always tells me “I’m not going to live in fear, I can handle it, it’s not dangerous” but, like most teens, has a sense of being untouchable.
The very real threat of violence on the streets has also affected the jobs he can go for. Because of where we live he won’t go for jobs in certain areas because the places he has to pass through to get there are very dangerous for outsiders. He has experienced being chased with a knife, having a gun fired after him, and this is all happening in our neighbourhoods. It’s scary because I know I can’t cage him up forever, which is the protective instinct of any mother, but as an eighteen year old young man I know he has to live his life.
It breaks my heart because I know he worries about being out and about with my younger son, he thinks that if an incident occurs that he has to run from he would be putting his younger sibling in danger. He feels like he has had to distance himself from the family to protect us, for example he used to come to with us for picnics in the park and visit family in other areas but he won’t do that anymore unless it is really far away.
I actually moved my son to Norfolk to stay with family for a while, he did stay there and go to school but when he became old enough to get on a train or coach by himself he used to come back down to London and I couldn’t stop him. His roots were here and he had established deep friendships. I often wonder if I should move before my younger son develops those ties.
It doesn’t help that youth violence is often glamourised on social media and in popular films so the young people want to be a ‘part of something’. What they don’t realise is the long-term effects that can come from fast decisions, and that these choices will not only affect them but also their families.
The reason I am happy to share my story is because it isn’t unique. The constraints my son finds himself in are not a reflection of who I am as a mother, nor who he is as a young man, but they are a reflection of the environment we find ourselves in, an environment that is attempting to rob families and communities of unity and peace.”
These are just some of the issues faced by families living in areas of high youth violence, unfortunately it is not just a case of ‘keep your head down’ anymore because this no longer guarantees safety. Please continue to support the work of CHIPS as we work with young people and families in this community to build bridges of peace and help to stop the cycle of youth violence.
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