My definition of a mentor is apparently broader than most. The common image the word brings to most people’s minds is someone from Big Brothers or any other similar organization. But there should be no limits. Mentoring can be a one-time event or it can last a lifetime. Any adult can offer their love and wisdom to any child at any time. All it takes is offering whatever you have available to a child you know who appears to need it. And that sharing can happen whenever the occasion presents itself. Allow me to offer a few examples.
As the single mother of four children I definitely believe in the it takes a village to raise a child’ philosophy. There is only one of me to provide for and serve a quartet of very different personalities. Without the influence of other adults and older peers I don’t know how I could ever have been there for so many offspring so much of the time when there is only one of me. Mentors in various stages and shapes have been a part of their lives from the time each was born. And we have acquired new members ever since.
First of all there are the wonderful adult friends in our lives. Along with all manner of grandparents, aunts, uncles and cousins already connected to us, my children have also had several non-biological aunts and uncles who have been there for them through the years some have been as good as family since before each child was born. Before, during and after the divorce, these wonderful men and women joined me and my children on all sorts of outings and trips as well as exchanging visits in our homes to spend quality time with myself and my brood. On plenty of occasions I was not quite so outnumbered and overwhelmed by my progeny. These get-togethers not only gave me a break as a parent but enriched everyone with new experiences and new ideas. These wonderful friends as well as my children have definitely benefited from every contact as we have spent time together.
At the time of my divorce, my eldest took it the hardest. Early on I placed both her and my other daughter, then ages seven and five, into counseling. I don’t know if therapists count in some people’s mind as a mentor, but they certainly fit the bill as far as I’m concerned. They offered care, support and guidance to my girls beyond what I could provide at the time as I visited my own counselor. In losing the regular presence of their father, who is still a part of their lives just not on a daily basis, they gained several new surrogate moms and dads who did what could be done to both ease the losses and add new insights and comfort.
My sons were still quite young when their father became a part-time parent so in some ways the transition from the divorce was easier for them at the tender ages of three and one. But the long-term affects concerned me. Not to worry. No matter how often we moved we discovered new friends, neighbors and co-workers who loved to spend time with my family. And although we have lost touch with some of these dear people, their love and influence is remembered and can still be felt.
And finally, due to various financial reasons, I recently bought a home that is over half an hour away from our previous neighborhood, so my seventeen year old is currently staying with a very dear friend near our former home. This arrangement means that my son can graduate high school with the rest of his friends and eventually have a better commute for attending college. This dear man has taken my son into his home and is as grateful for my son’s presence in his life as I am to have the parenting help. He may not have come to us through official’ channels but he has been acting as a secondary father to my boy for several years now and we couldn’t have gotten a better man for the job. Not with all the agency match-making in the world.
So no matter who you are or where you are, if there are children in your life on any level, give of yourself when you can. A mentor isn’t just someone placed with a child or family by an organization. It is everyone at any time, being there for the children they know. And everyone benefits from the sharing.