Before I became a Big Sister, I had an idealized version of what was in store for me and my Little’s relationship. We’d try adventurous outings like paddle boarding and rock climbing, but we’d also revel in low-key activities at home, like crafting and DIY spa days. I thought about ways I could inspire her to become a feminist, an ally, and a role model in her community. We’d volunteer together, and she’d realize that she could also give back as a Big Sister one day. I imagined sitting in the audience as she accepted her high school diploma, one step closer to earning her college degree. I pored over social media posts and site photos of Bigs and Littles smiling, videos of Littles gushing about how much they look up to their Big. Good intentions and big dreams- what more could I need to help my Little succeed?
I’ll be the first to tell you, the reality of your match doesn’t always turn out exactly the way you pictured it would. A match is a relationship– it’s a two way street that both Big and Little agree to, and have concepts of, before they’re even matched. Part of being a Big is reconciling those two concepts to create something great together.
Before I’d entered her life, my Little Sister had a Big Sister through the program for a year. At first, they’d had some outings at restaurants like Johnny Rocket’s and Cheesecake Factory. After money got tight for her Big Sister, they defaulted to watching movies and digging into personal pizzas at her house for their outings. Her Big ended up moving back to the Midwest, which eventually brought me and my Little together. In a way, I’m sure this experience created a construct of what being in a match looks like, for my Little. Sculpting a strong, independent, and spunky kid through fun and inexpensive activities may have been my concept of our match, but being 11 years old at the time and having already been in a match herself, my Little likely entered into our relationship with totally different ideas.
This isn’t to say that you shouldn’t have goals and ideas of how you can shape your Little’s growth and your mentorship style. You can have goals and also understand where your Little is coming from. No Big wants to impose an expectation of their match that their Little may not be able to live up to.
So get on the same page! Ask your Little what they want to do with you. Ask what they want to learn. Ask how they think you can help them learn that thing. Where do they want to go?
And if that doesn’t work, keep at it. Being matched with a now-13 year old who says she prefers the internet over people, I work with a lot of “I don’t know”‘s. That’s okay. Stay communicative with what you’re thinking and feeling, and the rest will open up. This program isn’t about seeing immediate results, but you might find that witnessing those changes gradually unfold over time are the most gratifying.