Befriending: The things they don’t tell you.

07th November 2017

Befriending The things they dont tell you

 

I’m often asked about my Befriending experience and, with it being National Befriending Week, it’s got me thinking about what it really means to me.

Having been Befriending for 18 months both me and my ‘little one’ are really settled in our relationship, and I’ve realised just how much I’ve learned in this time.

Most of these lessons aren’t taught in the training courses or explained in match meetings with the Befriend a Child team. I mean, they (and they are fantastic by the way) talk you through examples of lots of lovely individual stories, but each pairing is so unique that for most part you learn through your own experiences. 

It’s a bit like starting a new job; you can read every piece of literature you think relevant (I’m now well-versed in My Little Pony): frantically search ‘activities for six-year olds’: pin every play barn in the North East in Google maps and even plan your outfits accordingly (cool, but practical - the latter I never am) but there’s nothing quite like actually doing it.

So here, in no particular order, are some things I’ve learned:  

  • Patience. I like to think I’m a pretty patient person, but with kids (I’m sure any parent will testify) it’s different. They change their mind, they ask questions, they get upset when they drop the last salt and vinegar Square of the packet or get wet in the rain. I’ve realised how important it is to stay calm and find those unique little coping mechanisms to avert disaster. Preferably chocolate; or explaining things in six-year-old layman’s terms coupled with a bosie and a joke.

  • Innovation. Like the time kiddo asked for a (massively overpriced) £20 glow stick at Disney on Ice - cue a ground-breaking brainwave - we took off her LED trainers, put them on her hands and slammed them together to the best rendition of ‘Let it Go’ since Elsa herself. We were glowing brighter than five Disney sticks combined and laughed loads. Until her feet got cold.

  • Creativity. The two of us are pros at jewellery making, ceramic painting and colouring in. I secretly love our creative time as much as she does.

  • Focus. How much attention do we really give one thing or person nowadays? When we’re together my focus is on her and hers is usually on perfecting her gymnastic moves on the monkey bars. By the way, hanging around the monkey bars at any park, or play barn, automatically makes you chief rescuer when kids get scared to make the next move.

  • THE JOY. It’s infinite for both of us; the smiles when I pick her up: my squeals when she wears her pink glittery Converse or has an oversized pink bow in her hair: when we ‘sing’ to Little Mix or her absolute delight when she asks how many hours we have left together, and I say ‘three.’

  • The bond. She’s my little bestie and, just with any relationship, ours is unique. We know each other’s favourite colours, fruit, popcorn preferences and fairground ride. Here’s something they really don’t tell you – how much adoration you can feel for a child that isn’t your own. I’m beyond proud when she tells me that six plus six makes twelve or writes my name in pink pen.

  • Overcoming fears. When, on your seventh ‘skate’ around the ice rink, your little person says: “next time Rebecca, can you try and skate without holding my hand?!”

  • Not all kids that Befriend a Child supports come from difficult circumstances, have behavioural issues or turbulent upbringings around alcohol or substance abuse. Sure, some do (and they REALLY need our help – a friend, or a mentor) but lots of them are in situations you maybe wouldn’t associate with the charity. A young one who has a sibling with a disability, a parent with a chronic illness or is cared for by grandparents who are unable to undertake anything remotely active, needs just as much support.

  • I needed a friend as much as her. Sure, your grown up best friends are great but sometimes – when adulting becomes tough - you want to be a big kid and forget about it for an afternoon. Believe me, there’s no better way to do that than dancing in the disco room at Smugglers Cove, jumping higher than you thought possible at Jump In, eating strawberry ice-cream (blueberries) or laughing so much on the waltzers that you cry. Absolutely none.