Children Heard and Seen

Hidden Voices 14: I’s Story

Below is the 14th  in a new series of blog posts created by adults who have lived experience of parental imprisonment. By sharing these hidden voices, we hope to show how the impacts of parental imprisonment can stay with people well into adulthood.

Home life had always proven tricky for me. Mum and dad got divorced while I was still at primary school and my relationship with dad was very on and off. It wasn’t a nice feeling but that was my life so I just accepted it. Secondary school came around and for the first couple of years it was okay. The school was one of the more affluent in the area so I always felt a tiny bit out of place. The memory that’s stuck in my head is scrolling through social media one night after school and seeing his mugshot. My heart just dropped & confusion hit. I just thought not hearing off dad for a while was all the norm in a rocky divorced family. I went downstairs for tea and mum said she had something to tell me.For weeks after that it was sleepless nights & not being able to string a sentence together. We lived in a place where everyone knew everyone, so teenage me had to put up with the funny looks, the typical gossip, both at school and locals out and about.

It was the awkward “how are things?” Which threw me. I still don’t know how I truly felt at that time, nor could I pinpoint a feeling about it all now. The strained relationship with dad meant I never went to visit, just the occasional phone calls and letters. I wish I could undo this part & use it as a time to rebuild our bond. It is the sad reality that I carry guilt today about how teenage me handled it, or tried to handle it. Not every prisoner has a happy visit, a hug off their child. Some truly are just living day by day. Years went on and release day came. I didn’t rush to see him until one night I needed help & he was the first person I thought to ring. Since, we have been together nearly everyday.My own ignorances before I found myself in this situation are highlighted here. I’ll hold my hands up and say I assumed release day usually consists of families gathering at the gates for a welcome home hug, unfortunately this is not always the case & me and dad learned the hard way. People often think those who end up in prison are bad people. My dad is an absolute joker, a hard worker & a kind soul, just someone who made a mistake.Thankfully his motto is “it’s better to laugh than cry” yet I have learnt that crying is okay, crying is normal & to still cry now. Just because it’s physically over doesn’t mean much in terms of the still raw emotions. If I had a pound for every time someone told me “you act older than your age” I wouldn’t need to work again! The sad fact is I didn’t grow up quick by choice, I did it because I had to.Unfortunately, the memories of no dad at results day, no dad at prom & no dad just to do normal dad things with are memories I’ll never shake off. I like to think I have come so far, now ready to graduate with a law degree and passion for working within the prison and probation service, hoping to provide support for prisoners and their families alike. Law graduate with an ex prisoner dad. It’s all about breaking stereotypes & educating society. We are just as good & shouldn’t be held back by a fraction of our lives. I wouldn’t wish my experience on anybody, just wish to share my story, and knowledge. I am so proud of myself. It might be a long tunnel, but there’s always a light at the end.