Cynthia’s Pain

Rudy Omisore meets the mother of a boy from the hood.

Most of us are unaware of the stress that a mother goes through when dealing with a son who is involved in street life. The interview below with Cynthia Bandit from Bethnal Green shows the lengths to which a mother will go to protect her son.

Cynthia has had to deal with a lot. Police have raided her home to look for her son. Enemies out to get her son used to hand around the council block she once lived in. She even found herself hiding drugs for her son – even at the risk of his enemies coming to find it and threatening to hurt her – which is not uncommon in the world in which her son operates.

Cynthia also often carried drugs on her when traveling from town to country with her son, so that if he was searched at the station or coach station they would not find anything.

“A mother’s love for her son ah! I prayed endless times that my son had gone the normal route and went to university, but what can you do? He was influenced by what he saw around him in this shit area that we live in.

“He also saw how much I was struggling and wanted to take my pain away. I was working two jobs at the time. When he started doing what he was doing, the money was coming in and I was able to leave one of the jobs, and we ended up with a much better quality of life, and were able to do more things. I was happy to see him happy and vice versa.

“It’s not easy you know, living on a council estate in London where everyone is stressed and angry because the money just isn’t there. Yet you can catch a bus and go down the road and see people with money in their pockets, who live in luxury homes, who drive their fancy cars and get to go to nice places, and probably go on holiday too, three time a year. Of course people will want that, and some will do whatever it takes to get it, but can you blame them?

“I thank God my son has good manners, and he’s polite and has respect for people. This will help him in the future when he’s ready to stop this lifestyle. He has such a clean heart, he just does bad things, but he wants to stop one day and start his own business. Well he has one, he just wants one that is legal, and by the grace of God he will do it, I’m sure!”

I got the impression from Cynthia that she sympathises with her son, though I could also see the pain in her face that comes from knowing that her son could end up dead, seriously hurt, or in prison for a second time.

“When the police forced their way into my home just after six in the morning, I was mortified to see them take away my son in handcuffs.

“Luckily I have a relationship with my son where he feels he can tell me everything. Not all mothers have this bond that we have. It’s always been just us you see. His dad walked out on us when he was three.

Although they decided to come and take my son away, I already knew what it was about, so I wasn’t shocked, but because they took six months to decide to come and take him I thought – we both thought – he’d gotten away with what he did. I was heartbroken. He told me not to worry, but how could I not? That’s my son!

“18 months he was gone for. My dear, I suffered with depression. I had to start taking tablets to cope with his absence and the fact that the money was no longer there. I couldn’t tell him any of this at the time and stress the boy out even more, nooo!

“I must have done some bad things in my past that God didn’t like and now my son is being punished for them. Look, he tried to get a normal job when he came out of prison but the charges he faced won’t allow him to work in most places until 2022.

“Now you tell me, how is the boy meant to turn his life around when he can’t even get a job? Why do you think so many end up going back to prison? They come back out and have to do the same kind of things again, even if they don’t want to.”

Cynthia told me a story of how her son came home after he’d been stabbed and how he’d tried to hide it from her. She said that at first he hadn’t even realised he’d been stabbed and it wasn’t until he noticed a rip in the side of his coat, and then felt it and found it was wet, that he knew he was bleeding. Luckily it was just a slash rather than a deep wound, but she bandaged him up anyway to avoid risk of infection. After this incident however she began to worry more, as she knew that her son might go out with his friends to tray and get revenge.

Interviewing Cynthia was a stark reminder that the street lifestyle which so many boys lead does not only bring stress down on them, it puts their mothers under terrible pressure as well.