Best Friend

best friendI know it’s a cliche when parents think their kids are little angels, but in Sausage’s case, it really is true. She’s a lovely, kind little girl who seems to radiate ‘niceness’ everywhere she goes. Just last week, one of the canteen staff at her school pulled me to one side to tell me what a kind, polite little girl she is and it left Husband and I beaming with pride. Having such a sweet kid can sometimes have its downsides – other kids sometimes take advantage of her good nature and in Reception year we had trouble with one class member who really knew how to manipulate Sausage and play on her good nature.

Fortunately, Sausage has made a little group of firm friends who I really like and who all seem to have lovely, sweet natures like my own tender-hearted little girl. At the end of year 2, one of the members of their little group changed school and it left Sausage feeling a bit lost without one of her besties. Luckily, the rest of them banded together and Sausage is now even closer to her group, especially to the single male member of her clan who, I must say, is quite the little gentleman and has solemnly promised Husband and I that he’ll take care of our girl – and I believe him, too! Given that Sausage was quite a girly girl, I never expected her to have a male bestie but it seems to work really well.

Dr Angharad Rudkin is a clinical psychologist and Associate Fellow of the British Psychological Society and has worked with children, adolescents and families for over 15 years and has teamed up with VTech to give us Toot Toot Friends Ambassadors some really useful information about the concept of best friends. She says:

“Strong friendships often develop when a child is in a situation without their parent (e.g. nursery or child minder). Usually, it is the parent who acts as a safety blanket for their child – someone that their child turns to if they’re feeling unsure, someone who can give reassurance and encouragement. If a parent isn’t there, children will turn to other children for some of this support. Friendships can develop when a child finds it comforting, distracting and fun to be with another child – the more they spend time together the more comfort they will derive from this friendship. Whether a friend becomes a best friend can be highly dependent on the parents though. If a child talks a lot about another child from nursery, parents can act on this and invite the friend over for a playdate. However, if parents chose not to do this, there’s a good chance that the friendship won’t become quite so cemented.

As every adult knows, even best friends can be annoying or bewildering. However, a best friend is someone who is there through thick and thin, and who doesn’t hold a grudge. The same is true for little children. They won’t always get on with their best friends, and in fact may squabble with them quite a bit. However, their connection means that they make up easily and are quick to forget what made them cross. Children can also rehearse how to make up with friends by playing with dolls or figures such as the VTech Toot-Toot friends. Children, for example, can pretend that the Toot-Toot friends have had a disagreement before helping them to make up. Such imaginary play helps children to build up their confidence in making and keeping friends.”

Does your little one have a BFF? Do you ever worry bout a lack of best friend in their life or do you wish that they were less dependant on a best friend and broadened their friendship horizons slightly? Leave me a comment below.

Family · Personal

John and Rene.

When I was a kid, my Nan and Grandad lived in a place called Usk Road in Aveley. I remember thinking that Usk Road sounded really exotic, even though I knew it not to be. They lived in an end-of-terrace house with a big garden and a little side gate with a brick arch that went between theirs and the house next door.

The house always smelt the same, a mixture of Imperial Leather soap and new carpets. It was spotless and I was fascinated by the nick nacks that were scattered around – the Toby jugs on top of the unit in the living room; the Teasmade in the spare room; the Sylvanian Families video that they kept for my cousins and I.

None of this fascinated me more than my Grandad John’s shed.

Grandad’s shed smelt (and still does) of creosote and had a million interesting and complicated-looking tools hanging from the ceiling and walls. There were vises attached to a work area and things with menacingly sharp blades kept on high shelves. It was in this shed that Grandad made my dolls house. This dolls house was better than any that I have ever, to this day, seen in a shop.

The walls were covered with brick dust and individually pointed with white paint, each brick lovingly created by Grandad’s patient hand. Every room had an electric light with its own light switch, powered by a big battery compartment, hidden under the roof. The roof had individual tiles, cut out of a terracotta coloured lino. The rooms were carpeted and a proper staircase ran through the middle of the house. Then came Nanny Rene’s work, individually made curtains, duvets, light shades and linen, all in co-ordinating colours.

The attention to detail is incredible, made possible by the loving care and teamwork of Nanny Rene and Grandad John. It’s still in my Mum’s loft – I must get it down and give it to Sausage to enjoy.

In the early nineties, after Grandad retired, he and my Nan decided to make their dream move to a place with a slower way of life and chose Lowestoft, a little seaside town in Suffolk. Every year, they’d drive back to Essex at the start of the penultimate week of the summer holidays and take my cousin and I back to Suffolk with them, where we’d spend a glorious week being taken on a different outing every day. Over the course of the week, we’d visit Great Yarmouth pleasure beach, Pleasurewood Hills, go for a boat trip along the Broads, spend a day shopping in Lowestoft town, go bowling, to the Sealife Centre, so many trips in such a short space of time.

I was talking to my Dad the other day about our weeks in the summer with Nan and Grandad and it occurred to me that it must’ve cost them an absolute fortune every year. Of course, as we got older the visits stopped and our lives moved on, but I still look fondly back on those times.

Sadly, we lost Nanny Rene (I feel I should point out, Rene is said like “Reen”) in 2004 and our little family hasn’t been the same since. We’ve grown apart and things have changed. The last time we were all together was at my Nan’s funeral. The day my Nan died, Grandad turned to me and said “Well, that’s it girl, I’ve lost my best friend. I suppose it’ll be me next”.

He’s lived on his own for almost eight years, suffering one illness after another, and a couple of weeks ago we received the news that he’s developed advanced lymphoma. I’ve been to see him a few times in the last few weeks (sadly, more times in those weeks than in the previous five years) and the thing that keeps striking me is his hands. My Grandad has always been a sturdy bloke, not the tallest, but always incomprehensibly muscular and solid. Now, he’s looking old, thin, withered and his hands look huge and incongruous with the rest of his body. But those hands are the hands that worked to provide so well for my Nan, Dad and uncles. Those are the hands that built us the most amazing toys. Those are the hands that always smelt of mint or tomatoes or creosote from hours spent tending his immaculate garden. And while I’ll be devastated when the inevitable end finally comes, I’ll be very happy to know that those hands will once again be holding Nanny Rene’s tightly, two best friends reunited.