To be honest, ten years ago when Daisy Asquith made the first documentary about a 15 year old living in Brixton called Kimberley – which won Asquith a BAFTA – I don’t suppose it occurred to anyone – other than Asquith – that perhaps there would be a follow up film ten years on. But, if it’d been announced at the time, I’d have put about a million pounds on it that when ten years had gone by, Kimberley would’ve had several more children, by several different fathers and would be an overweight eater of junk food, living on benefits and a committed daytime TV watcher; in other words, someone Jeremy Kyle might have on his show. Either that or an underweight junkie who’d had several kids taken into care.
I would only have been in part right… Ten years ago, Kimberley was a ‘typical’ Brixton teenager; loud, opinionated, and usually with the wrong or ill-informed ones, from a broken home and worse yet, she’d been the victim of a rape at just 12 years old. She was relatively unintelligent academically but she was streetwise and at that time, despite being what I would consider gobby, stroppy and a girl with a pretty bleak future, she expressed a determination not to end up pregnant young like her mother and sister had done, but quelle surpise, that’s exactly what happened…
However, that first baby boy was taken away from Kimberley because the child’s father was abusive and violent and the child was stuck in the middle of it. We didn’t see that in the original film – this all happened after the camera crew left Kimberley’s side – but we heard about it from Kimberley in last night’s follow-up and I have to say, I felt very sorry for her as she struggled to talk about the emotional upheaval of having her child taken away. That said, I feel more sorry for the child who will now be approaching ten years old and has probably not had an Enid Blyton childhood so far.
So, fast forward ten years and 24 year old Kimberley now has another son, Harvey – who’s Godmother is Daisy Asquith – and a newborn daughter. She’s still living on benefits but to be honest, she can’t be blamed for that; childcare needs an income over the 30,000 bracket and let’s face it, Kimberley’s never going to achieve that.
And in the intervening years, social services had placed Harvey on the child protection register and closely monitored mother and son – even though his vile father was a distant memory and hadn’t been heard of for many years – and she’s lived on knife edge of fear that a knock or bruise, from a totally innocent toddler fall, will be misinterpreted as a sign that he’d been beaten. However as the film went on, social services began to relax a bit about Kimberley and Harvey and this was, in part, thanks to the new baby’s dad who was himself a single parent and a seemingly stabilising influence.
That said, he didn’t want more children so news of Kimberley becoming pregnant with his child wasn’t greeted warmly; “Do you want the bad news or the bad news?” she spoke to camera. “It’s all bad news!”
Kimberley decided to keep the baby – who is the aforementioned new baby girl – but her boyfriend, Anthony, wasn’t pleased with the news and as the film concluded, the couple were struggling to find some middle ground where they could still be in a relationship that wasn’t going to further damage their various children or themselves.
Kimberley’s terrified of either of her children being taken into care, and in typical EastEnders-speak, she vehemently proclaimed, “I ain’t going through that again. No way. After what I went through last time and how I ended up in my head…. I lost myself let alone my child. Take my child, you take my air supply.”
She clearly wants to be a good mother, and is in many ways but the fact is, she herself is damaged and rising above her past of violence, poverty, ill-education, low self-esteem and psychological problems, being a role model mother was/is not going to be an easy task.
I was very torn about how to feel over both Kimberley and Daisy Asquith by the end of this programme. The judgemental side of me wondered why Asquith didn’t question Kimberley’s foul language in front of her kids, her smoking while pregnant and feeding Harvey junk food, but there again, given she clearly has a close relationship with Kimberley, one can see that would be tricksome.
Equally, I can see that Kimberley’s background and her own experience of child rearing from her youth aren’t exactly helping her to become the type of mother we’d all like to be – that is, perfect – and hell, really, I can’t claim to have been the world’s best mother, so perhaps I shouldn’t judge. Glass houses and all that, but that said, I’ve never had a child in whom social services have been interested and my three children were planned with almost military precision and although I had my first child at 19, I was married before I was pregnant. My husband I and susquently split-up but I worked and eventually, got a university degree…
Again, I’m not trying to sound perfect, I’m far from it and I’ve made mistakes that if I had a Back To The Future time machine, would without doubt go back and rectify in order to improve my children’s lot, so I guess it’s all relative…
I hope Kimberley can make it though and that the cycle of abusive relationships, children by different fathers, a lack of a stable long-term relationship and poverty don’t mean that in turn, her children have this depressing past as a blueprint for their adult lives.
I wish Kimberley luck, I truly do, but her life is typical of a universally acknowledged cycle that isn’t called vicious for nothing.