At Big Brothers Big Sisters, we believe every child should have the opportunity to reach his or her full potential – both as individuals and citizens. We believe that by changing the course of young lives we can in turn be changing the course of a community’s future.
Start Talking is a place where we want to raise awareness of key issues that face today’s youth. We will sometimes advocate, sometimes educate, sometimes inform, sometimes ask questions and always invite discussion about the pressing concerns that involve the younger generations of today.

Wednesday, May 14, 2014

The Mysteries of Male Bonding

By Elizabeth Brekelmans

When my husband died suddenly, I was left with the sole task of raising our daughter and four sons. It took some time for me to realize I wasn’t as well prepared for the task as I thought. Boys’ needs are so different from girls’, and I just wasn’t equipped to handle all the issues I faced. I had heard about Big Brothers Big Sisters and decided to give them a call. In retrospect, it was one of the best decisions I have ever made.

When the boys were first matched with their Big Brother, Brad, I wasn’t certain what to expect or what my role would be in this unique relationship. I came to realize that, if I ever had a problem with any of my sons, I could count on their Big Brother to back my decision.

The boys now have someone who thinks like . . . well, like guys do — the kind of things that women will probably never be able to understand. When they talk of the exaggerated expulsion of body gasses, for example, they make it sound like an Olympic competition. (I’m not really sure why it is an indoor event. Maybe to get the full effect?) After going ice fishing, one of their treasured outings, they come back with stories of how they had to escape the confines of their fishing hut to keep from being gassed to death. I have yet to figure out how this constitutes male bonding. Maybe it is the fact that they have shared something so intimate, however repulsive.

I simply can’t imagine doing this with my boys, but it is important to them. They need someone they can relate to, someone who understands the male species, and it has made a difference in their attitude towards life. The boys have a closer relationship with each other because they realize they haven’t been abandoned to the complexities of growing up.

They have found someone they can confide in, and they know that, as long as it isn’t a life-threatening issue, whatever they discuss with their Big Brother will remain between them. Brad sees potential in them that I, being so close to them, might overlook. He emphasizes that they have a responsibility both to themselves and to society, and encourages each of them to be everything he can be.

Being an only parent gives new meaning to the word “challenge.” Trying to meet everyone’s needs can really wear you down. So when the boys are off on an adventure with Brad, I get a chance to regroup, prioritize, and gain a fresh perspective on things. And I know they need to escape from me as much as I need a break from them.

So far I have spoken only of the needs of my sons, but I also have an incredible eighteen-year-old daughter. You know how most people have an idol, a role model, someone they have the highest regard for? My daughter is such a person for me. She has her life all mapped out. She knows what she wants, and has the drive and determination to go for it. She lives life to the fullest. She is everything I want to be when I grow up. And the boys’ having a Big Brother gives us a chance to run away and do things we both enjoy.

Our involvement in Big Brothers Big Sisters has been a positive force in our family. The boys have grown in maturity and strength of character. They have confidence in who they are and what they are all about.

This is an excerpt from a speech written fifteen years ago. My children have since grown up and moved out. They are happy, healthy individuals in loving relationships and are the best of friends. Each is working in a field he or she enjoys and, best of all, they have blessed me with gorgeous little ones to love and spoil. The boys’ Big Brother is still a part of their lives. My middle child actually works with Brad in the insurance industry. I believe life might have been very different had it not been for the influence of this wonderful man on all our lives.

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