I make no apology for curating this old post about Jenny and Louise Craig, the young child carers. Despite the passage of a number of years, the story of the child carers remains topical and sought for.
I have been taking stock of my blogging activities over the past few days. And, I have been giving a lot of thought to what it means to live a mindful life with Multiple Sclerosis.
Paul and Amanda Craig are blind and disabled. They live in a terraced house in Bicester, Oxon with their six children. They are fiercely independent and only accept help from social services for a few hours cleaning of the house.
As a result, the two oldest girls, Jenny and Louise, look after their four younger brothers, day in and day out. Jenny is nine years old, Louise is twelve.
The boys Daniel, Matthew, Richard and Nigel are six, three, two and eight months respectively.
When Louise first learned that she was to be a carer. She recalls “My mum and dad sat me down, when I was about three. They explained that I needed to help because they were blind. I told them that I would be eyes for both of them.”
Paul and Amanda expect their young daughters to pull their weight within the family and take on some of the responsibility of being a parent. Questions about the nature of parental choice arose during the filming of the documentary. What sort of upbringing do children deserve?
For the last seven years, Louise has juggled the demands of her parent’s growing family with her schoolwork.
Each morning before she goes to school. Louise has to bathe and dress her brothers. She has to prepare their breakfast. Finally, she must take the boys to school.
When she returns, after her own school day, she has to prepare dinner for the boys, help her mother with the laundry, then put her brothers to bed.
Amanda has congenital cataracts, she can only see things when they are very close up. Paul suffered a brain haemorrhage when he was a baby which virtually destroyed his sight. They met each other at a blind school when they were teenagers.
Amanda was one of eight children, Paul was one of six and they’ve always wanted a large family of their own. They are both of the opinions that the more children they have, the more help they will receive as they get older.
Amanda and Paul are both proud of the way they’re handling their growing family. Amanda has just learned that she is pregnant with their seventh child.
Paul reflects: “I spent most of my life in boarding school, I hated going home because my dad used to use me as a punch-bag. My father, allegedly, fractured my femur. When I was only three months old. And he was the cause of my brain haemorrhage when I was nine months old. I want to give my children what I never had. A loving parent, new shoes, and new clothes.
All the shoes I had, when I was a child, came from jumble sales. You should show your children love and not abuse and let them know that if they have a problem that we’re here for them”.
Jenny and Louise aren’t alone, there are at least 175,000 child carers in the United Kingdom supported by the Young Carer’s Association. Founded in the 1990s to lobby and listen, the association recognises the strain these children are under.
It’s monthly activities are designed so that carers, like Jenny and Louise, get a chance to be just children, free from responsibilities beyond their years, if only for an afternoon.CREDITS: All of the above information was taken from the Channel 4 “A Child’s Life” documentary programme.
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