Me and my kiddo

Me and my kiddo

Monday, March 28, 2011


Many years ago, an Objectivist friend told me that the one thing he would have wanted that he didn't have while growing up was a trusted mentor.  Naturally, since I'm passionate about parenting, that set me pondering how I could establish that kind of safe relationship for my son.  My goal would certainly be a positive mentor as the position can be one of significant influence.

I began researching.  My first focus was Big Brothers Big Sisters.  I liked the idea of a dependable adult guide and he loved grown ups.  After learning about the training for mentors and confirming that parents had full veto power, I filled out the extensive applications.  He's been on the waiting list for Big Brothers Big Sisters (BBBS) for two and half years so far.

It was clear from the beginning that BBBS had a long waiting list, so I didn't stop my research there.  I kept looking and I found Athletes for Kids.  This is what I read on their website:

Our mentoring program serves children with special needs by improving their social and emotional development through a personal relationship with an older student-athlete. It is designed to dramatically improve confidence, self-esteem, and ability to relate to peers before entering the difficult teen years.Our mentors are high school athletes who understand teamwork, commitment and success. They are held to a high standard socially and academically and are often seen as stars in their communities.

I knew that my kiddo adored older kids.  I also knew that he loved to run and would be hugely impressed with a high school athlete that had mastered one of his major challenges "moving with control". (The energy just overwhelms him sometimes and respecting other people's space  is easily forgotten in the exuberance of the moment.)  I knew getting him into this program would be a challenge because of location, but I was willing to do the driving.  I filled out the forms.  I them be came a very friendly nudge as the wonderful staff looked for a match and bent the rules a wee bit since I was officially out of the area.  And... we found a match!  

Over the last year and half, my kiddo has enjoyed "play dates" with his athlete mentor once or twice every month.  I have been amazed how the relationship has grown.  While still quite socially immature, my son has made huge strides in these visits.  They're buddies now.  He cares about his buddy and just glows when we're going there for a visit.  I've also noticed the interaction has become much less like a grown-up kid relationship and much more like a friendship for his mentor too.  There's no doubt that my kiddo trusts and idolizes his mentor, so I'd place stage one at a full success.  It will be fascinating to see if they keep in touch once college comes along.

As I've considered further, I think my next step will be to ask an adult friend to fill that role.  If I can find someone who loves kids and would be interested in monthly dates, I think I could help coordinate a positive experience and not wait for BBBS.  For now, he loves his high school buddy and their time together is as joyous and positive as I could dream.  Once we are done moving, I might set up a similar program to Athletes for Kids in our new location too.  I think he could certainly handle both an adult and a high school mentor and he can gain different support experiences from each... I certainly wouldn't expect a grown up to do this with him!

(His mentor earned the title of human roller coaster during out last visit... the giggles are contagious!)
(The video may take a minute to load, but it's only 40 seconds long.)

Here's to nurturing relationships that help us grow!  Of course, eventually, my son will be choosing his own mentors and making his own choices about whom to trust.  At least, I'll have set him up with experiences of several positive examples.


  1. I'm an engineer; just finished my masters degree. I wanted to chime in b/c of the topic. I don't know how old your son is, but around the time I was finishing high school I started writing to a JPL engineer. I knew what I wanted to do back then, and I got his contact info from an acquaintance, so I basically just wrote him up and asked if he wanted a penpal. Fortunately, he said yes :-) We kept in touch through all my college years (bachelors and masters). He's not a very good typist, so I tended to write him more than he wrote me, but the relationship was invaluable to me in terms of having someone to talk to about my work and schooling. Also, he's the reason I started seriously examining Rand's ideas, which helped tighten the bond even more. It has now been about 7 years since I first wrote to him. We still talk regularly and I have managed to see him twice (I'm in IL, he's in CA) since our relationship started. It's still a mentoring relationship, but also a very deep friendship and I am very glad that I approached him about a penpal relationship back in high school.

  2. Brianna: Thank you for sharing! I'm working on my husband to share his experiences as a mentor / mentee in the work place which I think are highly relevant :)

  3. This is a very interesting idea. I've never really thought about it. My son loves making friends with neighbors and other adults. But these are accidental relationships with people who happen to be at a particular place at a particular time. It would be interesting to select someone on the basis of who he is.

  4. Kate: When I was searching, I really wanted to find a mentor for my kiddo that had particular strengths he could learn / emulate. The questionnaire was really helpful for me in finding a good match and I met his athlete mentor before introducing him to my son. What will be most interesting to me is to see if the relationship lasts when the mentor goes off to college. Right now, the benefit has been one of solid friendship and safety in playing goofily. I wonder, will the trusting relationship be there if my kiddo needs a mentor 5 years from now when entering adolescence. That's what I'm really hoping for (and will try to maintain)... a relationship that has no disciplinary aspect and is purely a safe place to talk with someone that has been through those growing up trials recently and can listen supportively. Since that position can be so powerful, I'd love to do what I can to make sure some of those resources are in place and positive. Of course, we like to keep pretty open and supportive communication going on at home too!