My children are not being heard or considered by the government in any of its policy decisions which affect them. We have seemingly become invisible.
First published in July 2021.
I have stopped talking to people close to me about why my family is being cautious, staying away from crowds, and refusing large family gatherings. I haven’t stopped having these conversations because I don’t want to discuss our situation; it is because we have seemingly become invisible to many of the people close to us.
This is a long and lonely journey.
I am a Clinically Vulnerable Mum to four children, one of whom is also Clinically Vulnerable; my 4-year-old has been admitted to hospital multiple times over the last 20 months due to uncontrolled asthma. My eldest two children attend school and college, and are old enough to understand what being in a pandemic means – they are very conscious of the serious risk which bringing this virus home could pose to their brother and I.
It is some comfort that my husband and I are now fully vaccinated, but our children are not, and are not set to be.
I joined Parents United around a year ago, as I needed to make some sense of my situation. I now moderate for the group and help ensure members have access to a safe space in which to support each other. Recently the mood in the group has changed; I am now seeing an increase in members who feel desperate and alone as they are sidelined by family and friends, simply for wanting to protect those they love and live with.
When thinking about the risk to my own family, I have doubted my own perspective, and even my own sanity. I have wondered if I am overreacting or being irrational, as others would have me believe. I have wondered whether I am over-thinking the threat which Covid poses to my household, and whether I am being over-protective. But considering the facts, it is clear that my perspective is entirely sane and rational, given the circumstances.
Rather than over-thinking, I am just processing – making sense of the appalling situation my family and I are faced with. I am thinking of my Clinically Vulnerable child, and my other children, who – at present – are healthy. I am thinking of my Clinically Extremely Vulnerable Dad – my children’s grandad – and of those families who have lost a family member and had their grief swept aside by a callous narrative, which frames this as being OK because of their loved ones’ age, or their medical condition, or because they were one of so many who lost their lives.
COVID-19 Bereaved Families For Justice - Led By Donkeys
I am thinking of every child who is being denied the opportunity to be vaccinated, and every vulnerable person who – far from cowering – is doing their level best to make good decisions for themselves and their families in the face of phenomenally high infection rates. And – precisely because I do understand personal responsibility – I am thinking not only of myself, but of every other person I come into contact with, and how I may pose a transmission risk to them.
Those who would accuse people with my perspective of over-thinking things are deliberately turning their attention away from the evidence in front of them. They refuse to listen to the accounts of people living with Long Covid or elevated risk, and they are happy to ignore – even ridicule – the rapidly rising case rates, hospital admissions and the UK’s extraordinary death toll.
They insist only one narrative should be acknowledged; that Freedom Day is here, and we must immediately revert to “normality” and deny any consequences of doing so. They see the removal of face coverings in public spaces as an indication of freedom, when – for people like me – the mask itself is a symbol of liberty, and of the very basic freedoms which we all have a right to expect.
It is easier for these people to be led by government messaging and propaganda because it delivers the so-called freedom they are clamouring for – and I feel the government is counting on this being the case. We all wish the pandemic to be over, and so it is easier to believe that the risk is gone – that everyone who is vulnerable has been vaccinated, and that children are safe no matter how high the case numbers are.
The attitude of these people used to leave me angry and upset; now I pity them. They are either being manipulated into believing that the pandemic is over, or they are so self-absorbed that they care nothing for anyone. I have decided that they don’t deserve my time, or the energy I would rather pour into taking care of my family.
I am glad to have met people who can empathise with my position, who understand my feelings and the decisions I am making for my family. The path we are on together is a rough one: we are often doubted, questioned and ridiculed by people who lack understanding of – or concern for – the elevated risk to which we are exposed.
Many of us have vulnerable children who now have no protection, pharmaceutical or otherwise. If a parent were to knowingly subject their child to unnecessary risk at any other time, their fitness as a parent would rightly be under question. Although it seems the government’s handling of the pandemic has turned the application of this basic principle upside down, it is clear to me that my parental instinct will always trump any policy, media trope, or baying mob in Trafalgar Square.
I am proud to stand up for my family, and I feel honoured to have the support of many thousands of like-minded parents. I am also pleased to have helped bolster them through their own concerns and struggles. This kinship has given me the courage to stand up and speak out on behalf of children, and to call for the safety measures and vaccinations they deserve.
My children are not being heard or considered in any of the policy decisions which affect them, and so they need me – their Mum – to be their voice.
This article was adapted from a post by Parents United moderator Rachel Noble, written for the benefit of our 23,000 support group members.
— AUTHORS —
▫ Parents United, grassroots, parent-led campaign for a sensible, safe, and sustainable approach to UK Schools.
GET THEM INVOLVED:
- JCVI issues advice on COVID-19 vaccination of children and young people | Public Health England
- Parents United
- Freedom Day, but at what cost? | the bmj
- The Silent Pandemic (video) | The Citizens
- Our forgotten children will suffer most from Covid being let rip – again | PMP Magazine
[This piece was first published in PMP Magazine on 26 July 2021. | The authors write in a personal capacity.]
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