As an avid feminist and mum to 3 teenage daughters it felt a complete no brainer to volunteer to be a Big Sister on the Girls Out Loud programme. I walked into it believing a could make a big difference to a teen girls life. Turns out, she made as much a difference to mine and I wasn’t expecting that.
This programme is for middle girls, I had been a middle girl, and I would have loved to have had a role model in my life as a 13 year old girl like this – I might have made some better life choices at the time, so this resonated with me deeply.
I was first caught unawares at the training day when I was asked what need this journey was fulfilling for me. The obvious answer is to “pay it forward” or “to give back” but as I quickly came to realise, when I was challenged to look deeper within, I discovered a need to redeem myself. I know there’s no manual that comes with a child when you have one of your own but a part of me felt I’d failed my three in some way. I’d not been particularly present, very focused on my work and career, I could have done more. Don’t get me wrong… they have been loved deeply, cared for, fed and watered, disciplined, encouraged and supported and they’ve all blossomed into amazing young women. But I wasn’t happy with how I’d shown up on reflection.
The Little Sister I was matched with was a total pocket rocket! She seemed booming with confidence and I was left bemused as to what value I could possibly add to her. I battled in the first few sessions – we clicked easily and got along well but I was too focused on what I could do to ‘fix’ her. I was projecting a lot of me onto her rather than trying to see the world through her lens. The second I flipped that it all fell into place. We spent our sessions colouring in and eating custard creams….
Two chatter boxes completely in our element putting the world to rights and building our dreams and master plans together for world domination! Most of our conversations were about friendships, teachers, boys, snapchat, Beyonce concerts and the new Nike Air Force 1’s. I shared with her many of my teen experiences and together we used them to help her decide what she might like to do about certain situations – I didn’t give her advice, I just offered her a story of my experience upon which to base her own thinking… it was lovely to see the world through her lens and see her step into her own empowerment to make positive choices for herself. We very rarely chatted about career options, but she did tell me when we met that she wanted to be an estate agent. By the time we finished our programme she had boosted those small town ideas into big time aspirations…. She was going big or going home and wanted to do this on an international basis with the MTV cribs style celebrity mansions! I don’t care to much for ‘what’ she chose (it will likely change 45 times before she leaves school), I care most for her belief in herself to achieve big things.
When we graduated our programme, she kind of skipped off into the sunset with a quick hug, a thank you and barely a look back. I felt a bit sad to see her go. But I knew in my heart of hearts that my job here was done – it was the measure of success for her to feel 10ft tall and be ready and fully equipped to support herself – that’s the whole point of the programme, right?
I was able to go home and celebrate with a warm, fuzzy feeling inside. I’d done a great job. And I’d grown too. It really is a parallel process. I listened more. I was more present. I spent time being more curious seeing the world through another lens. I was more patient. And I was happier and less stressed. I made better choices in my own work. I made some changes to my own friendships. I raised some of my own aspirations for myself.
Who knew that a bit of colouring in and a packet of custard creams once a month could change your life!
Could you be a Big Sister?
We are looking for Big Sisters to join our team in Greater Manchester, Cheshire, Merseyside & Lancashire!