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:
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.