Big Brother Big Sister experiences, please tell?
October 26, 2007 10:25 AM   Subscribe

BigBrothersBigSitersFilter: I recently signed up and got approved to be a big brother for the Big Brothers Big Sisters organization. I just got assigned my little who is 12 yrs old, although i havent met him yet. My question is who else has been affiliated with this program and what experience can you share and what you may have gotten out of it(positive/Negative). Im excited about it and i just wanted to see what other people thought about it.
posted by flipmiester99 to Human Relations (13 answers total) 7 users marked this as a favorite
From what I've heard, it's a great program. My mother is on the BBBS board of directors in my hometown, and she's always loved it. If you have any specific questions, I'd be happy to get answers for you.
posted by DMan at 10:26 AM on October 26, 2007

posted by EndsOfInvention at 10:35 AM on October 26, 2007

Weird, flipmeister, I just got scheduled for my training tomorrow. Look forward to how this thread goes.
posted by M.C. Lo-Carb! at 11:01 AM on October 26, 2007

My mother was a Big Sister, and she got a lot out of it. I consider her Little Sister to be my Aunt (just as much as I consider my real aunts to be) and her children to be my cousins. It doesn't work out that great for everyone, but it can be a really amazing life long experience.
posted by fermezporte at 11:09 AM on October 26, 2007

Usually you have a match meeting before you agree to being a Big for a specific child. That's to see how you hit it off. Of course, after meeting a kid, it's hard to reject him, but you do have the choice (and so do the child and his parents).

I've been a Big Sister for almost a year and am considering dropping out of the program after my one-year committment. I just don't seem to have made any real connection with my Little Sister, and I'm wondering how much of my feeling lately of doing this out of a sense of obligation is coming through to her. I believe I have really tried, but we're just not clicking, and at this point I'm reluctant to start over with a new Little Sister.

One thing to keep in mind: Even though you'll be told that the best times you and your Little will have together are free, you'll spend a good deal of money going places and doing things together. Keep track of what you spend on your Little and your mileage, as these expenses may be tax deductible. Not that anyone volunteers for that reason, but there's no reason you shouldn't take advantage of it.
posted by Joleta at 11:27 AM on October 26, 2007

It sounds like I'm in the same place as Joleta. I'm nearing the end of the first year, and really wondering about continuing. My Little is the most awesome kid ever, but I don't really think she needs to be in the program. This is like complaining because a test is too easy, but it's a lot harder to find the time and money for a kid who doesn't need you.

My kid just turned 12, and due to many factors, I am spending far more money and time in the car than I had planned or imagined.

Remember that tax deductions for charity only count if they exceed your personal deduction for existing. There's no way that I've spent the 10 or 12 K volunteering on the kid, so that doesn't count as a benefit for me.

I haven't been able to develop a normal relationship with my little, because getting together is such a big, rare deal. I've tried to talk to our match specialist, who is also very nice, but she doesn't have a history of supporting me.

*BUT* that said - my friends, who are BBBS in another state, have had a wonderful time. Their kid is close enough that they've managed to normalize their friendship. Their kid desperately needs them (I've met her) and they've done wonderful things for her. Their match specialist(s) have been wonderful. It's too soon to say, of course, but if their Little grows up at least partially normal I think it will be because of their positive influence.

Another one of my friends is who she is today - very smart and successful - simply because of having been a Little Sister. Her younger siblings are still stuck in the poverty morass, and she credits her exit from the swamps entirely with having seen a positive example of a family growing up. (After a few years, she really became a part of the whole family.)

If I were doing it over again, I would be more insistent that I be matched with a Little on my side of town. Most of the things that I am resentful over weren't easy to see ahead of time.

Despite my resentment, I still believe it's a wonderful program. I think my case is just a combination of random factors and not really anyone's fault. I adore the kid, and when we do get together, we have a ton of fun. A one year commitment isn't really that much time, and it does seem to take quite a while to develop a friendship. Even if I quit at the end of the year, I think it was worth doing.
posted by arabelladragon at 11:59 AM on October 26, 2007

I was a big.
It was a really, really rewarding experience. I talked about it in that previous question linked upthread.
I think the only serious regret I have about it is the fact that I will never ever get off of their listserv.

posted by The Esteemed Doctor Bunsen Honeydew at 12:00 PM on October 26, 2007

I was a Little Brother. This was a long while ago - if I recall correctly, this would be around 1993-1994. The program was recommended to my mother through my therapist at the time. As I recall, she signed me up for it without really asking me if I wanted in, which is for the best, since I probably would have said no anyway.

I can't speak for anyone else's experiences with the program, either as a Big or as a Little, but I know that for the several years that my Big & I maintained our relationship, meeting with him every Friday afternoon was likely the only thing I really had to look forward to all week, and the only real non-family relationship with another person that I was interested in pursuing.

Something to keep in mind: when I was in the program, I was pretty troubled, psychologically and emotionally, (Yeah, because everything above sounded like smiles and rainbows, right?) and my Big had the patience of, well, a really patient person. I can see how dealing with someone like my pre-adolescent self might be very, very trying. Of course, I can't speak to why others might become involved as Littles, but in my case, I have no doubt that my Big made a huge emotional investment in our relationship. I like to think it paid off - hopefully for him as much as for me.

If you have any other questions about my experience, my email is in profile. Good luck with the program, and thanks for making me feel like a jerk for not keeping in touch with my big brother.
posted by Cassilda at 12:17 PM on October 26, 2007

I was a big in the program for 3 years. I freakin loved it. Maybe it’s because I’m the youngest child in a big family but spending time with younger kids was very different for me and a lot of fun. I saw five different kids during that time, and one thing to be prepared for is that their situations are very complicated. Two boys I saw for almost no time at all because their parents pulled them out very unexpectedly. I am the kind of person to be “into” that sort of thing. I liked babysitting and coaching and camp counseling too. I had close friend go into the program at the same time who did not like those things and he had a very different experience. He found it frustrating and ultimately unrewarding. So grain of salt.
posted by French Fry at 1:39 PM on October 26, 2007

Be prepared to be in it for the long haul.
I had two different BB when I was young. One 'canceled' because work got too busy, the other, because I turned 16. I still have what I suppose might be technically called 'abandonment issues', or more simply, resentment.
I'm not sure what every LB/LS's situation is, but I believe that most (all?) have lost a parent. A kick in the head. Don't kick them again. Please.
Again, I'm not sure, but I think the BB/BS makes a commitment to continue to see the LB/LS until the LB/LS feels they don't want/need it anymore, or until the LB/LS reaches age 16 (details may have changed in the last 20 years). That's fine, and not everybody is willing to make a lifetime commitment. What I'm saying, I guess, is don't turn off the tap on the 16th birthday. Instead of losing one parent (figure), I lost three.
Sorry to be heavy, but, well, it's heavy.
posted by segatakai at 5:03 PM on October 26, 2007 [1 favorite]

I've been a Big Brother for almost two years now and absolutely love it. Of all the random things I've volunteered for over the years this is probably the one that I've enjoyed the best. The way I remember my caseworker explaining the role is just to be that of a friend, not a parent/disciplinarian. If the Little is acting up, just take them home. I think bringing that attitude towards the relationship has been helpful. I basically just consider him a friend who is half my age. I think I'm probably a positive influence on him, but he's a pretty regular, well rounded and adjusted kid (who just basically doesn't have a father anywhere in the picture). Would he grow up into being a productive happy adult without me? Most likely. I'm not saving him, nor making a huge impact on his life for the better. Maybe your little doesn't really have any major problems, has a very caring and supportive mother. I wouldn't let the lack of being able to change a life discourage you though. I think it'd actually make the relationship less stressful and more fun. You can always consider that there's normally a shortage of Bigs to match to Littles. If you weren't participating your Little Brother would be matched up to some other Big (depriving some 'needier' Little of a potential match).

So yeah, consider treating your Little as a friend and not as a volunteer reclamation project. Same as with friends your own age it's kind of important that you actually like your Little and have some similar interests. If after meeting your Little you don't think it'd be a good fit I'd say let your caseworker know. They probably have appropriate excuses to pass on to the potential Little & their family so they won't feel rejected. Shared interests will make it a lot easier to think of activities to do and for you both to really enjoy yourselves on the outing. (My Little likes shoot em up games, if that's all he wanted to do it'd drive me nuts. It'd drive him nuts if all I wanted to do was go to museums and art galleries with him). Me and my Little are both fairly athletic so we end up playing a lot of sports. This cuts down on costs during the summer and provide a bit of variety to the outings.

I suppose on the negative side of things it can end up costing a fair chunk of change if you let it. If money is an issue, don't spend money and then resent your Little, come up with free/cheap activities you'll both enjoy. My agency has arranged some discounts for certain places (bowling, laser tag, etc.) where basically the Big pays full price and the Little gets in free. I always envisioned that the agency would have more free tickets to events donated to them that they'd distribute out. At least with my agency, not so much. They have recently offered last minute tickets to an OHL hockey game, an advanced movie screening and a free buffet (the last of which we actually used).

Another negative (although it's not really a negative if you expect it), I haven't met very many people at all. I always thought there'd be more large group activities (but fairly infrequently organized, you might be busy, and your Little might consider it lame). So yeah, I've yet to meet another Big Brother in close to two years. Interacted with pretty much my Little, his family, my old and new caseworker and a few of my Little's friends & family friends.

Another negative, your little might live far away (annoying if you don't have a car) and perhaps in a sketchier neighbourhoud (I had my bike stolen almost literally from under my nose in broad daylight).

Another negative, in my case English is not the first language of the mother, so communication between us is a bit limited.

Other than those negatives (which are pretty minor in my mind) all the positives far outweigh them. I was probably just as excited as you are, and I wasn't let down at all. No need for me to list all the positives, hopefully you'll get to experience them yourself. A very rewarding experience.

Oh, things that have ended up surprising me... My first outing with my Little was for his 13th birthday (so similar in age to yours). It was a bit odd running around doing Laser Tag with him, his brother, and 4-5 of his friends for a first outing. I've actually met a few of his friends a few times (playing soccer and basketball with them near his house, accidentally running into friends of my Little's at the YMCA and playing basketball). It can feel slightly odd at times. I'm not sure how I envisioned staying in touch with my Little, but our main form of communication in setting up activities and keeping in touch is through MSN.

You'll probably have a lot of experiences you'd otherwise never have done. I went laser tagging, snowboarding, skiing, indoor rock climbing for the very first time with my Little. I've played soccer and basketball for the first time since grade 9 gym because of him. I've gone go-karting for the second time in my life (first time since I was 13). Seen lots of new areas of my city I had yet to experience. Been exposed to a different culture, eaten new foods and learned about Reggaeton. Biked a long way and then taken really rough non-bike nature trails back in the rain (a blast! something I'd have done at his age, but haven't since I was that age). Experienced my first internet cafe (but not an internet cafe - where you play computer or console games) and had my head blown off so many times. Those were just a few things off the top of my head that I would never have done without joining Big Brothers. (We've also done lots of things I had already experienced).

Depending on how long you stick with it, but I'm finding it very interesting in watching him grow up. The types of movies sure change from 13 to 15. His increased independence where he can walk/take the bus and meet me on his own without being dropped off or picked up. Hell, he's getting more action than me! Last time he told me a humorous story about how out of the blue a girl ran up to him and kissed him in a stairwell, moments before, of all people his mother and brother walked by to see.

It keeps you young, reminds you what it's like to be their age. Sometimes, I wonder why he doesn't want to wear a coat as it feels pretty cold outside (all I can do is shake my head to myself and envision this is how my father felt). Other times I'll wonder why we'll always have to run across intersections when the light is yellow. I suppose it'll help if you don't mind acting like a 12 year old at times, just go with the flow it's a blast.

[segatakai – that really sucks. At least for my BB agency in SW Ontario they only ask for a 1 year commitment. The caseworkers do try and ask you if you’re expecting any major life changes (graduating, moving, marriage, etc.) in the foreseeable future and to try to keep them up to date and let your Little know so it’s not a surprise. If I remember correctly I think the cutoff was 14 (maybe 15 years old). Basically once an unmatched Little reached that age they’d no longer be eligible for the program. I do feel slightly guilty towards my Little because I’ll probably have to change cities when he’s 15.5 and he won’t be able to be matched again. That just might be my agency though.]
posted by curbstop at 7:09 PM on October 26, 2007

Segatakai, thank you very much for the insight.
posted by arabelladragon at 7:41 PM on October 26, 2007

My Little Sister lives with her mother and brother, her aunt, and a male and female cousin. The children's grandmother lives nearby. It's not like my Little Sister is lacking females in her life. When I asked our caseworker why she needed a Big Sister, the caseworker said that, basically, any parent who felt their child could benefit from an adult friend could be accepted into the program. I don't know what I thought going into this. It's not like there are a lot of fathers raising daughters and who are looking for a female presence in their lives. What my Little Sister really needs is a Big Brother, but the agency just doesn't work that way.
posted by Joleta at 9:58 PM on October 26, 2007

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