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A qualified family law solicitor who has worked as an advocate, advisor and trainer for the Family Rights Group for the past decade. In addition to this she is the current family participation officer who supports both the parents’ and kinship carers’ panels.
“My parents were teenage sweethearts who were aged 16 and 17 when I was born. My mother was an only child and my grandparents were extremely distressed at what they considered to be her “dreadful mistake”.
No one believed that my parents’ relationship would last or that they could care for me properly so it was decided that my maternal grandparents would become my carers. My maternal grandmother gave up her job as she was not going to allow my father’s parents “to have her granddaughter”, as she put it. We all lived at home until my mother left to continue her education.
Despite the odds my parents really did love each other. They married, went on to have three more children and spent over thirty years together before my father died. During my childhood I spent weekends and school holidays with my parents and my other grandparents, initially in Jamaica and subsequently in England when we relocated here in 1965.
Following the birth of my second brother my parents asked if I could live with them on a full time basis. I know that my grandparents did not want me to go but said that they would agree if it made me happy. It did not. At the age of five why would I want to give up being the most important person in their world to live with two screaming little boys, having to share my toys and sweets? There was no contest. Any attempts to encourage me to move were strongly resisted. I remained at home.
My parents appeared to accept this and never complained. At the time I had no idea how distraught they really were about it. However, when I was twelve years old my grandparents asked me if I wanted them to adopt me. Instantly I said no, not wanting to hurt my parents. I remember feeling really surprised that my first instinct was to try to protect my parents’ feelings. In that split second I realised how much I loved them, as my parents, which was something I had never really thought of before that time.
“My siblings and I enjoyed a really happy childhood, full of good memories, and have remained close to this day. As the oldest I always try to look out for them and we’ve never considered it strange that there were no big family argument, or bad feelings, I just never lived with them”.
My grandmother had a stroke when I was seventeen resulting in her partial paralysis. My parents wanted to employ carers for her to help my granddad and for me to move in with them so as not to disturb me studying for my A’ Levels. I knew that they were thinking of me and my future but to this day I remember feeling this suggestion was a betrayal to my grandparents who had always prioritised me before everything.
“I told my parents that just as my gran had never wanted anyone else caring for me, I would not let anyone else care for her. So at seventeen I became a joint carer for my gran until my grandad died in 1987 when I became her sole carer, which was hard but something I am glad I did, especially when my mother subsequently died in 2009.”
Over the years I had my own child, successfully completed my law degree and qualified as a family law solicitor and have two grandsons. But it is one of my greatest achievements in life to be able to say that I continue to care for my grandmother who is now 94 years old and we are as close today as we have ever been, which just goes to show that despite what others might see as a “normal family”, in life you love who loves you, regardless of their title.