When I was a little girl, I wanted to be a Brownie. My mother was a Brownie and my grandmother was a Brown Owl. My mother always said that when I was old enough I could join Brownies but when I actually turned 7, she said I couldn’t. We couldn’t afford for both myself and my twin sister to go and it wouldn’t be fair for one of us to go and not the other.
When I grew up and had my daughter, I pictured her being a part of Girlguiding. It’s a lovely way for girls to socialise and to learn new skills. Because of her diagnosis of autism, her father and I enrolled her in a school for children with autism and/or speech and language disorders. It became even more important to me that she learn how to socialise with non-autistic children, since the majority of people she meets in her life will not have ASD. I put her on the waiting list for Rainbows, which is Girlguiding for 5-7 year-olds.
When Emiko turned 5, she joined the 15th St.Leonard’s Rainbows, run by my friend Lou. I spent several weeks sitting at the side of hall observing her sessions, during which time I slowly reached the conclusion that I still wanted to be part of Girlguiding, even as an adult. So, I volunteered to be a Leader, adding it to my list. I handed in my application, completed my CRB check, bought my t-shirt and picked out my Rainbow name. All the Leaders take on a nickname for the kids to call them by; in my unit there is: Purple Bird and Orange Bird (Adult Leaders) and Piglet and Tigger (Young Leaders). I decided to be Blue Bird.
To become a full Leader, you must complete a qualification, although you are referred to as Leader even before you have finished it, as long as you have made your Promise. Whenever anyone joins Girlguiding and on various other occasions, you make a Promise. The wording differs slightly for Rainbows, Brownies, Guides, Senior Section and Leaders but essentially carries the same meaning.
I made my Promise on the 24th of February 2013, four days after my 25th birthday, on World Thinking Day, a day when different units of the local area come together and participate in various fun activities. At the end of the event, everyone remakes their Promise together and anyone who is making it for the first time comes to the front of the group and says it before everyone. There was another woman making her Promise, so we stood and recited it together. When I joined, the Promise was:
I promise that I will do my best to love my God, to serve the Queen and my country, to help other people and to keep the Guide Law.
Although now the promise is:
I promise that I will do my best to be true to myself and develop my beliefs, to serve the Queen and my community, to help other people and to keep the Guide Law.
Having completed my promise, I received my necker (triangular scarf), woggle (ring to hold ends of scarf together) and tabard (thing you pin badges on). I should have got a promise badge too (to show that I had done it) but I had to wait a bit for that because the guide shop had run out and were ordering more in.
Now, in September 2013, I have been involved in Girlguiding for a year. I have nearly finished the qualification. Recently, I started helping in our Brownie unit too, where I am called Sunflower. Next year Emiko will move up to this unit and she can’t wait to be a Brownie. She is fourth generation Girlguiding (even though she was the third of us to join, me being the last) and she loves it. We both do. I may not have got to experience guiding as a child but I get to experience it with my child and that is so much better.