An 80’s childhood

23rd September 2022

We recently met with one of our supporters who was incredibly open with us about his childhood and reasons for supporting Wood Street. 

He's kindly put his story in writing to share with you the realities of a difficult childhood.  We know his story sadly isn't an isolated one but we felt we wanted to share it and despite it being 40 years ago, there are many children in the same situation today.

I have never hidden from my childhood and how it was for me and my brothers.

I guess talking about it with people has been helpful, but I have never done it for people to feel sorry for me. I do it as I hope it makes me come across as someone that has had troubles but hasn’t let it define their life.

Life was good until I was 5 because we lived in my nanna’s house in Winton, she would look after me during the day and my aunty and nanna would take turns taking me to nursery. Then we moved out.

I had to grow up fast and I can remember many things most of which are not the greatest memories. Listening to my parents argue after they had been out Friday, Saturday and Sunday, I was never quite sure if there was physical violence, but the shouting was enough to make me scared.  I can always remember one time my mum and dad were arguing, and I had snook to the bottom of the stairs where they saw me. They made me stand between them and choose who I loved the most, obviously at the time I was 7 years old and didn’t know which way to turn.

I remember being very self-sufficient from as early as I can remember, making my own breakfast, getting myself ready for school etc. I was always up before 6am as I have never been someone that lies in bed. It even went so far as getting my 2nd youngest brother ready for nursery and walking him to the nursery part of the school.

There was physical abuse at home from 7 years old until I was 13 or 14 years old. This also merged onto my 2nd youngest brother. I tried to get in the way so he would not get any of the abuse. Could I say this was a defining factor of my life? I would have to say yes, I do not like confrontation in the slightest which I believe has held me back in many stages of my life.

I would always look to stay at a relative’s house during school holidays or weekends just to get away from the house. Mostly my nanna’s house at weekends

When it came down to birthdays, I can’t really remember having a birthday party until my 21st birthday, which is sad in many ways because as I got older, birthdays became almost meaningless. I remember when I met my wife, her family celebrated birthdays and they were a real occasion. It was such an eye opener for me and slowly I began to enjoy them.

Christmas was also tough in more ways than one. I discovered for myself that Father Christmas didn’t exist through powers of deduction.  The other children at school would write letters to Santa at school like children do and many received at least one item from their list, I on the other hand did not and some years I don’t recall my parents giving us anything for Christmas - except for maybe 2 or 3 years when we received presents from Wood Street Mission.

Our education didn’t seem a priority for my parents, because we moved around a lot, we started in Winton, then moved to Partington. Form Partington we then moved to Little Hulton from which we then moved back to Winton. During this time my parents split up twice.

I took the eleven plus when in school in Partington and passed with the top 4 highest marks and was set for grammar school. Money was an issue and uniforms and other things needed for grammar school couldn’t be afforded so I went to mainstream schools, where I learnt a subtle difference between Trafford Metropolitan Borough and Salford City Councils curriculum.

Holidays comprised of 2 weeks camping with other members of the family in Somerset, they were some good times to remember as there were no shower facilities or other amenities, just a field and the trailer tent. The adults spent most of their time fishing while we all spent time just playing in fields or running around. We never took day trips or visited places like Blackpool.

Lessons in life from my parents where I guess like chalk and cheese, my mum would sugar coat things and my dad would just lay it out on the table, which has led to me being extremely driven and I hate to lose or do badly at things. I would probably be called over competitive.

Sometimes people can’t admit their troubles or find themselves embarrassed that they may struggle with providing nice things for their children. They may get themselves into debt to get expensive gifts. It would be wonderful to get expensive gifts, but this can be unrealistic. Getting smaller gifts and just making them feel special and loved is so special.  It’s not all about the materialistic things.

From my own experience of a difficult childhood, and now having a little boy of my own, yes, I do want him to have the best gifts but what I cannot buy, is the love that he will feel knowing that getting presents is good, but a happy loving environment is more important. I can’t speak for everyone as everyone’s circumstances are different, but you have to break the cycle. Try and build a positive view on money and use that to promote saving for things instead of getting into debt. Thankfully, I’ve got a wonderful family of my own and am very happily married with a decent job.  Being able to share my story and give back to Wood Street has been so important to me.