Today is the last day of Little Miss C’s first half a term at school proper. As she’d been at our local infant school for her pre-school year I’d always assumed that it would be quite an easy transition into reception, and in many ways it has, but at the same time I’d also underestimated somewhat how different it also all is due to that extra year of age. LMC is now four, and will turn 5 later in the school year and that seems to be an age when children are so much more aware of the other children they’re at school with and the concept of friends.
There are children in her class that she was at pre-school with and back then they were generally friends with everyone, but now that is starting to change. Certain friendship groups are already starting to appear and she’s already talking more about some friends than others. Then, as we walked home the other day the line I’d been sadly waiting for was uttered. “Mummy, Amy says I’m can’t be her best friend tomorrow and I’m not allowed to play with her any more”.
Now, for the benefit of any local school mums reading I should add that Amy isn’t this girl’s real name – as far as I know there isn’t an Amy in the year. And in a way, it doesn’t really matter which girl said this, or whether it had been a boy either, but it was the whole concept of her now having a “best friend” that was interesting. She’d never spoken of one before and there are other children that I thought she was closer to, but still. This did kick off a big chat with LMC though about friends and true friendship. We talked about what a friend is and how friends are people that you like to spend time with. They’re also people who will help you out and have fun with, but who will also be there for you if things go wrong. I didn’t use the word “loyalty” in the conversation, but it’s what I was getting at, whilst trying to explain all this to a 4 year old.
I know many people may say “well she’s only 4″ but actually LMC can be quite a sensitive sort and she’s always keen to help out friends who have lost something, or who need taking to the school medical room after a trip or a fall in the playground. I think that trying to help her understand how to behave towards friends and other people is a valuable one.
We talked about Amy and what she should do if Amy didn’t want to play with her the next day. We spoke about how it was still perfectly OK for Amy to play with other children, just as LMC may want to do some days, and how it is possible to have lots of different friends. We also chatted about how you shouldn’t be nasty to someone if they don’t want to play with you, or if you don’t want to play with them and LMC started rehearsing lines about how to say sorry to someone, but that she had chosen to play a different game with someone else that day, rather than just saying “you can’t play with me” as so many children do. If she can apply some of this to her relationship with her brother too it’d be very welcome!
It was, in a way, a difficult talk, but one that I’m glad we had. Friends that you make at primary school, or secondary school, can stay with you your whole life, and having loyal friends that you can rely on whatever the circumstances is so valuable.
In this modern world relationships that we have with people, and businesses, have changed from how it used to be. Friends were often people that you saw regularly, and who were local to you. Any long distance friendships were conducted by letter, sometimes with weeks or months between letters. Business relationships were ones continued over generations of a family, and again they were usually local. Local shops, local solicitors, chemists, undertakers, the lot. You knew your bank manager personally, and your parents had usually known him (and it was always him then) as a boy. You were loyal to them, without question.
People moving around the world, and the advent of modern communications has changed personal friendships, but even still, loyalty is what tie so many friendships together still. But what about business relationships? We now have so much choice that loyalty works very differently. Nearly every supermarket has a loyalty card, but then I’m sure I’m not the only person that has a wallet stuffed full of them, suggesting that I’m not exactly loyal to any one chain. And what about those service industries that have you enticed by a special deal for new customers, but then lose you as soon as that special deal period is over. Heck, there are whole price comparison websites set up to profit from people’s lack of loyalty.
It’s never seemed very fair to me that so many of the best offers to customers are limited to new customers only. We even had to change mortgage providers recently, not because we wanted to, but because it would have been crazy not to have taken the lower interest rates that another building society was offering us as a new customer.
Finally a bank has woken up to this though. Natwest have set up their Hello / Goodbye campaign to make life fairer for their loyal customers. No more will there be rates and offers that existing customers can’t access. Gone are the 0% introductory offers that actually end up costing more in the long terms.
It’s common sense really – after all, businesses must spend so much more trying to get new customers than then would do if they just worked harder to keep the customers they’ve already got. It’s also just polite and fair.
Natwest have also put together this quite funny video which makes you realise just how silly the system of offers for new customers only is. When it’s put in such a simple way I struggle to see how any other businesses would defend their decision to treat new customers differently.
I’m always a fan of old fashioned values and generally think we could do with more of them in today’s society. Surely loyalty, fairness and manners are a key part of that.
As for Little Miss C, well I’m pleased to report that her and “Amy” apparently played happily together the next day at school and every day since. Long may their friendship continue.
Disclaimer: I am working with BritMums and Natwest on this project and have been compensated for this post, but all views and opinions are my own.