Failing as a Big Sister – or am I?

Earlier this year I signed up to be a Big Sister with the Big Brothers Big Sisters organization. I ended up getting matched at a very peculiar time – as there were a lot of change going on in my life at that time.

In the back of my mind I was thinking, this should be great. I’ll be able to impact a kid, expose them to new things and have conversations that help this young person along her journey in life. For me this seemed like a great way to really embark upon the volunteerism part of my life that had been put to the wayside for a long time. I thought; this will be motivating – I will feel like I’m adding value to someone’s life in a way that is meaningful for both sides.

I was looking forward to getting out of my own head and problems to help someone else. I visualized getting home from my outings with a big smile on my face, breathing a little easier and feeling good about the day. I could see myself pouring a glass of wine and thinking to myself “I helped my little sister out today, I gave some great advice”.

But yeeeaaaaaaa, no such luck for this big sister. I haven’t seen any small, minuscule sign for how I am adding value because I have not been able to build a relationship in the normal sense of the word – which would involve an actual conversation with an 11 year old – in all this time. For several months, I’ve come home completely drained and feeling like crap. I often crawl right into bed for a nap to recover from the stress of the day, and the stress that I built up over it for several days prior.

This has led to tears and frustration and wondering what this all means, and why it’s so hard to make a connection. I have made jokes and said that this is the reason why I shouldn’t have kids – but in reality I am just masking the pain I feel about the situation.

I’ve spoken with a few different people about the subject, expressing my concern that I’m not making a bit of difference. But one conversation happened recently that made me think a little differently. Someone said to me; “she’s in your life for a reason”. Just keep giving her love – even as she rejects it or refuses to acknowledge it or even engage. His perspective was that she is undoubtedly processing what I’m saying in some way, either in the moment or when our time together has ended. It was a powerful thought. Just keep giving her love. And I guess I do think that love will breakthrough at some point. So we got together again today – we went to a farm, and she fed some very feisty chickens. And my little sister didn’t react differently than any other time, but I felt just a little different. I felt hopeful that not giving up on her means I’m not giving up on what love can do, even when it doesn’t come back immediately. And I came home and I took a nap, and was drained as I usually am. But I was just a little less critical of myself and wondered how she might reflect on our time together – with a smile on my face.

At a time when the world feels upside down, this feels like something I can do – keep on giving love.

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