At 50 years old I became a big sister. However, my little sister is not of my flesh and blood.
Realizing I would not end up having children of my own I looked for other ways to remedy this need in my life. For several years I thought of volunteering for Big Brothers, Big Sisters and mentoring a child but I made many excuses why I shouldn’t pursue it: I was too old, I didn’t have enough energy, did I have enough time to spend, was I responsible enough to follow through, would they be bratty or troubled, what would I do with them? Finally, in the end, I just decided to jump in and give it a try. It turned out to be the best decision I could have made. At first the one-year commitment was a little intimidating, but we’ve been pals for almost two years now and I know we’ll be life-long friends.
Yes, one of the first observations from my “little” was, “You are the same age as my grandma!” But that did not diminish our relationship. She doesn’t treat me like just some old lady; I am her friend. In fact, we are like peas in a pod. I don’t know how Big Brothers/Big Sisters (BBBS) does it but we were perfectly matched. She really could be my granddaughter.
We do all sorts of things, from riding bikes and riding horses to watching movies, walking on the beach, and making cookies. We even went camping together! BBBS organizes outings that she loves to participate in and where she can meet new kids. She is very social. But I think what she likes just as much is coming over to my house and playing with our pets, planting in the garden, feeding the fish in the pond, talking, and just hanging out. Sometimes there is just no effort really needed, just the time.
We talk about many things—our mutual love of music and dancing, friends, family, pets, anything. We have even have sleepovers! I pull out the futon pads and we “camp out” in the living room and watch TV late into the night.
We both get a lot out of our experiences together. One of the things I find so fulfilling is that we have created a bond that as she gets older will strengthen, and she knows I will be there for her. She has a loving relationship with her mom, and with her half-sister, and the many relatives she has. There is something about our relationship that is different from family, yet she helps me feel that I can share with her my knowledge and experiences, and she has enriched my life immensely.
If you are young adult without kids yet, an older adult with your kids gone, or even if you have never had children of your own, you could be a valuable mentor, and I hope if you had been thinking of this path you will give it a try. The rewards are tremendous.