Saturday, January 22, 2011

My Little B

To love someone is to risk loosing a part of yourself

This has been a big week for me...I have finally re-registered at University to complete my degree. I don't care if I have to complete the damn thing in bed, I'll do it.

This week there has also been a major victory and a close to a beautiful chapter. Some of you, who are regular readers of my blog have heard me briefly discuss a little girl only referring to her as "Little B". I have been very vague about this and I am sorry but please know I only did this to protect her privacy. However after much thought and discussion I decided I should share this with you, only because this story is incredible and you will be amazed at the resilience of this child.

Little B is actually my second cousin. Her mother and I were very close growing up. The circumstances of Little B's life and that of her sisters are extremely tragic but I won't be discussing it on this blog. Before the holidays, I made the decision to foster her. I did this because in 2011, Little B was due to start school and we had a BIG problem. Kindergarten/ Nursery school is not compulsory in South Africa ( a little dumb if you ask me), so she was unable to get a government grant like she could for school and there was just no money for her to attend Nursery School otherwise. Now in the area where she lives the standard of education is extremely high- B would have to pass a school readiness test to see whether she was ready to go to school and this is where we had the problem.

Little B is extremely bright but tragically because she had not attended Nursery School or had anyone take time to prepare her for school she was streets behind other kids her age. I am always wary of getting involved with any drama in my family because if you give a hand they will take an arm, if you know what I mean. Watching B's situation was like watching a car crash in slow motion and it became apparent that nothing was going to be done. My Mom and I arrived at their flat one day explained to her what we needed to do and then packed her up and moved her into our house. It was heartbreaking watching this tiny little girl say goodbye to her Mom and each of her sisters. She sat in the back of the car all the way home, in silence tears pouring down her cheeks. Even though she had never been away from her Mom and sisters I could see in the determined look on her face this was something she knew she had to do.

You will be amazed what this child accomplished. Little B had just a few weeks to cover something that took kids two years to cover in kindergarten. The day would start at 7am , we would break for tea at 10:30am go on from 11 until 1pm and then again from 2pm to 4pm. I discovered that B had picked several things up just by observing her older sister but it was jumbled and needed to be put into order. When she wasn't at having lessons with me she was playing games that had something to do with lessons. We decided it would be best for B to go home on weekends to her mother and sisters and give me a chance to sleep.

I will admit I was hard on her but I was frantic and heart sore. I realised with great sadness, that Little B's life now and in the future would be far from easy, she couldn't afford to be model- coddled. I remember holding her when she was just ten days old and thinking how many battles she would have to fight and most of them she will have to fight alone.

But I was not kidding when I said that she was resilient. She took on every challenge I threw at her with a fiery passion. When the time came for Little B to leave she could read and write at first grade level (something that's not mandatory for starting school, but we achieved that anyway) she knew her multiples up to 2, could add and subtract ok, count up to 100, recognise all her shapes...

Once we were over that hill we were facing yet another. It was January, the school year in South Africa starts in January and it seemed as though all the schools were full. I was angry...while I putting this kid through 8 hour days someone could have filled out a stupid form for her to attend a school!. Each school shutting their door in her face was beginning to take it's toll on Little B. She told me that the schools didn't want her, pained rejection written all over her face.

But the law was on our side. schools are divided into catchment areas. Whatever school she lived closest to by law, had to take her. Eventually this school agreed to take her, they had no choice ( but we told Little B that they liked her and really wanted her) but first....the nail- biting school- readiness test. Yes, however unethical it seems if she didn't pass this test she would not be allowed to go to school, even if she was of age.
I had to go see my psychiatrist that day so I couldn't be there. We heard nothing all day and we couldn't get hold of her mother so we went by her work. As soon as we parked I saw Little B and her mother racing across the parking lot. I opened the car door, feeling very shaky and B jumped into my lap.


She had passed her test with flying colours. She told me when they said she had passed and could start school, she cried, "Happy tears". I went into town early the next morning to see her off on her very first day of school. Never in my entire life have I seen a kid so excited to go to school. She looked so smart in her new uniform. I took ton of pictures. Her Mom and I walked her to her classroom. She already knew two kids in her class. The whole time her Mom and I had goofy grins on our faces and my heart was swelling with pride. I went to kiss her goodbye and she took my hand and tried to pull me into her classroom but I stopped her. "This is where on you're on your own my love, I can't come in with you". I feared that maybe this is where the waterworks could start but she just shrugged "I've two friends". Then another little girl came and put her arm around her and they walked in the classroom together - I had to hold B's Mom back!- the teacher then shut the door. Her Mom and I stood outside the school crying- how traumatic it is sending a kid to school!!.

I have learnt a lot about love these past few years. It is mostly love that has kept me alive. The biggest lesson I learnt about love from my experience with Little B, is that a lot of it involves selflessness and letting go. Sure I knew that that was all a part of love before, but having B in my life really drove it home that to love someone you risk loosing a part of yourself. I got Little B I had to open up windows in my heart that I had closed long ago to care for her. For a few weeks I was the center of her world and she was my main priority. I taught her, fed her, bathed her, cared for her when she was sick, played with her, watched her sleep, hugged and kissed her tears away. I was tired, amused, in love, frustrated angry, heartbroken, joyful all at once. She was mine for a short while and now she is back where she belongs and treading her God- given life path while I watch cheering for her wanting nothing but for her to be safe and succeed. Of course that is not always guaranteed but I have faith.

I have inspiration: if this child moved mountains the way she did then so can I! On I go to the road less travelled:)


  1. This is a nice story Stephi, good on you for helping out little B with her alphabet, maths, and knowledge of shapes! The only thing which changes the world is action, and it sounds like you and your mum did a great job helping her get ready for school.

    Like you say, most of the battles she will have to fight on her own, that is the nature of life. But it sounds like you did a great job helping her get ready for the challenges to come.

  2. First. CONGRATS on you re-entering at the U. I am so proud of you. Remember to pace yourself and be kind to yourself so that your expectations of how to be the perfect student doesn't bring you down. You might not have that struggle, but I know I do esp. when I get overwhelmed and anxious with how to keep up compared to everyone else. This is a huge step for you. And I think your love and support of Little B. is amazing and has inspired you to also re-mother YOURSELF so that you know that despite immense challenges that progress can be made. You have an incredibly beautiful and loving heart, Stephi. We'll all be supporting you and interested to hear about your journey. Yayyyy, Stephi!

  3. Thanks Depressed Reader, yep I am amazed that this child was able to absorb so much in only a few short weeks. She was eager to learn so that made a huge difference. She is loving school and I think she is going to be a teacher's pet:) She has many obstacles in front of her but I have faith that she will succeed.

  4. Hey Wendy,
    I know I can always count on you, my dear friend to cheer me on:). I attend a university that has courses specially designed for people who work and people who live far away. Campus is an hour away but I will be doing my course at home most of it is done online with a live web feed to lectures.

    Having said that there is a huge amount of pressure on me to succeed. I am one of four kids and the only one without a degree. Not only that my brother and sisters all graduated at the top of their class. There is no pressure from my parents to be the same, but I want to do well for myself and a lot of my future is based on my education. I know I will have to be very careful or this could be deterimental to me.

    I think Little B made more of an impact on me than I did on her. Her walking into her classroom, victorious will probably become one of my favorite memories.

  5. What a beautiful, beautiful story. It truly touched me. The desire of a child to learn and grow. The way life throws obstacles in the way. And the way God provides others to step in and help us find the way through. You performed a miracle in that little girl's life. Don't ever forget that.

    And I love the last line of your first paragraph. It sounds like you are ready to take on the world. Just like Little B. And you can. I believe in you!

  6. This story gave me a lump in my throat! What you and your family have done for this precious little mite is so wonderful, and I so admire your completely selfless, loving act Stephi!

  7. Hey Miss Robin,

    Completing a degree in bed! Not what you would expect in college life hehe!!.

    Little B is a very special little girl and I have no doubt she will go far. It's never- wracking with kids because you want to protect them all the time but God is on her side and I keep having to remind myself that he will walk with her every step of the way.

    Thanks for your comment!

  8. Hello Miss Fox!

    Having her with us was a gift and I think we learnt more than she did. I'll have to show you the pics and video I took on my phone when I see you!

    Much love x

  9. Beautiful story Stephi! I'm glad that Little B has someone like you in her life =) It always breaks my heart when children are put into circumstances in life that they have no control over. It's awesome that you recognized this fact and took action. It's truly commendable and could possibly make all the difference in the world for her.

    Wishing you the best of luck going back to school and I love the attitude that comes with it! Good work girlfriend!

  10. Thanks Miss Running, I saw first hand what happened to my cousins when I was growing up and how their education was neglected, I am determined not to let the same thing happen to B and her sisters. Right now education is an area where I can make a contribution, hopefully I will be able to do more as time goes on. It really is such a pleasure- they are worth it 1000x over!