Comments: 161 • Responses: 45  • Date: 

thekickingmule54 karma

Could you exmplain what it is that you do as a 'Big Brother'? Do they stay with you, or do you just visit them? I'm not sure Britain has anything like this, so I don't know much about it at all.

mzito77 karma

Excellent question - when you're a Big, you're paired up with one "Little", which is a kid who is looking for mentorship and a positive adult relationship in their life. Basically, you meet up once a week or once every other week and hang out. You can go to a movie, help them with their homework, talk about life, and so on. The idea is that you can be a positive role model in their life even with periodic contact.

thekickingmule26 karma

Ahh I see. That's a great idea, and I imagine it's great for the child as well as yourself. Kudos to you, sir!

Coloredditor19 karma

Does the program pay for things you do with them, say you take them to a movie will they reimburse you? I'd like to help, but one of the reasons I don't have kids of my own is because I can't afford them...

Scherzkeks33 karma

Would you recommend as something for someone to try before becoming a parent? Should the Big have come from a two-parent family so they can more appropriately model their role or would a Big from a single parent home be more relate-able to the Small/Little (don't know the official terminology)?

mzito42 karma

You're a Big when you're a volunteer, and your Little is the kid you're paired with.

I recommend it generally for anyone who wants to contribute back in a direct and meaningful way. That being said, I don't think it necessarily has any relevance towards being a parent, unless you don't have a lot of exposure to children already. You're getting a window into the child's life for a very brief amount of time, a couple of hours a week typically. It doesn't have a lot of relevance to the day-in day-out of parenting.

And I met a couple of really amazing Bigs who themselves came from really rough upbringings in very poor areas, and hence can relate very well to the (often very depressing) background of the Littles. I initially felt a little awkward that my upbringing was vastly more functional than his, but after a while I realized that the reality is that I had a lot to offer in terms of advice and being a role model just by virtue of my being an adult.

M3155031 karma

Thanks for doing this. What were some of the activities you two did together? How frequently did you meet?

mzito45 karma

We tried to meet up every week, which after a while got to be tough with my work travel schedule. After that, we'd meet up every other week, or two weeks on, one week off, etc.

But, on the off week, we'd talk on the phone, just to stay in touch and catch up on what's going on.

The activities changed over time - when we were first meeting up, I tried to be really proactive about doing something. So we'd go to a museum or go to an interesting lunch somewhere, and so on. Over time, I realized that realistically you wanted to balance that out with "hanging out", and so we started just going to a diner and hanging out for an hour, then going to a movie or walk around.

He was really into sports, so we'd play basketball, hit golfballs, etc., I remember that very well.

Im_That_Asshole28 karma

Did anyone ever confront you thinking that you were somehow doing something wrong/inappropriate with your little brother? Did you ever feel like you were being judged by others while out in public?

mzito48 karma

Well, I live in NYC, so I think the barrier for what attracts people's attention is much higher. I definitely would get odd looks sometimes, being a 20-something white guy at a driving range with a 13 year old African American boy, but it was usually obvious that we're having a good time and chilling without anything inappropriate going on.

I do recall getting weird looks at the movie theater once, which I guess makes a certain amount of sense.

So - no confrontation, but definitely some weird looks.

darsonia23 karma

Did you ever want to pull out of the system at any time during?

please add links in your description of bbbs url!

here's the australian one for you!


mzito63 karma

The time commitment was a challenge sometimes. My personal and work life was getting increasingly complicated, and this was a burden on the limited amount of time I had to myself.

I think also there's a naive belief that I walked in with thinking that I was going to see this kid thrive, or the white man saving the poor African American child, all of that savior garbage. The reality is that you're just there to help, and in the end, you can't work magic. You can't change the fact their home life sucks, or their school sucks, or they were abused, or their family members are in jail. All you can do is try to help them thrive as best they can in the environment they are in.

My-Dogs-A-Damn-Cat22 karma

Did you ever have a little brother say something REALLY weird or embarassing?

mzito25 karma

He was awkward in the same way that I think most young teens are - I don't remember him ever saying anything incredibly embarassing, but there was a lot of talking big about sports and accomplishments and girls he's trying to get with and the like.

I met a couple of other littles at picnics and the like, and some of them were a lot more awkward. I think I was lucky in getting a little who had a mother who was really invested in her child's success, and he was a little bit more socially competent than some of the kids where their moms threw them into BBBS because they didn't know what to do with them.

grayrobot16 karma

So, what's your story? How did you get involved and what inspired you to do it? Did you feel like you were qualified or was it more of a casual volunteer type experience?

mzito19 karma

Well, it was 2002 and I was feeling like I had to do something to contribute back to society. I wanted to have a more direct impact than just giving money, and I'd always been good with kids, so when I saw somewhere that BBBS was having a little seminar about being a mentor, I decided I'd attend.

I was reasonably qualified in that I was pretty good with kids already (lots of cousins, babysat in high school for extra cash), but I definitely was not prepared for some of the challenges that went along with being a Big.

It was a very worthwhile experience though, and one I'd like to pick up again, maybe when my life is a little calmer than it is now.

gizmo102410 karma

Besides the time commitment, can you expand on some of the challenges you've had?

mzito11 karma

Yeah, I kind of touched on it elsewhere, but there comes a point when you realize simply being there or being a role model isn't necessarily going to completely solve all of their problems. They still have a shitty life, you're just there for three or four hours twice a month to help try to keep them afloat.

That can be demoralizing.

Also, you're dealing with kids, often teenagers, who come from a totally different frame of reference socially, culturally, etc., and so there can be a little bit of culture shock in developing a relationship (and teenagers are not always easy to deal with).

Finally, I didn't have this experience, but I know others who have and someone commented elsewhere in the thread, their parent(s) can be a total hindrance and disaster - treating you like a babysitter, not supporting the process, tearing their children down, etc.

So I consider myself fortunate.

simplesignman15 karma

Dude, from a parent with two kids signed up, one girl and one boy, thank you! Finding young men to get involved in the program seems like the biggest hurdle. My wife and I found out about the program and since they are both at the age when mom and dad are pretty uncool, having someone they can relate with and that has a better understanding of what they are dealing with as far as school and social life is huge to them!

I highly suggest the program and we donate a good amount of banners and signage to our local group because they are so fucking awesome!

You did a good thing stepping into that little dudes life, keep spreading the word!!

mzito2 karma

Thanks! It's a great program, and I'm happy to be spreading the good word. I'm not a big anymore, but I still donate, and from experience, they don't piss away money. They really do try to help the kids.

Downbroter14 karma


mzito18 karma

I'm not sure - I know that when I applied to be a Big, one of the explicit questions you were asked was whether you identified as straight, gay, bi, etc. This information was passed on to the parent of a potential little, and they could opt to pass on you if they were uncomfortable with your sexual orientation.

It was a real shame, this was years ago, but I remember my case worker saying that there were a lot of gay men who would be great Bigs on the waiting list because the parents of the littles wouldn't go for a gay Big.

Sooo - I would say, call your local BBBS office. Depending on where you are, they might have a program to pair LGBTQ youth with Bigs. Worst case, they could refer you to another program.

etotheipith10 karma

It was a real shame, this was years ago, but I remember my case worker saying that there were a lot of gay men who would be great Bigs on the waiting list because the parents of the littles wouldn't go for a gay Big.

That's just sad. People are denying their kid a chance at a more balanced upbringing because they disapprove of a fairly irrelevant aspect of their lives. It's still their own choice, though. I wonder what would happen if you let the kids decide what the criteria for their Big would be.

mzito10 karma

Bear in mind that this was 2002, as well. For all I know it has changed significantly.

poppinwheelies13 karma

How is the money situation handled? Are you expected to pay for every outing out-of-pocket or are you given a little cash to help out with things? I'd very much like to volunteer but to be honest, cash is tight and taking kids out to ballgames/movies/zoos can get a little expensive.

mzito28 karma

Another really good question. I always paid, but we often didn't do very expensive things. Everyone finds a different way to bond with their Little - I met one pair that belonged to a running club together. Every week they would meet up, run some distance, and then hang out and talk for an hour or two at the track while they recuperated.

Bear in mind, too, that the kids you're mentoring (almost always) come from economically disadvantaged homes and don't expect much in the way of frills. When I first became a Big, my Little told me he really liked mexican food, so I took him to a swanky yuppie burrito place in my neighborhood. It freaked him out - too many options, unfamiliar toppings, he was really really uncomfortable. Chinese takeout and diners were more his speed. You get to know your Little.

T0MMYB0Y2GS11 karma

What are some of the things the organization expects of you (Must perform X amount of educational activities, vs recreational etc.)?
Are you expected to play more of a parental, role-model, or friendship role to your little?
What advice could you give on being a successful Big Brother?

mzito23 karma

Well, the Big has to go through a rigorous background check, interview process, and then a class on how to be a good Big. In general, it's: "Use your best judgement". If you have a six year old Little, you're not getting him to the modern art museum. But, you shouldn't also just sit him in front of a movie screen all the time.

I know some of the Bigs had very structured programs they did with their Littles, I was a lot more loosey-goosey about the whole thing.

I think a good analogy for your relationship is a trusted teacher. You are not their parent, and you are not supposed to be. They warn you about becoming too attached to your Little, because you have only a limited ability to help in the end. You can't save these kids from the rest of their lives, and it's going to break your heart if you don't realize that.

Ever see the season of "The Wire" that deals with the kids? It's kind of like that, with not as well-written dialogue.

As far as the advice - aside from the above, just stay consistent. A lot of these kids lack consistency in their lives, people kind of stroll in and out, give up on them, and so on. If you can't meet with them every week, that's okay, but whatever you commit to you have to stick to it. If you say you're going to call, pick up the phone and call.

etotheipith10 karma

What were the age ranges for Littles and Bigs? Was it mostly single moms looking for a male Big for their child? Was there an equal amount of male and female Littles? Have you ever heard of a Big getting into a romantic relationship with their Little's parent?

mzito15 karma

Well, I'm having to think back now, but it was something like 5-18 for the Littles. The Bigs are a wide range, from a completely unscientific remembering of BBBS picnics, I'd say that the men tend to run 20s-40s, and the women tend towards the older side 30s-50s.

There are way way more male Littles, due to so many children who didn't have fathers (and they only match same gender). I can't speak for everywhere, but in NYC when I applied, there were hundreds of male Littles on waiting lists to be paired up, and a waiting list of women Bigs waiting for girls to be paired with.

I never heard of a Big having a relationship with the Little's parent, but I only had contact with other bigs a couple of times a year (though I'm sure it happens). There's a very active social scene among Bigs, but my work schedule was punishing and I didn't participate as much as other people.

You also don't have a huge relationship with your Little's parent(s) anyway - you're somewhat encouraged to stay apart from the parents and have your own relationship with the Little, instead of coming across as friends with the parents.

doppelstranger6 karma

I'm curious, what is the reasoning behind exclusively matching genders between Bigs and Littles? I understand that that is the ideal situation but it seems cruel to force so many of the male Littles to wait when there are available female Bigs.

mzito9 karma

As it was explained to me, it was a safety thing - they felt that the potential liability of sexual encounters across genders was way too high.

I can't vouch for whether that's the whole reason or just what I was told.

slumberlust8 karma

Are most kids engaged in this and willing participants, or are they simply being told to participate by their parent/guardian?

mzito8 karma

That's a good question - my little was engaged, most of the littles I met were. I think if they weren't at least a little engaged they wouldn't be in the program, but I'm sure it happens.

One interesting note was that as my Little got older, I think he felt it was less and less "cool" for us to hang out, and drew back some, though he was in some ways more open about his life when we did hang out. He wasn't embarrassed about being a Little, his friends knew, his GF knew, and so on, but I think he was feeling more adult, maybe?

dolphinesque8 karma

I'm glad you had a positive experience. My experience with a Little Sister was really bad. I bailed on the program after less than a year, I couldn't take it anymore. My Little lied, stole, got REALLY mad when I wouldn't spend the kind of money on her she thought she deserved, never liked any of the activities we did (even the ones she suggested), and her Mom was using me like a babysitter, getting mad that I wasn't availible more often to take her kid off her hands. My experience was really bad, and the people at BBBS here were so hands-off, they wouldn't give me any advice or help, they were basically like "Deal with this on your own, we're not here to get involved."

I am glad to hear that there are some success stories out there, I had high hopes for my experience but it was not meant to be.

mzito10 karma

I've heard some horror stories too - I didn't mean to make it sound like it was all roses and sunshine. It sounds like you hit the jackpot on bad kid, bad parent, bad caseworker.

One of the things that made me a lot more comfortable was that his mom was absolutely no bullshit. She basically was determined that her kid was going to get out of the economic and social situation he grew up in, and she was going to do whatever it took to make that happen. She herself was not perfect, and had her own challenges, but she was very committed to being a supporting force, and I think that was reflected in her son.

Barnowl797 karma

On the other thread there were all these people scared to sign up for fear of being labeled a pedophile. Can you put their paranoid fears to rest once and for all?

mzito12 karma

Yeah, so, there are a couple of comments on this thread about it too, so I figured I should get around to talking about it.

The overwhelming reaction to everyone I told that I was a Big Brother was: "That's awesome, thank you so much for doing this"

The interview process is very rigorous, so if you're not prepared to talk about your sex life or your relationship history, it's probably not for you. But that's a good thing, as it means that the children are protected.

The other thing is that you are basically out in public doing normal things. It's not like you're having a romantic picnic in the park or hanging out in alleyways, you're sitting in mcdonalds laughing about some tv show, or shooting hoops in a public basketball court. If anyone casually watching ever thought anything was up, no one ever said anything or called the cops.

As I said elsewhere in the thread, I'd get looks every once in a while, but I suspect a lot of it was just the white-black incongruity (and the fact that by the time he was 15 he was taller than me). If I were african american (and there's a lot of african american Bigs), we'd have just looked like cousins or maybe he was my nephew, something like that.

I'm not even sure who would have accused me - his mom knew me, she sent me a christmas card every year. His friends knew who I was. We had a caseworker who checked up on us. People I knew thought it was a nice thing to do. I guess some random person on the street could have said something, but as I said before, that never happened. If it had, I would have just explained that I was a Big Brother and to mind their own business.

razelbagel4 karma

I don't want to hijack his AMA, but I am a current big brother to an 8 year old so I thought I would answer.

I have not had any problems. I'm 25, and he is 8 and Israeli so we are obviously not related but I have never gotten any looks or comments. I hold his hand when we cross the street, I've held his hand walking through crowded places, and have never had a problem. I am responsible for this child, first and foremost, so walking around the Santa Monica pier with thousands of people I'm more concerned with keeping him with me than what other people think.

You should definitely apply if you're interested. Its not a huge time commitment but there is one so make sure you can commit. He and I hang out 2 a month for roughly 3 hours.

mzito3 karma

I'm glad to get someone else in this thread who's a Big - I realize answering some of these questions that they're very much tied to my specific experience that may not apply generally.

So preach on, answer whatever you like. It's nice to know we were in the norms for how often we hung out as well.

Reecova6 karma

Hey thanks for doing this. Is there restrictions on where you can take your little? For example your own home to watch tv, or places that serve alcohol? Also the driving, are they allowed in a car with you as their big, or should you always meet them somewhere neutral?

mzito5 karma

They give you more guidelines than rules, most of which are common sense and liability driven. "Don't let your Little crash at your house overnight", etc.

I know that a lot of the rules get broken to one degree or another - I have taken my Little to restaurants that serve alcohol, but never had a drink in front of him (nor would I take him to a place that was primarily a bar). I wouldn't take him to my house, but he knew where I lived.

And car-wise, I live in NYC, and hence don't own one. But it never even occurred to me.

Lildrummerman5 karma

I just submitted my application, how long is the waiting process before I get interviewed or rejected?

mzito8 karma

It would depend on your local branch and their process and backlog. For me, I remember going to a little two hour seminar on being a Big brother, and filled out an application there. Someone got back to me within a week or two for my interview. The interview was a couple of hours, and then a week or two after that I got a call from a caseworker who wanted me to meet with a potential Little.

CynicalDick4 karma


mzito3 karma

That's really nice to hear. I'm a little disheartened that people keep harping on the money in this thread - I understand that times are tight and money is short, but if you can scrounge up an extra $10/week and 8-10 hours a month, you can afford to be a big.

still_asleep4 karma

This sounds like a fantastic program and I find myself considering applying.

  1. What was it like meeting the family? The Little? How long did it take to establish a connection between yourself and your Little?

  2. How were the activities selected? I imagine all of it has to be run through the parent(s) first.

mzito5 karma

So, you meet the parents during the "pairing" interview (I am sure there's a better word for it, but it's all I could think of at the moment). I spoke with her for about 15-20 minutes about myself, my background, my interests, why I wanted to become a Big, etc. (note this is after I'd passed the very in-depth interview and application process).

I remember she was polite but curt, I definitely felt like I was being interrogated a bit, but she warmed up over time. We were never "friends" in any meaningful sense of the word, but I'd get a card at christmas time, and she would make small talk when we met up.

My Little, I remember the initial conversations were about computers, a subject he was interested in. We talked about some of the things we could do together, and his interests and hobbies. It's the same basic conversation you have with a much younger kid you just met.

Activity-wise, I am sure some parents are more rigid than others - for me, when we first started hanging out his mom would take him on the subway to meet me, and then meet us to take him home, and we would agree on generally what we'd do. So, "We're going to go to lunch and then either wander over to the water or play basketball but either way we'll be back here at 3pm"

When he got older, and I happened to move closer to where he lived, he and I would just meet up, usually in between our two houses somewhere and figure out what to do from there. His mom had my cell phone and his cell phone, and would call if we were late.

dogwud4 karma


mzito2 karma

I've watched this float up and down since I started, I figured I'd get to it eventually.

Certainly you could if you wanted to. At least in NYC, there are lots of events for Bigs, especially on the younger side of things. I still get invites to the young professionals events and the alumni mixers, though I think I only ever went to one of those.

KRaidium3 karma

Was there anything that you hated about being a Big Brother?

thundervsokuni3 karma

Did you ever ask or find about why your Little did not have a relationship with his father, or is that off-limits? Did you have or want any say in whom you were paired with?

mzito5 karma

Pretty much nothing conversation-wise is off-limits, though you are encouraged to keep a certain amount of emotional distance (and privacy). In my case, his father was extremely abusive, had been jailed, and had since moved out of state. His mother had no contact, and my Little hadn't seen his father since he was 5 or 6 (and his memories were fairly horrible).

And yes, basically they try to pair Bigs and Littles based on background, common interests, and so on (which makes sense - you might not want to pair a bookworm with a kid who wants to go marathon running). First you get to meet the parent(s) and have a conversation with them. If there's a good connection there, you get to meet the kid. If there's a good connection there, everyone agrees, you get matched up.

So I do remember that there were kids who had real trouble matching because they were really picky about who they wanted to spend time with.

thundervsokuni2 karma

Did you get that info about his father from him, his mother, BBSS?

mzito2 karma

His mother gave me broad strokes, as I recall, and maybe the caseworker did as well. My Little didn't really open up about it until about three-four years after we started hanging out.

ab_bott3 karma

I just got matched with my little this week and will meet her next week. Any advice for me?

mzito1 karma

Well, when I did it there was an initial "Get to know you" interview to make sure it was a good fit. Ask a lot of questions, try to get them excited about something, get a hint of their real personality. If possible, talk to them without their parent present for a little bit, so they're not behaving well for the benefit of the case worker or the parent, etc.

Really think about whether you can contribute a year to spend with this kid, and if not, don't hesitate to speak up with your caseworker.

deathtoinfantshells2 karma

Do they drug test? not like i'm an addict, but i occasionally enjoy the herb.

mzito1 karma

Not when I did it.

ohaineko2 karma

I would just like to say, we need more people like you. I want to say thank you for your kind heart.

I was a Little and my Big was probably one of the best influences in my life and without her, I would not be where I am today. We don't talk at all and haven't since I was about 18(I'm 22 now). When I'm finished with college (late starter) I plan on becoming a big sister to give someone that same feeling she had one me.

Again, thank you. (:

mzito2 karma

Thank you very much, and please do give back. And encourage your friends to contribute their time as well.

Revelgoodpeople2 karma

Does BBBS Offer to compensate you for expenses to a point?

Also, Are there any prerequisites to doing this? IE : Mental health check / Physical health check, age, back round?

mzito9 karma

For the first part: http://www.reddit.com/r/IAmA/comments/1lqay7/iama_former_big_brother_from_big_brothers_big/cc1q8s6

And there is an interview process and it is fairly rigorous. You have to be willing to talk frankly about your sexual history, relationship history, take a personality test, answer ridiculous questions, submit to a background check, and so on. I chatted with the interviewer about the process when I was done out of curiosity, and she said they do reject a lot of people - basically if they get a weird or creepy vibe off you they'll pass you over.

And then, as I said elsewhere, you interview ith a caseworker, the parent(s) of the little, the little themself, and everyone has to agree that this makes sense. So there's a lot of checks and balances.

Aside: One of the questions I was asked in my interview was something like (slight paraphrasing, but not very much):

"In what circumstances is it okay for an adult to have sex with a child?"

a. When the child is very mature

b. When the child initiates

c. When you're alone at your house

d. None of the above

I started laughing, and the interviewer kind of stared at me, so I stopped and said, "D., of course", and the interviewer wrote that down. I said, "Honestly, can I ask, does anyone ever get that question wrong?"

She looked straight at me and said, "Yes. A lot more often than you think".

Revelgoodpeople5 karma

Jeezuz that question. thank you for the info! I just began college and I'm debating whether I'll have the time to get into this, or volunteer at the animal shelter again.

mzito7 karma

If I could make a suggestion that college may not be the ideal time to start a BBBS mentorship. Maybe your plan/life is different, but for me, college was a time where there were lots of changes - maybe you transfer schools, or change majors and suddenly have to study a lot more, or go abroad for a semester, etc.

These things are very disruptive to a Little and it really sucks when someone has to bail on their Little - obviously, life is life and you can't do anything about it, but in general, I think being at least a little settled for a few year timeframe is a better situation.

Just my .02

The-C-Word2 karma

What training if any did you have to do before you started?

Sounds like a great program BTW.

mzito4 karma

There's a one day class that covers the basics - I don't remember it being much beyond, "They're not your children, you have to report abuse to the police, and don't bring them to your house".

Money_Manager2 karma

I've always thought about doing this, but I've had a few concerns:

I'm not really financially independent yet, and I'm saving every penny I'm making. Is this a bad time for me to participate?

The upsides are obvious, but what are some downsides you experienced? Any 'baby-daddy' drama?

Do they do any training with you? I have no prior experience with dealing with children as an authority figure.

mzito5 karma

If you don't have any experience dealing with children as authority figures, I wouldn't start with BBBS. There are mentoring programs that are a little more structured where you do tutoring and the like for disadvantaged kids, I might start there and see how you do.

It doesn't have to be a ton of money, as I've said elsewhere, but you are laying out your time and whatever costs there are.

Downsides I've spoken about elsewhere in this thread- it can be time consuming and a little stressful and a little depressing. I did not have any drama around the parents of my Little, and remember that you're only spending a few hours a couple of times a month with the kid, so it's unlikely a semi-involved father would find a way to object to that.

gizmo10242 karma

You mention in another answer that your LB's friends knew who you were. Were there times where he would try to hide the fact he was in the BBBS program for fear of being stereotyped as an at risk youth?

mzito2 karma

I only met his friends once or twice while we were paired up, and only for brief moments hanging out in his neighborhood, so I couldn't say for sure how he specifically talked about our relationship.

However, he would casually mention that his friends knew we were hanging out and he was going to meet htem afterwards, or tell of a reaction a friend had to hearing about somethign we had done the week before, etc. So it seemed very likely that they knew who I was and that I was a big brother.

Now, he was also a teenager, so it wouldn't surprise me at all (nor would it bother me) if he didn't always talk about me glowingly for fear of looking uncool.

But I never got the impression that he hid the fact he was in BBBS, he didn't seem to think it was a mark of shame.

thekickingmule1 karma

Is there any training involved with it? Like, are you taught how to engage them in conversation, or ideas for things to do with them? Even just what to do if an arguement starts.

mzito3 karma

Really basic training - mostly for liability, safety, best practices, etc. If you're really uncomfortable with kids, BBBS might be a little advanced to start with.

Basically I had a bunch of cousins growing up, and I babysat some in high school, and generally interact well with kids. Think of a really good teacher you had in school, someone you hung out with outside of the classroom because they ran a school club or yearbook or something - that's the kind of relationship you have. Can you handle that kind of blend of friendship and emotional distance? If so, you could probably do fine as a Big.

Promen-ade1 karma

Is 22 too young to be a big brother? I'd love to try it. I love kids and have always lamented how much harder/weirder it is to get babysitting work as a guy.

mzito1 karma

That's how old I was when I started, but (not to sound like an asshole) I was on the mature side for my age- already a senior professional in my field, been on my own for a while, etc.

So you can judge for yourself - if you're stable, situated, etc then sure, go for it.

cantspellinator1 karma

Are some of the children difficult to handle or defiant that a "big" has to deal with. I wanted to volunteer as a big sister but im afraid im not a strong enough leader.

mzito3 karma

They can be - remember that you get to interview them, in fact, you get interviewed multiple times by different people before you ever get to meet a kid. So they'll do their best to pair you up with someone who fits your style.

I will say, at least at the NYC events I went to, especially with the women the Littles and the Bigs were mirror images. If the Big was loud and brassy, the Little was right there with her. Quiet and bookish? The Little had glasses and didn't talk much. Etc. etc.

So, yes, you can get stuck with a hard to handle kid, but there is a process they follow to try to make sure matches work, and if you don't feel like it's going to be a good fit, speak up.

TheLastManitee1 karma

How Long were you a big for? Do you stay with the same kid? Were there specific requirements for how much time you had to give. Could you volunteer just for a summer? or are they looking for a year+ time dedication.

mzito2 karma

Six years formally, but we only hung out on a regular basis for 4-ish. We stayed in touch afterwards for a few more years.

You get paired with one kid at a time. Some people do change kids - the kid doesn't want to do it anymore, or the big and the little don't get along, etc. But I stayed with the same Little throughout.

You should call your local BBBS office and ask them about the timeframe. When I did it, they were looking for a year, but I vaguely remember them talking about other programs and the like, so they might have shorter duration options.

Bear in mind that it's going to take two months just for the kid to really start to trust you and loosen up, so a summer doesn't leave a ton of time for you guys to really bond.

ferrhis1 karma

How many of the kids actually want to be there? I've always considered participating in the program, but I'm worried that most of the kids will be there because a parent views it like "free daycare" or something.

blaze881 karma

How do they pick the littles? I have always wondered. Do the schools recommend at-risk kids or something?

mzito1 karma

As far as I know, at least in NYC, the parents have to apply to have their kids join. I wouldn't be surprised if the schools suggest to the parents that they apply, or help them apply, but the parent has to want to do it.

kuhrisuh1 karma

Do you still keep in contact with your little? What kind of a person did he grow up to be?

mzito3 karma

We haven't spoken in about a year. Overall, I would say he did okay. He did drop out of high school (bad), got his girlfriend pregnant and had a kid (bad), stayed out of trouble with the law (good), got his GED (good), started out in construction and worked his way up to being a manager of a construction-related business (very good), split up with his GF but is still in his son's life and contributes (could be worse).

He's a good guy. Should have done better in school.

ArthurTrollington1 karma

While I've thought about doing this, I'd be worried about accusation of pedophilia. Either others are going to think it's weird that a grown man wants to spend time with a young boy, or a hug/playful rough-housing will be mistaken for something sinister.

How does one avoid this type of accusation?

mzito2 karma

See here: http://www.reddit.com/r/IAmA/comments/1lqay7/iama_former_big_brother_from_big_brothers_big/cc1qkcr

And we didn't really hug, in fairness, though I suspect that had more to do with his age. 14 year old kids don't want to hug 22 year old guys. We'd fist bump or high five or whatever cool thing the kids were doing at the time, and maybe I'd clap him on the back.

Remember that your relationship is more like a teacher or a coach than a parent or best friend. And yeah, I know teachers get accused all the time, but they have a lot of kids, and lots of time with kids, and lots of time in private or semi-private with kids. I'm hanging out in public, doing incredibly inocuous things.

elemeno891 karma

Do you have any choice in picking an age range for your little? Or is it based on a pairing through the answers you provide in an interview and whatnot...?

mzito1 karma

Yeah, you can specify a general age range. I requested a middle schooler or high schooler, cause I figured we'd have more to talk about than I would with a 5 year old.