The other day I went to a school Lent assembly in the local church. I wasn’t sure I would be able to go, due to work pressure, but I am extremely lucky that I can make up the 40 minutes later. I could see only son’s face scanning the crowd until his gaze landed on me. He gave a huge grin and a wave. These are the moments that might seem like nothing, but are in fact everything.
I’m not religious, but I’ve been to a fair few Church of England school events. They are usually the same old hymns and a not very exciting speech by the vicar. This one was different. Only son’s class had chosen the entire service, including the songs. I confess that I didn’t know any of them, but because the children had chosen them they sang them with great gusto and they were all upbeat. The first one’s chorus ended: “Oh happy day, happy day, I’ll never be the same, Forever I am changed”. The second was “Hallelujah, hallelujah, hallelujah, Your love makes me sing” and the last was all about being lifted up high [with actions, obvs]. I cried as soon as the happy day song got to the chorus. I’m not sure if it is the menopause, the times we live in or something else. It just all seemed so hopeful. All these young people excited about life and the future, offering up prayers about love and goodness. I wanted to believe.
I drove home listening to the coverage of the centenary of the passing of the Act that allowed [some] women to vote, read a report about skills shortages and wrote about returners. Will women be drafted in, as in the war, to fill the gaps and will that have a longer lasting impact, given the difficulty we have now of seeing past tomorrow let alone into the short-term future?
And then I was brought crashing down to reality by the secondary school run. Daughter three mentioned in passing the undercurrents of racism she faces daily. “The white boys never ask people like me out and neither do the black boys. The white girls are always more popular,” she stated. She had already noted this in the last year of primary school. Daughter three confirmed the pattern. Daughter two, meanwhile, could pass for white and her younger sister reported that several boys had told her her sister was “peng”. Daughter three has been thrown into the maelstrom of make-up and moisturiser and feels that every part of her body is under scrutiny at all times. “I am so ugly,” she sobbed the other night. This from my brave, amazing daughter who took on a whole group of bullies at primary school and tried to teach them a little bit about mutual respect.
Meanwhile, daughter one was checking Buzzfeed and muttering about Brexit and how old people had sold the young down the river and that it was something she would never forget.
As I said, I am not religious, but when I heard that singing I thought it would be nice to believe in something, to feel safe from the future, to feel hopeful. It would be nice. I’ve tried to stop myself from asking questions and to just believe. It’s not working.
*Mum on the run is Mandy Garner, editor of Workingmums.co.uk.