Readers: This piece below was originally posted at The Rustic Child, a blog about kids who take risks, do chores and entertain themselves (if you can imagine!). It’s by Jilly O’Brien, a New Zealand mom of 2 who’s a teacher studying to be an educational psychologist. I asked her if I could reprint it here, it’s so inspiring, and she said yes! So — voila! L.
KID GOES OFF WITH AN ADULT — IT’S CALLED A BUDDY
There is a school somewhere in the US (as posted onÂ freerangekids blog), which sent a letter home to all parents warning them to be on the lookout for â€œstranger dangerâ€. Some bloke who goes to the bakery (every day) had spoken to some kids who go there (every day) and this was therefore a matter of utmost concern. Apparently, the letter said â€œThe situation is now in the hands of the police. Fortunately for us today, all of our children are safe.â€ What from? Doughnut Man â€“ that dastardly kidnapper of children?
In the South Island of New Zealand where I live, at about the same time, our local newspaper â€“ the CO News â€“ ran a story titled â€œBuddy fills special place in young boys lifeâ€.Â This Buddy programme is where a child, who needs a bit of extra time with an adult, is paired up with someone who has the same interests as them, and has a lovely time.
The article was about a10 year old lad who had lost his grandfather, and so his single mum said she â€œhad to reassess how she was going to raise her sonâ€.Â She did just that, contacted the buddy programme and now her boy spends all his Saturdays on a retired farmer’s farm, helping with the tractors, making stuff in the shed, sorting out the bees, doing up old machinery. Without her.
Have a go at this multiple choice quiz. The article goes on to say that when Jan Bird, the Buddy co-ordinator is approached about big buddies, she is careful to â€¦â€¦â€¦â€¦â€¦â€¦..
A)Â Make sure big buddies are police vetted?
Probably, but itâ€™s not the point, itâ€™s not the issue, itâ€™s just something that has to be done.
B)Â To make sure they are not alone with the child? Er, no.
C)Â To make sure that the parents are always around? Wrong again.
What Jan Bird is careful about is â€œputting our young buddy with a big buddy who I know is going to be a good matchâ€. Obvious.
I could list all the positives from this for everyone involved, but Iâ€™d hope you could already work them out. There are many children on the list who really want a Buddy and the organisation are always advertising for more possible Buddies to come on board. The kidsâ€™ parents, the kids, the community and the Buddies themselves all agree to the value of this initiative.
If the buddy programme ever sent out a letter to parents, it might go: Â “Fortunately for us today, all of our children are happy, healthy, free, helpful, safe and learning to be decent citizens.”
Perhaps thatâ€™s what needs to be mailed out to parents at the silly school with the bakery concerns, instead of the overwhelming horror of someone trying to make conversation whilst eating a custard slice. — Jilly O’Brien