When I was seven

When I was seven, my little world was perfect.  Cereal box perfect.  I lived in a pretty country town in Wales with my Mum, Dad and my two brothers.  Everything seemed safe and friendly, and life was predictable.  Most days my Dad left for work with his briefcase just before nine and finished up around six.  He also came home for his lunch.  My Mum minded the house, and was always there for me and my brothers.  Grandparents were visited regularly and no-one seemed to die until they were very old.  In fact bad things only happened far away in other countries.

When I was seven my primary school closed down and I had to start in another school across town.  It was too far to walk, and in those innocent days no-one thought it odd that a seven year old would get the bus home from school.  So every afternoon I said goodbye to my friends and crossed the road to the bus top swinging my satchel on my arm.  I enjoyed the short bus ride up the hill.  I felt quite the grown up.  

But then one day something happened.  One day the bus did not stop at my stop.  I can still remember the overwhelming panic as the stop receded into the distance and the houses flashed by the windows.  The tears and the kindness of strangers who offered comfort and tissues.  I wondered would the bus ever stop? Where was it taking me?  

In fact it came to a halt a few minutes later.  At the next stop.  All I had to do was walk down the hill home, instead of up.

But even so, it was the most terrifying thing that happened to me when I was seven.  

Luckily for me there was someone waiting for me when I came home to calm and cuddle me.  But what if there had been no-one?

That day flashed through my mind as soon as I heard about the new Irish Social Welfare and Pensions Bill 2012, which will eventually stop the one-parent family payment when the youngest child in the family turns seven.  Lone parents will have to sign on and look for work, for many that will mean poorly paid and part-time work which may not cover the cost of child-care, and so kids as young as 7 could be home alone.

Could I have done that? I don't think so.

When Angel was seven, she seemed to be living the cereal box dream too: she was lively and sporty with lots of friends.  She loved gymnastics, the Spice Girls and her barbie dolls, and was a proud big sister to Smiley, no longer a sick little baby, but small, portable and very cute.



How would Angel have coped at home alone at 7 if I was working and unable to afford childcare? What dangers would she have faced?  What noises would have scared her?  What if she blew a fuse and the lights went out?  If some stranger came to the door and kept on knocking.  How would she feel, how would she cope?  And why should she have to?  The Irish Constitution claims to cherish all Irish children equally.  Exactly how this new law will help cherish the children of lone parents I have no idea.

I am lucky.  I am a lone parent, but all my children are older now, and my family will not be affected by this.  But many families will be.   And perhaps there will be many more frightened seven year olds, just like me, but with no-one to comfort them.

Written in support of the #7istooyoung campaign being organised by OPEN, the Irish organisation for lone parents.   


18 comments:

  1. Thank you so much from your loyal fan club in OPEN.

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  2. Powerful post Blue Sky. I can't understand why they decide on the age of 7; there is a similar attitude happening in the UK. 7 is so young and those with special needs they can be emotionally even younger. Its harsh. I wish you luck with your campaign. Deb xx

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  3. That's a fab post.

    How can governments think that 7 is a reasonable age to be left alone? My 12 year old isn't keen even now.

    I am sad for all concerned, more than sad, angry that no one in government has any idea of how life can really be for so many people.

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  4. @Frances - you're very welcome.

    @Deb - Thank you for your support, there is so much wrong with this proposal that I could write a book on it, if only I have the time xx

    @Suburbia - Thank you, I cannot understand the thinking of either of our Governments on this one.

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  5. I remember when I was 12 and my Mum started a university degree. I used to get home after school and the house was cold and quiet. I never realised until that point just how much I loved getting home and my Mum would call out 'are you home?' which made me laugh every single day. Even at 12 I missed that and 7 is just waaaay to young to be home alone!

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  6. Definitely too young. Good luck with the campaign, I hope this ridiculous policy gets shut down. Like Deb said, in the UK it's all going in a similar direction with families as the biggest losers.

    It's a depressing time to be bringing up a family - or just a depressing time full stop.

    Great article x

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  7. 7 is waaayyy to young.
    My Mum started college when i started school. The school was about 10 minutes walk from houme (max on a slow day) She was very lucky my grandparents and aunt along with dad were about to help out. I do remember one day forgetting my grandad was picking us up, walked home and cried cos no one was in.
    I made the choice when the kids were young to stay at home. They missed out on material things, but mostly, if they were sick at school, i was about.
    Even now i stay at home - partially choice, but mainly because of Peter - if his support goes pear shaped, somebody ain't getin outta the house to work. So why have the hassle??

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  8. This is such a thought provoking post. 7 is so young. :(

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  9. I think I would take my children to the council offices on my way to work. I wouldn't mind betting if everyone did that, they would get somewhere - after all, they couldn't possibly take them all into care.

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  10. @Jen - Sorry to bring back sad memories, but great to see you back on the blogs x

    @Beadzoid - Yes and I have no idea why families are being targeted - unless it's because we're easy targets x

    @Julie - I've no issue about Mums working, it's about the need for someone to care for the kids, and lone parents being coerced into work if they can't afford childcare is what could lead to children being home alone sadly .

    @Di - Thank you, sorry to make you sad x

    @Janerowena - Yes, special needs mums have similar ideas: bring all the autie kids to the Parliament buildings and let them loose. Then let the Govt say they don't need extra care and attention!

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  11. What a thought provoking post and a scary, scary idea that 7 is old enough. I don't even think my 7 year old is tall enough or strong enough to open the front door by herself.

    I'll help share this as much as possible x

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  12. Brilliant post. Thought provoking. I remember walking home from school myself very young, an age I would never consider letting my kids make the shorter journey to their school. I hope your message gets to the decision makers and changes minds.

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  13. @Renata - Thank you, I really appreciate the comment and the support for the campaign x

    @Sally - I hope so too, thank you for taking the time to read this an commentx

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  14. Brilliant post. I started walking home from school on my own (about 10 minutes journey) when I was 10, but my mum was always there to greet me and have a snack ready. The idea of kids as young as 7 coming home to empty houses makes me so sad. Children are growing up way too quickly as it is, let's not speed up the process even more.
    Taz

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  15. @Taz - it makes me sad too, thanks so much for commenting xx

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  16. I have seen you mention 7 is too young but this is the first time I have got round to reading more about it. I am horrified that th Irish government are proposing such a change. It is ridiculous to imagine a 7 year old taking cate of themselves. 7 is definitely too young! I feel sick and the thought of this.

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  17. @LittleMamma - I don't think the Government are planning on 7 year olds being home alone - but it could be an unintended consequence as lone parents may feel may that they have to take up low paid employment that will not pay the cost of childcare. I felt sick at this too, that's why I wrote this post and support the campaign - glad you noticed it!

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