Comments: 528 • Responses: 56  • Date: 

HugoSteeglitz323 karma

Question: if you're a broke college student how do you fund activities for you and your little? Does the organization help ? What kind of stuff do you do together? Have these changed over time?

bigbrothersrule543 karma

Dude, I seriously wish I had started doing this in college. All you need to give is your time. When a kid grows up without getting the right amount of attention, they blame themselves and feel worthless. You're showing through your actions that they are person worth spending time with.

The activities that Ben and I do are a combination of pre-planned activities organized by BBBS (Fishing, STEM Day, Holiday Party), and things that he and I come up with. BBBS works hard to establish relationships with other popular attractions in the area. We get free sports and theater tickets, buy-one-get-one-free meals at restaurants, even free membership at the YMCA.

It's interesting that you ask whether the activities have changed over time. I guess I never thought about it, but yes. When Ben was 7 at the beginning of the match, he was satisfied with going to the park or reading superhero books at the library. Those definitely wouldn't fly anymore. BBBS also has what they call a "Not So Little" program for teenage Littles focused on volunteering and college prep.

tavarum45 karma

I was a BB and had a different experience. My little bro would sometimes pester me to go to Dave & Busters, get food somewhere, or go to Sky Zone (trampoline place). I was responsible for paying for these activities - not that I really minded. I did sometimes get the feeling I was just being used for money though. That said, I could have pushed back more, but felt really bad saying no.

bigbrothersrule34 karma

There is that tension between making a kid happy and being taken advantage of. Ben asked me to buy him a video game once. Just because, apparently. I tried to explain that's not what I'm there for. But I also told his mom. And then things got intense for Ben.

princess-smartypants104 karma

Check with your local public library. Many loan free or discount passes to local museums and attractions.

bigbrothersrule116 karma

Such a good tip, and not just for Bigs and Littles! I can't believe I paid for things that are available for free just by walking over to the library!

InterestedListener199 karma

Any advice for people considering getting into this? Anything you wish you had known back then?

bigbrothersrule475 karma

The training that I received was only three hours, and I'd describe it as half orientation and half legal compliance. As a result of the rush, they really oversold one concept and undersold another concept.

They oversold the impact that you as the Big would personally have on your Little. That's not to say that I feel I haven't had an impact, but the real benefit to the program is the extra pairs of eyes that Littles have trained on them. Instead of just a single parent (in my case she's raising three kids and working full time), who may not be able to devote enough attention, the Little gains both a Big and a Program Specialist, who is a licensed social worker. This "triangle" is independently watching for trouble signs with the Little. Whenever something interesting comes up with one point on the triangle, we all share with each other. This creates a support/safety net that would otherwise be lacking. That's why I think that BBBS really has demonstrable positive results for underprivileged kids.

They undersold what's in it for me as a Big. You might think that this is standard volunteer work, and you get that normal warm fuzzy feeling that comes from making a difference. But this is very different from scooping mashed potatoes at a soup kitchen or cleaning cages at an animal shelter (both of which I have done and highly recommend as well). You are in a long-term relationship with one particular human being, with whom you share a ton in common. There's only one other kid I know who had Ben's unique set of strengths, quirks and anxiety as a kid, and it was me when I was a kid. I can genuinely say that we're friends, and I can offer him a great deal of help with what's to come in his life, because I've lived it. Regardless of how long our formal BBBS-sponsored match, I get the sense that we'll always stay connected in some way.

fsm20132341 karma

Good on you for doing this. I had a Big Brother when I was a kid (around 10yo) and it was awesome. We'd go to sporting events, hiking, working on his canoe (sanding and woodwork), fishing, stuff that I had never experienced before. My Big Brother was really cool -- at first. After a few months his visits were more about him hanging out with and banging my mom while I watched cartoons. :\

Still, I appreciate people like you who do your best to help be positive role models to kids.

SaintMelee149 karma

Just like a real dad.

JiveTurkeyMFer63 karma

Or a real brother with broken arms.

Shintsu247 karma

God dammit Reddit, every time with this...

bigbrothersrule44 karma

Seriously one of the reasons I love Reddit.

bigbrothersrule105 karma

I'm genuinely sorry that you didn't have a positive experience. As a person raised by cartoons myself (DUCKTALES! WOOHOO!), I don't think committing one year to a kid in your community is that tough, and the impact to the Little when that commitment isn't fulfilled would be pretty devastating. If you're comfortable, I'd love for you to share more of your experience as a Little on this thread.

wolfxor126 karma

Training? I was a Big in Arizona for about 6 months. I received no training, orientation, or anything. They interviewed me, checked my home, and said "it's great you want to help, here's your Little". I had a Little who had no father and his mother was a recovering meth addict. He told me stories that no child should ever experience. It was a VERY overwhelming experience for a 22 year old and I hate to admit, I failed miserably at it. I ended up dropping out of the program and leaving my Little behind. I was not equipped for that and I feel like the program itself didn't prepare me. Instead, they threw me into the deep end. I'm really glad you got proper training. It can go very poorly for the Little if you don't. I don't know how they do it these days as that was many, many years ago but this is great to hear.

bigbrothersrule140 karma

Yowzers! I'm sorry that you got matched in that situation. I would actually encourage you to get involved again when you feel ready, because that is not normal. There are some matches that are just stinkers. It's the same way with friendships, or in my case, with my in-laws:-)

I want to make clear that I didn't receive much training. There was a three-hour info session/training that covered the basic ground rules. Once we were matched, Ben and I received monthly support from our Program Specialist. I receive regular invites to group sessions with other Bigs, and there's also a social group of Bigs that usually involves consuming mass quantities of beer.

But then again...how can you prepare someone for all the situations they might face? I am a licensed teacher, but I didn't feel ready to teach after my classes in college. At some point you have to jump in and make mistakes. This one time, early in our match, I took Ben to the Denver Museum of Nature & Science and bought him an ice cream bar. He wanted lunch, and threw a tantrum in the lobby and wouldn't budge. If I was his Dad, I could pick him up screaming and kicking. As his Big, that wouldn't look so good. We didn't cover it in training, so I winged it, sat down, made grumpy faces, and out-stubborned him until he forgot he was angry. To this day, I don't know if there was a right answer to that problem, but it got him back to his Mom alive and it got me back to my wife instead of jail.

Reibinpo67 karma

You sound like Ned Flanders

bigbrothersrule116 karma

Well, then, everyone who counts loves me! I'm much less of a perfect human being than Ned. For starters, I loathe religion. I think we've reached the point where it's holding our species back from progress. And yet, lacking religion shouldn't prevent me from doing positive things in my community.

FuckyesMcHellyeah24 karma

You hit my question right on the head. How did you deal with that? As a non-secular person, are there religious overtones like in AA meetings? Do you need to divulge your beliefs or lack thereof?

bigbrothersrule57 karma

BBBS is not a religious organization. They do ask you about your religious background and beliefs, as well as whether you would like to be matched with an equally religious Little. It helps parents of Littles also make that determination. Ben happens to be Jehovah's Witness, but other than telling him that I am not a Jehovah's Witness, we don't really discuss religion. Not typically a big issue among kids.

_Tyrannosaurus_Lex_13 karma

I've kind of wondered about this too. I recently moved to Georgia (from Denver originally), and as a non-religious person I've kind of shied away from most of the volunteer oportunites that I've found because after going once it becomes obvious that there are a lot of religious overtones. When I was in Denver, I had considered doing BBBS and the organization still sounds interesting to me.

bigbrothersrule7 karma

I saw this post a while ago, and I've just been ruminating about how to answer. Bottom line, don't let the South change your desire to help. My parents are Jews living in bumblef**k Alabama, and their number one volunteer organization is Catholic Social Services. It's much more likely that a non-profit down there will have religious undertones, but it's still very likely that they need your help and will judge you much more on your actions than your depth of faith.

c_for8 karma

I'm curious how you would handle the little bro asking about religion? Are there topics that you are not allowed to talk about even if the little bro brings it up?

addpyl0n5 karma

This was my question. As a big, how do you handle any sort of questions kids have that are usually something their parent needs to talk to them about? Are there guidelines or is it left up to your best judgement?

bigbrothersrule14 karma

Great question. About questions. Great metaquestion. Anyway, you've pretty much got it, anything that really belongs in Mom's world should stay there. We don't talk about sex, we don't talk about religion. Not that any kid likes talking to adults about those things. We do talk about politics. I think that kids in a democracy need to understand how important it is to participate, so I did take him with me to vote, including showing him who I voted for in that one particular election. You know the one, the BIGGEST victory in ANY election, PERIOD.

wolfxor22 karma

It is really awesome of you to be doing this. I am now the father of a 7 month old baby boy so starting back in to the program now wouldn't be fair to the Little. I have no time as it is.

Also, I must have misunderstood how much information you received prior to starting. That's about as much as I did. The PS went over a lot of stuff with me after they had matched me but I still felt very unprepared for being a Big. This poor kid told me stories of his mom passed out on the couch when he went looking for a glass of water as a 4 year old. He couldn't reach the glasses so he just grabbed a beer from the fridge instead. It was very unnerving and I don't think I was capable of handling that. I felt he needed therapy more than I could provide. I also feel horrible for bailing. I failed that kid. So you should definitely be proud of the work you do. It's tougher than most people think.

lawrnk6 karma

I'm in a similar situation. I'd like to get involved in this, but I have two young kids myself. Maybe I could it it when they are older.

bigbrothersrule11 karma

It's definitely hard to be a parent to a young child and be the Big that your little deserves at the same time. I do encourage you to look into this when your kids are older, or even when you retire!

AzureMagelet3 karma

When you take him out is there any sort of reimbursement system? I'd love to do something like this but stuff gets expensive and I'm not exactly rich.

bigbrothersrule6 karma

Unless the organization gives you something for free, or you find a free activity, you are the one paying for it, no reimbursement. Good news, though, in the US, any money or mileage you spend on the kid (not on yourself while with the kid) is tax-deductible.

Dikkat-Balik29 karma

I had a similar experience as a tutor! I thought it would be a fun experience helping local students pass math classes... ended up assigned to a middle school student who was a recovering drug addict. Both her parents were also addicts, so she and multiple siblings lived with their grandma. Grandma was not a very nice lady :( I had no idea how to support that girl and the stories she told me every week just broke my heart. I stuck it out for the semester and hopefully she did better in school for it (they never gave me any updates), but dropped the community tutoring after that. I did not at all feel qualified to work with a student like that... I'm just a math nerd.

wolfxor14 karma

Exactly! I'm not a psychologist and I feel like some of the parents in BBBS put their kids in the program thinking they'll get that kind of therapy.

bigbrothersrule15 karma

There are definitely parents who sign their kids up for babysitting or worse, better parenting. That's sad, and it wastes a Big (a precious commodity) for a family that could really use the boost.

nooneisreal47 karma

I had a "Big Brother" when I was 8 or 9 (probably around 94-95). Parents divorced when I was really young so my mom thought this would be good for me.

I remember the guy being pretty cool at first. I don't remember his age. Maybe late 20s early 30s. He was married. We did a lot of fun activities together for quite a while (maybe close to a year?). Played ball hockey, went skating, went to baseball gamess, went to Big Brother/Big Sister events, hiked, biked, etc.

Then one day we were just hanging out at a park and I almost slipped off the monkey bars I was sitting on top of and accidentally said "fuck!" out loud.

He was apparently taken aback by this and didn't like that I had sworn.

I don't remember much afterwards except the guy literally just stopped hanging out with/contacting me altogether. It's so long ago so I don't remember if he just stopped being a Big Brother or what, but I do remember that was the last time we ever hung out. Never said good bye or anything. Really shitty thing to do to a young kid.

I just quit the program after that instead of finding a new Big Brother.

bigbrothersrule37 karma

Thanks for sharing your story! Who knows what else was going on with your Big, he may have been going through some tough times but he should absolutely have brought the match to a proper conclusion. If your Big did indeed take umbrage to your profanity, all I can say to that is, f**k him. Every kid knows that word. He should never have become a Big if his skin was that thin.

SamuraiKatz14 karma

I was a Big Brother for awhile. One of the most rewarding experiences ever. You really do have a huge impact on these children's lives, so it is very much worth doing. Thank you for doing what you do man!

bigbrothersrule10 karma

Thanks! I would love for you to share your experience on this thread, if you're comfortable doing so.

bigbrothersrule1 karma

Thanks so much for your kind words!

PhotoshopMogul59 karma

Hey, I was actually a little brother when I was a kid! Honestly the best piece of advice I can give is don't just drop out if you lose interest. I went through three big brothers and only one of them stuck around more than a couple weeks. If you're interested in doing this you must be committed. Remember, a lot of these kids already have abandonment issues - please don't add to them. I still keep in contact with the big brother that stuck around, and I'm 22.

bigbrothersrule21 karma

There's nothing worse than a person without integrity. Well, maybe a murderer, but you understand what I'm saying here. It's a year commitment. Either make it and keep it, or don't get into it. I'm happy that you found a good Big. Most of us are. If you're comfortable, please share more about your experience as a Little on this thread!

RepostResearch83 karma

Hey, first of all I just wanted to say thanks for taking the time for this ama, and for being such an amazing human being. I'm sure the impact you're having on your little is bigger than you could ever know.

I've been interested in being a big myself, but I've always been worried about the stigma surrounding a single man spending time with children. I get strange looks sometimes when I take my real little brother to the park or otherwise. Is this something that you've had to deal with personally? Any suggestions on handling these situations should they arise? I'm very seriously considering signing up.

bigbrothersrule120 karma

Thanks for considering becoming a Big! And yes, the stigma is real, and you're right to call it out. There's no getting around it. You're a man in a close relationship with a boy, and you're not related. I have never encountered a situation where people thought something was amiss or accused me to my face, but I also do my best to stave off the wrong perception. I rarely make physical contact with Ben, and even then it's usually just a fist bump. When we go to the bathroom, I make sure to use a stall. Ben can have the urinal or his own stall, whatever he wants. I mentioned on another thread that Ben really wants to go swimming and his Mom gave me permission, but I just won't do it.

In my experience, people see the two of us having fun around town and just assume that I'm his Dad. They made that gaffe verbally on multiple occasions. If anyone were ever to call the police, I keep a special card in my wallet identifying me as a Big Brother with all of his Mom's contact information.

I feel like this answer has been rambling and not super helpful. Please let me know if you want to know something else. Be as embarrassing as you want.

Justavoice282 karma

That is so awesome! I've always considered volunteering with BBBS but didn't think I was qualified.

How many hours are you required to commit?

bigbrothersrule182 karma

Big Brothers Big Sisters requires you to commit to hanging out twice a month, for one year. It doesn't seem like very much, does it? And they are very serious about keeping your outings "low cost or no cost". These are supposed to be activities that Littles can do with their own families, it's just happening with their new friend. If you constantly lavish the kid with expensive activities or gifts, that could lead to confusion about who their provider really is. You're just their friend, their single parent (almost always Mom) remains completely in charge.

SebastLomb27 karma

I've also thought about it. Is there a minimum time required?

bigbrothersrule56 karma

It's a one year commitment, and you are expected to get together twice a month. You might also want to check with your local BBBS organization, because most of them offer even lower time commitments. My local organization has this program called Mentor 2.0, where you meet your Little very rarely after school at their school, and then just mostly help them with homework questions online the rest of the time.

PineappleSituation21 karma

I'm a BBBS employee for another agency. It depends on the program. The standard Community Based program is 2-4x per month, about 2hr+ per outing. I'm on mobile and about to go interview a volunteer but if you guys have questions I'll come back to them later, or PM me.

bigbrothersrule11 karma

Thank you so much for showing up! I'd love for you to answer questions and also share any stories you'd be comfortable sharing. We need to make all of this less "undercover"!

2scoobysnacks71 karma

Why do you do this?

bigbrothersrule134 karma

Love your username. Velma never gets enough credit. For starters, I meet the only requirements:
*I'm at least 21 years of age
*I'm willing to meet with my Little Brother at least twice a month
*I have a safe driving record
*I can pass a background check

More than that, I wanted to make a difference in my community, and this method fit my personality. I'm a big ol' introvert so going out and meeting lots of people and being happy and smiley all the time just didn't fit. Ben is just one person, and I look forward to seeing him every time, just like any other friend. I've seen him grow up plenty during the past two years, most of which I don't attribute directly to anything I did. Although, I did teach him to ride a bike. That was awesome, it boosted his confidence way up.

ThreePartSilence8 karma

So if you can't drive, can you still volunteer? My parents never let me learn growing up and I still don't have a license, but I'd still really like to volunteer. Are there any opportunities to volunteer without having to drive?

bigbrothersrule21 karma

Do you have access to public transportation? Then yes. Ben and I take the light rail whenever we go to downtown Denver because he loves trains. Insert Sheldon reference. And moving on.

knowutimean6 karma

What are they looking for on the background check? I know other organizations that work for children look for child abuse (obviously) and also any form of domestic violence.

bigbrothersrule14 karma

I don't actually know. It's a lock that sex crimes/violent crimes would exclude you, but they weren't clear on anything after that. If you have a record, I would still recommend that you check it out and be very upfront about what they'll find on your record.

NightmareWarden68 karma

Which one of y'all owns the llama?

Serious now: do you have any thoughts on fostering or adopting kids/teens in the years ahead?

bigbrothersrule104 karma

It's entirely a coincidence, but I actually am in the process of adopting a six month old baby girl right now. My wife and I looked at adopting older kids from the foster care system, because they represent the majority of kids available for public adoption, and because it is much less expensive to adopt them. Plus, they know how to wipe their own butts. I encourage everyone to look into this option when planning a family. For us, it wasn't right. At least in the US right now, there is a very strong emphasis on returning foster kids to their birth family. Kids and teens available for adoption came from abuse and neglect that I can't begin to imagine, and it was so bad as to overcome any possibility of them returning. That means they carry some pretty heavy baggage.

newvictim19 karma

Why not become foster parents, and get paid for it? I know it is not all about the money. But you are doing what you love, why not help with the bills a little?

bigbrothersrule98 karma

That's a really good point. I'm actually really interested in fostering older kids. Once the adoption is finalized and my foster baby becomes my real daughter, we can all discuss it as a family. My wife is less enthusiastic about it than I am. She is a volunteer EMT and she sees many more bad situations than I do. Ben actually has a pretty good home life, considering. I think that my wife's experiences have impacted her opinion on the matter.

bodysnatcherz14 karma

Are you allowed to be a foster parent if you have no parenting experience?

bigbrothersrule34 karma

Just ask your local government social services agency or check out a trustworthy website. They are desperate for foster families. In many places/situations, you don't even need to be married. Don't mistake the lack of requirements as a lack of rigor, though. Your life will be turned inside out to make sure you're a decent person. Even then, there are still some bad foster parents out there.

sestamibi8 karma

Did you mean "Yup!" here instead of "Nope!"? I'd hate for someone to think they can't foster because they have no parenting experience. The rest of your answer supports what I think you meant to say. Thanks for doing this AMA.

bigbrothersrule11 karma

I did mean YUP! Edited. Must drink more coffee. It's my New Year's resolution.

JulieJulep48 karma

Can I ask more about the matching process (if you know of it)? What kind of interests do they ask about? Is it important to be naturally outgoing/gregarious? I've considered becoming a Big Sister, but I'm super shy and pretty awkward and have trouble developing a natural rapport with basically anyone. A lot of my interests are pretty solitary too. I'm worried I wouldn't be able to actually be friends with the kid and they'd find me boring =p

What are some of Ben's favorite activities? Does the organization give you ideas and suggestions?

What was your first meeting like?

Do you provide transportation to/from activities? How do you coordinate pick ups or drop offs with busy parents?

bigbrothersrule59 karma

I'm super shy too! Like, cripplingly shy. The cocktail hour at every business convention is like sticking my hand into a box filled with Black Widow spiders. I express myself much better in writing (thus the reddit). If you're like me, you have a few good friends instead of big groups of friends. Ben is more outgoing than I am, but in terms of activities our interests align. He likes science, reading, LEGOs, and every comic book ever. We're at our best when we are sitting side-by-side doing our own thing, and just talking. BBBS does give us pretty good activity ideas, but you definitely have to bring some of your own ideas to the table.

Our first meeting was an awkward blind date, you know? For starters, it was my first time inside a mobile home trailer. The Program Specialist was there. Ben's Mom was sitting there, trying to size me up. I was just honest and put on a smile. Ben made me a picture of a Rattlesnake. Most of the relationship comes later. As long as you remind yourself of that, you'll be fine.

Transportation, good question! I usually pick him up and drop him off in my personal vehicle. Both of us must wear seatbelts, and of course Ben must always ride in the backseat.

IAmAsianAMA18 karma

what is the age bracket for littles? I wanna be able to joke about memes and stuff haha. Not sure a 7 year old will get it

bigbrothersrule20 karma

It varies by local organization, at mine it used to be 7 (that's when I was matched with Ben), but since then they moved it up to 8. You'd be surprised how tech saavy kids are these days. Ben is being raised by YouTube (don't get me started). There's a pretty good chance that your Little would understand your clean references. If not, why not share some as an activity?

borgchupacabras4 karma

What do you do if your little starts throwing a tantrum and you can't handle it? That's my biggest fear about volunteering.

bigbrothersrule6 karma

It happens.

gnatwest41 karma

What kind of stuff do you do? How good is the matching process?

Ive been thinking of becoming a Big Brother, but I dont know what I would do with a little.

bigbrothersrule94 karma

If you're fretting about picking activities, I'd say you'd make a great Big Brother. It means you think ahead and you want to make it all it can be.

You get out of the matching experience what you put into it. For starters, you have to understand that there are many more boys than girls applying to be Littles, and many more women than men applying to be Bigs. Because of this, my educated guess is that the Brothers are more carefully matched than the Sisters. I filled out a form with my interests, and we also discussed them at length during my interview. I particularly remember a question like, "Do you want an active Little?" I said no, I'm a bit of a couch potato. This surprised the social worker a bit, so I explained that much like David Hyde Pierce in Wet Hot American Summer, I would "take the indoor kids." I later learned that in his interview, Ben specifically said that he disliked going outside.

As for activities, it's a bit of everything. Mini Golf, Library, Movies, Cards, Pottery...on Sunday we're going to go play basketball at the YMCA.

InsanitySheWolf39 karma

Is it not kind of strange to put the kid's photo up? He may not mind now, but maybe when he's older? Does his mother know:s I'm sure I'll get downvoted but it seems kinda maybe not the best.

bigbrothersrule77 karma

I don't think this is a silly/downvotable question at all! Both his Mom and I had to sign a photo release as part of getting involved. BBBS can use our photos in fundraising emails or on their website, if they mistakenly feel that I have the chiseled features needed to be a supermodel. It's not a secret that Ben and I are a Little and a Big. The fact that Ben is a Little doesn't mean there's anything wrong with him, there's just something deficient in his environment. I happen to think he's going to be a great human being, with or without me.

To be honest, although I wasn't eligible as a kid, I really wish that I could have had this experience. Both of my parents worked full time and I spent most of my time in an empty house. It would have been great to have an adult in my life with whom I had plenty in common.

pghparagliding23 karma

You might want to look into BBBS rules on posting pictures of your little on the internet. They're very stict about you not doing that. Like, very strict. If they see this you could lose your match.

Source: have been involved with bbbs for years.

Thedogsthatgowoof17 karma

Ditto. Fellow Big here. Our waiver says no social media picture posting. BBBS can use an image of you and your little on the web, but you cannot. Hate to be a total downer, but can tell you dig being a big and spending time w/your little. Cheers!

bigbrothersrule10 karma

You know, you could both be right. I'm a being a bit "out there" because Ben is moving away soon. The way I see it, if one person decides to be a Big or becomes a better Big, it was worth the risk. In the meantime, I'll take a second and blur some of his face from the proof photo.

MangorTX16 karma

All I can see is that the Little is wearing a pilgrim hat.

edit: added link.

bigbrothersrule6 karma

Once you see it, you can't unsee it.

desmondsdecker38 karma

My mom got involved in BBBS after my sister moved out post-college, and she's said this has been the highlight of her post-child life. Also, it's been more rewarding for her than taking on a bigger role in her church, getting involved in animal rescue, travelling, cultural events, etc.

She was matched with her little (let's say "Sarah") because while Sarah was always quiet, after her father had committed suicide, she had become very withdrawn and self-loathing because she felt responsible for her father's actions. Fortunately, her "acting out" peaked with typical early-teen rebellion: black hair dye, undercut shaved head, etc.

Fortunately, my mother has always had an innate ability to find fun activities and pour her all into hyping them, making the drive/ride and meals activities on their own, and challenging us out of comfort zones with supportive coaxing.

And so, she was a PERFECT fit for Sarah during the awkward tween/early teen years with a, "oh stop being paranoid, no one at Medieval Times/the park/show/concert/game/arcade/etc. are going to care or judge if you act like an idiot and enjoy yourself! And even if they do, they'll forget within five minutes, and you might regret not being silly and having as much fun as you could!" And I think that in part to my mom's efforts, now she's in her late teens, very well-adjusted, and will hopefully be the first member of her family to go to college! Last I heard she and Sarah started the school search, Mom is giving her advice based on her personal and maternal experience, and I would be very surprised if Sarah drops out of her life any time soon.

Sorry for the long-winded setup for what is a very short question. I was wondering what your experience with Ben's attitude was like. Did he have any behavioral or emotional issues before you started hanging out with him? If so, has your friendship and mentoring helped him? Was there any specific life experience that you could draw from to help him? or a unique/relevant life experience that played into your matching?

bigbrothersrule21 karma

Thanks so much for sharing your mom's story! What a great "second act" as they say!

Ben's attitude is a little too smart for his own good. You know the type. It makes it hard for him to relate to the other kids his age. It's not an advantage in anyway, because it saps his confidence that he can have any effect on the world around him. I can definitely draw from my own life experience here, and we have found more focused activities (like learning to ride a bike) to increase his confidence overall.

djsleepyscott36 karma

I'm still with my big bro been 17 years now. The number one question I get is "Did he touch you?"

bigbrothersrule52 karma

That's great!! I know you haven't volunteered this, but I would love for you to tell your story on this thread, too.

More to your statement, UGH, I know! My friends all sheepishly ask something similar about problems with the program. I know I said I would answer any question no matter how embarrassing, so let's just honestly think about this one for a second.

Why on earth would I do that? I'm doing this to help a kid growing up without a dad, a kid I've gotten to know very well over the past two years. Every activity is an opportunity to tell him that he is a person who has worth in this world. I care about him. Abuse like that would absolute destroy everything we've built and much more.

It's super stupid The BBBS program is actually a "triangle" made up of Mom, the Big and the Program Specialist. I am expected to get Mom's permission for every activity, and Ben is actually required to tell his Mom everything that he did with me. Every quarter, the Program Specialist calls me and Mom independently to make sure our stories match.

To my knowledge, it's never happened at my local organization. There have been accusations, which means the match is immediately ended, but the investigations don't turn up anything.

djsleepyscott54 karma

So we met when I was 12. Typical situation my father was in Canada my mum was a single mother of twins in Texas. She thought we needed a male influence. My brother and I obviously thought this program was a little weird and were reluctant to open up to our bigs at first. We got two different bigs. Technically I was only in the program for five years. If you end up with a great big like I did this program works wonders. My twin bro wasn't so lucky. After five years I had to move up to Canada because my mother could no longer look after us. My big bro never left my side taught me so much about being a man. I call him big bro when I introduce people but I like to tell him his my dad. Found out he was paying our electricity bills for months in Texas. I'm 28 now and I'm writing this in his living room. Came from Canada for another great visit with big bro. If I could be half the man he Is I'd be happy.

our thing was watching baseball

bigbrothersrule12 karma

I. Love. Baseball. It's a thinking man's game. Ben doesn't, not yet anyway. I'm hoping I can find some type of angle so we can go to Rockies games together.

Thanks for sharing your awesome story. This is the stuff that flies under the radar while we get pummeled with bad news around the world.

TheMaus25 karma

Would you recommend keeping a log of all the activities that you did with your Little?

bigbrothersrule11 karma

I do for tax purposes. I track every mile and every dollar. It adds up, and you can deduct any spent directly on your Little (not on yourself while with your Little). It also doubles as a nice record of everything that we did each year.

brainintraining28 karma

Hey there! Am currently in the BBBS Program in their Group Mentoring Program! Reading your experience with the program has me excited to volunteer with them later in my life when I've got a bit more experience/finding myself.

Any tips you could lend to a Big who sometimes find's it hard to have a Little follow your instructions?

bigbrothersrule71 karma

That's great! If you're comfortable, I'd love for you to share what your experience has been like on this thread. There's so much unnecessary mystery around the program!

It's tough when your Little doesn't want to cooperate. First and foremost, you can't take it personally. I haven't taken a child psychology class in the past decade, but I do remember that kids are very self-centered. They interpret the world as "what does it mean for me?" and get frustrated when their needs aren't attended to immediately. Encourage them to use their words.

When I have problems with Ben, I usually sit him down and ask him. He had an absolute breakdown a few months ago while playing with LEGOs, ran into the corner, pulled his jacket over his face and started crying. I had to assume this wasn't about LEGOs, so telling him he was being a baby or ordering him to keep building a LEGO truck probably wouldn't be productive. I just sat down next to him, waited for him to stop crying, and then asked him what was making him sad/frustrated. It turns out his grandparents had just moved away the day before. They were/are a huge part of his life. I'm actually pretty pissed at them for leaving, but of course I don't know both sides of the story.

theWilling117 karma

I've been reading reddit for about 6 months and you've sparked my interest so much as to pop my cherry for speaking on this app. First, from one single dad to a great man like you, thank you for being such a positive influence in your community! It inspires me! Secondly, I have two kids myself that I share half the time with their mother with, in being a Big Brother, can I include my own two kids in this process?

bigbrothersrule5 karma

I've been reading reddit for 11 years, and posted for the first time yesterday, so welcome to the club. First time caller, long time listener.

mudra3118 karma

I currently volunteer in a local mentorship program. My mentee has severe anger problems and his father is in prison. His mother takes care of him and he really likes his step-father.

Just a background before my question. Do you have any specific techniques on how to approach difficult or more future-oriented conversations? Additionally, what activities do you feel developed your relationship more with your mentee?

He starts high school this Fall, very athletic. Sounds like he has aspirations to be a pro-athlete.

bigbrothersrule14 karma

A ton of Littles are growing up without fathers because they're doing time in prison. I always told myself if my Little's dad turned out to be in prison locally, I would visit him to let him know I was a guy in his son's life, and show that respect. It might, you know, keep me alive. Ben's dad spent some time in prison, but I don't think he's there right now, just estranged from the family half a world away.

I'm not sure what you mean about future-oriented conversations. Please let me know and I'll answer. In my (admittedly limited) training we are discouraged from bringing up the heavy topics, e.g. having a deadbeat dad, not getting enough attention from anyone, having the SWAT team in your trailer park on a weekly basis. But be assured, once your mentee feels comfortable enough, they bring up those topics all by themselves, often at inopportune times. Ben brought up his Dad for the first time in the middle of the Denver Zoo. Despite having rehearsed for hours what I'd tell Ben about what an amazing kid he is, I totally drew a blank. We ended up sitting there, staring at the giraffes, and making a list of the people in his life who care about him. I don't know if it was the conversation or the giraffe pooping, but he cheered right up.

As for activities, you've got to meet your mentee on their level, it's your "in" into their life. If they like cars, you go to car shows. If they like sports (please like baseball!), you watch sports. I would say this, though. Don't let him focus all of his work on becoming an athlete. The number one thing every kid needs in the US right now is a post-secondary education. Keep him focused on working hard in school as the way to achieve any goals.

VeryStrangeQuark8 karma

I am a quiet, serious person. I'm afraid my Little wouldn't like me, or think I am fun. Should I still consider BBBS?

bigbrothersrule6 karma

Just like there are many types of adults out there, there are many types of kids. There's probably a quiet serious one right now waiting for a match.

shug27 karma

How do these relationships end or do they? My fear is that I have to pull out or it ends and the little just gets left hanging.

bigbrothersrule8 karma

I wouldn't let fear of the end of match keep you from exploring starting one! The relationship ends when one member of the match (Big, Little, Parent, Program Specialist) no longer wants it to continue, or when the Little turns 18, whichever comes first. Statistically, once Littles become "Not So Little" in adolescence, they are more interested in friends their own age. That's not to say that matches don't remain in touch long into adulthood. In my case, Ben is moving away in August, and at that point the match will break up by mutual agreement.

dogerwaul6 karma

Do you think being gay and non-religious would make volunteering more difficult? I am both of those.

bigbrothersrule6 karma

I am non-religious, passionately so, although Ben and I don't usually talk about religion (he's Jehovah's Witness). It's a very inclusive organization, including LGBT. That information will be shared with the Mom, and she will decide if she's comfortable with it. I have three guns in my house (locked away and never intended for home defense), and BBBS had cleared that with Mom too. It's all about the match.

Innundator5 karma

How do people deal with the responsibility of potentially not getting along with the little? What if they aren't feeling it, does it get weird. Because that's not an adult, how do you break up with a kid

bigbrothersrule3 karma

You don't break up with the Little, either your Little breaks up with you or you tell your Program Specialist it's time for them to facilitate the end of the match. Bad matches happen, despite all efforts. There was a guy in Big meetings I used to go to who had a terrible match. The parents only signed him up to be rid of him on a regular basis. The kid didn't want to do anything, except eat Chipotle. That's a problem for the Program Specialist to handle, please be honest with them and they'll get to the bottom of what's going on. Just don't stop showing up until things are brought to a proper and orderly conclusion. Kids crave structure, kids without structure crave it even more. Don't deny them that bit of closure.

neetoday4 karma

How much do you try to teach him life lessons as an adult versus just being his friend?

bigbrothersrule9 karma

I am 100% his friend, not a father-figure or Dad replacement. We talk about life as a side note to doing fun things together. One of the very few postings online about being a Little came from someone who is now all grown up. Every Friday, his Big met him at the library and they played board games. That's it. Never anything else. The Little looked forward to it all week, because there was a person in the world who cared enough to show up and spend some time.

ss_JCMETF3 karma

For various reasons, I've been looking recently at finding more ways to volunteer and give back, and BBBS is one of things I'm considering. One of my worries is that my job frequently involves travel and that I won't be around enough to actually make the required commitment. Usually the travel is manageable, Mon-Thurs, 1 or 2 weeks a month, but at times can be more than that. Any ideas of how that would work out? I know you said it's twice a month, but what sorts of activities and timing are typical? Any advice you'd give to someone considering doing it but a little wary of the time commitment?

tepsport8 karma

Not to hijack the OP, but I figure he can't get to all of them: I started out doing 3-4 hours every other Saturday. Over time, it morphed into more b/c I really enjoyed spending time with him. But if you can give a few hours every other weekend (or 2 weekends a month, doesn't have to be every other), then it's worth doing. Plus, you'll be surprised at how much it'll mean to him when you bring him home a t-shirt or something like that from one of your travels.

bigbrothersrule3 karma

No offense taken. I could really use all the extra contributions I can get here!

mrpeepers743 karma

this might sound like common sense and perhaps negligent, but if you did BBBS and said "hey were going camping" are you allowed to drink alcohol, or is it 0 tolerance weekend?

Can you include BBBS with other kids or familes like campouts.

bigbrothersrule3 karma

My local BBBS expressly forbids a Little spending the night with the Big, for obvious reasons. Ever. If they learn that it happened (and they will), the match is over. After the match is one year old, BBBS does host an organized camp out with appropriate tent arrangements.

Sorry, there's no booze allowed, although it is blatantly obvious that Ben's mom smokes marijuana around him.

OknataSkeltro2 karma

This is probably a stupid question, but what do you think of the logo for the foundation? I love it.

bigbrothersrule3 karma

There are no stupid questions, even about ducks and horses. As a person with no artistic abilities, I am in awe of anyone who can make something from nothing, even a monotone logo.

elegant_groundhog0 karma

Can you be a big brother to a little sister?

bigbrothersrule1 karma

It is very rare, and usually involves special circumstances related to the family.

rimper-16 karma

Does this violate the terms of your probation in any way?

bigbrothersrule17 karma


In all seriousness, the top priority of Big Brothers Big Sisters is the safety of the Little. They ran a full background check on me, they took my fingerprints for state and federal checks, and they interviewed me for an hour. This interview included asking me, "Have you ever been sexually attracted to a child?" And yup, apparently people do say "Yes" in that interview.

Still, as a man spending time with a boy who doesn't look like me, I am very careful about the perception of those around us. I carry my BBBS ID card at all times, which includes his Mom's signed consent and our social worker's contact information. And despite the fact that it's Ben's #1 request, and everyone has given me permission, I refuse to go swimming with him. It's really sad, Marge, but that's just the world we live in.

Bjjguy214-17 karma

Are any of these underprivileged kids white? I have a feeling white people are discriminated against based on the color of their skin

bigbrothersrule18 karma

I know that there's a bit of humor in your question (err, I really hope) but being a Big has opened my eyes to just how lucky I am. That's not about race or even about money. If you hold strong beliefs/generalizations about any group of people, I encourage you to get closer to them and walk a day in their shoes. I predict you'll find that things are a great deal more complicated than the story you like to tell yourself.

okaybutfirstcoffee4 karma

Not sure why you're being downvoted for an honest question. My work hosted a BBBS event and I was honestly expecting mostly non-white children. There were a few white kids there. One Asian kid. Couple black kids. Mostly Hispanic kids.

People of all colors have less-than-ideal situations. I think it mostly depends on the ethnic makeup of your community. They have BBBS in all-white neighborhoods, all-black neighborhoods, etc. I live in a primarily white/Asian/Hispanic area, so that's what I saw.

bigbrothersrule1 karma

Thanks for your comment! I really do think if we'd all get out into our communities and get to know each other, everyone would emerge as a better, more complete human being.