Family rifts over Brexit:’ I can scarcely look at my parents’
The EU referendum result has hurled many thousands of people, particularly young adults, into bitter conflict with the closest members of their families
Im worried Brexit has attained me ageist, a friend said, following the shock of the referendum result on Friday morning. I saw this older couple in the street and merely felt this sudden, enormous wave of frenzy towards them and their generation. It was almost physical.
In the immediate aftermath of Britains vote to leave the European Union, emotions have been running high. Since YouGov reported that 75% of 18- to 24 -year-olds and 56% of 25 – to 49 -year-olds voted in favour of remain, versus 44% of 50- to 64 -year-olds and 39% of those over 65, the extent of the generational gulf between Generation Y and the so-called baby boomers and their parents has been palpable. As has the indignation many younger people including my friend, are feeling.
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Why I set 400 condoms in the kitchen drawer for my sons
As a youth worker, Amy Barwise is used to dealing with pregnancies and sexually transmitted infections, but after a week of revelations at home and run she decided safer was better than sorry
An hour before the kids get home from school on Friday, I check the kitchen drawer where Ive left about 400 condoms for the sons. Its virtually empty. Clearly its been a busy week on the sexual front in my small house. Nothing to do with me and Ive been in all week, so I know theres been no action within these four walls.
I make a cup of tea and mull it over. Its been a hectic week.
Last Friday, the landline rang. As it usually entails its person over 40 calling , nobody else answers, so I do. But it was my son Bens best mate; sunny, chatty Danny. He voiced like he was a million miles away. He asked if Ben was in and when I said yes, he explained he needed to talk to him and was coming straight over. And he was gone.
I told Ben, who seemed shifty. Nothing unusual in that.
I guessed the call had something to do with last Saturdays sleepover at another friends house. Danny had siphoned off the top inch of spirits from his mothers collecting and mixed them into such a lethal cocktail that he was hospitalised and his daddy was called.
When Danny arrived, he was ashen and scarcely looked at me as he headed upstairs. Five minutes later, I heard sobbing. Ben came down and waved me up urgently.
Danny sat on the bed, head down, face blotched, shoulders shaking. Ben told me what was wrong. Two and half months ago, Danny had sexuality for the first time. The 16 -year-old girl told him she was on the pill. She wasnt.
Now she was pregnant with twins and keeping them. Danny maintained repeating that their own lives was over and this was why hed got so drunk at the party. He couldnt face telling his mothers. Ben asked me if I would. You could hear a pin drop. They both looked at me, pleading.
It was not an easy chore. I felt for them all. I also guessed, breathlessly, that it could happens to my children so easily. The UK has the highest rates of teenage pregnancy and abortion in Europe according the Family Planning Association. The average age for first time heterosexual sex is 16 for girls and boys.
As a youth worker, I spend a lot of period dealing with problems arising from narcotics, drink( sometimes thats the mothers problem ), social media, contraception, pregnancies and sexually transmitted infections( STIs ). All in no particular order.
The Monday following Dannys revelation, and with his parents shell-shocked faces in my head, I am in the waiting room of an STI clinic. Im accompanying 17 -year-old Ella. She guesses she may have chlamydia. Its an easily transmitted STI and pretty much symptomless, but it can lead to infertility. Not that clever Ella wants a newborn shes ambitious and thats a great contraceptive.
She didnt want to go to her GP for it to go on her record or talk to her mothers, who have never mentioned sex. She asked me to stay while she got tested, and therapy if necessary, and pick up free condoms. Shes confident and aware. I am really impressed. At her age I would have been mortified in here. As it is, I feel a prickly heat in case I insure person I know. As a single mother with three children, my love-life has flat-lined.
The blonde nurse who calls Ella is bright and breezy with dazzling white teeth and red lipstick. The nurse chats about the climate; how she likes Ellas cool skinny jeans and sky-high shoes. She makes us feel comfortable in seconds. The well-built physician looks like he should be on a rugby pitch. While Ella is otherwise occupied, I ask him how it is for young people locally. Hectic, he says. I wish they were as sensible as Ella. Its carnage out there for teens. We have such hang-ups about sex and young people in this country. And older people too.
He looks at me. I blush.
He adds: I wish it was like Holland. Underage pregnancies and STIs are far more under control. When boy meets girl they get tested and sorted for contraception before sex. We dont talk openly here. I am open with my patients. I had an STI at 18. If you have unprotected sexuality, it happens.
I nod. I need to drum it into my own sons. The doctor asks me the murderer question: When do you think the riskiest period for sex is?
I believe all sex is risky but shrug my shoulders and say: My sons are 16 and 15. They probably think about it all the time.
He agrees: Day and night. And the time they are most likely to have sex is between 3.30 pm, after school, and before parents get in from work.
Weve had adolescents tell us “theyre using” crisp packets because they are too embarrassed to buy condoms or cant afford them. We give out free contraception and sometimes money to get the bus home.
I think of crisp packets burning saltiness and the terrible noise they must make. Surely that is more embarrassing than buying condoms? Not in the heat of the moment. I am glad I am always home at 3.30 pm.
Ella taps me on the shoulder, smiling. She hasnt get chlamydia. She takes home a free box of condoms in a plain white plastic purse. The doctor says to me: Wait a minute.
He returns with another plastic suitcase. Inside are four boxes with hundreds of condoms. Ella smirks as he says: That should last you. I blush from my neck to the roots of my hair.
Off we go. The two of us armed for any sexual encounter for the next decade.
When my sons, Ben and Aaron, return, I tell them where Ive been.
Weird job you have, says Ben, looking in the cookie closet, which is bare because they have been through it like locusts.
I clear out the kitchen describe. Aaron ignores the whole scene and asked whats for dinner. Pizza. Again, I say as I tip-off a river of condoms in. They both say: Ohhh, Mum!
Look, I add, these should last. Im not fostering you. This is sensible. You dont have to buy them and you dont have to worry.
I dont mention crisp packets.
A week goes by in a snowstorm of run, cooking and domestic chores. All mine. Weve heard nothing from Danny.
So, when I open the condom drawer and its virtually bare I do a double take. I close it and wonder where theyve all gone? Ive been home when they got back from school every day. Ben and Aaron return first; my younger daughter, Molly, is at an after-school club. She knows about the condoms but is uninterested and embarrassed.
I open the drawer and ask the boys: Where are they?
Ben creates his thick eyebrows and looks at Aaron who blushes the same way I do.
Ben tells: Mum, you helped Danny. And because of whats happened youve done a great service to the community. The lad in my year are now protected. You have single-handedly prevented unwanted pregnancies and if theres a dip in teen-births here next year its down to you.
Its the longest speech hes made since puberty. I giggle until there are tears in my eyes.
Names have been changed
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