Last night I went to TedX Cardiff and something unexpected happened. Yes, there were inspirational speakers. Yes, there were fantastic presentations that challenged me and improved my knowledge in areas that I know very little about. But the most surprising thing was running into an old aquaintance: a boy I once knew who is now a man. Allow me to tell you a little about him.
Fifteen years ago I met this boy, who at that time was about 14 or 15 years old. He was a refugee from Kosovo and arrived here with a group of other boys (“unaccompanied minors” is the term), spit out into the Welsh countryside by a huge lorry with nothing but the clothes they wore. Rather than placing him with a foster family, social services had placed him in a flat with several other unaccompanied minors and hoped they’d all look after one another. Their mothers and fathers, brothers and sisters had all been left behind to deal with the fallout of the war. So because I was his support worker, he spent every day at my office hanging around. He’d annoy us with his endless requests, listen in on our phone calls, chat to us and make us all laugh. He had nothing else to do except go to English classes, and his language skills developed quicker than any of the others. He had a natural charm and was the leader of them all.
The years went by and the war in Kosovo came to an end. One by one his friends returned, whether voluntarily or at Her Majesty’s pleasure. I changed jobs and heard through the grapevine that this group of boys had now been cast to the winds, like the seeds of a dandelion clock.
And last night, there he was, wearing a suit and carrying an ipad. He has a wife, a house, an MBA and is working for a large, well-known company.
Fifteen years ago, this boy’s mother and father took a risk I can hardly bring myself to imagine. Selling their assets, pooling their capital, they paid an agent and handed their eldest son over to criminals. This boy, who in their culture represents the future and hopes of the family, the pride and honour of his parents– they delivered him into the belly of a soft-sided lorry and hoped that all would be well. Who knows the fate of many of these children? Some of them made it here, but what about the others? Could I, as a mother, conceive of taking any of my children and making the same decision?
This boy’s parents were forced to let go of him at an early age. For mothers, the moment we become pregnant we are taking a risk. Suddenly our happiness is predicated on another. No longer are we unitary human beings moving with perceived freedom through the world. We are responsible and during our child’s life we will have to make some difficult decisions.
Watching my children grow and change and take baby steps away from me is bittersweet. I rejoice in their independence but wonder with nostalgia “where has the time gone?” I shake my head in awe as I watch my baby take his first steps, begin speaking in sentences, run to keep up with his sisters…. But a sadness tugs at my heart when I consider that his babyhood has been like a handful of sand running through my fingers.
What must it have been like for my Kosovan friend’s mother when she said an uncertain goodbye to her son? And now, if she is alive, is she able to rejoice in her decision and know that she did what was best for him even though it was painful? When she thinks of her son does she, like me, admire his sheer perserverance and hard work? Can she hardly believe that her risk paid off?
One day my children will leave this house and set off on their own. My three explorers, taking off on their own Nina, Pinta and Santa Maria. What will they discover? Who will they meet? And who will I be once they’ve gone?
© Lisa Hassan Scott 2012. For reprint permission contact the copyright holder.
Photo credit: Bronze Figures, Fleetwood, Lancs. P Smith, Wikimedia Commons.