“What Did I Get Myself Into?”
Mentoring is so unpredictable, it’s hard to know how things will go. I think we naturally hope that we will get a young dad that will take our advice, make sound decisions, and generally embrace our way of life so that we can have a measure of success that is familiar and comfortable. As most of you know by now, that rarely if ever happens. Most of the time, these dads' background is something we can’t really relate to, decisions are based on little to no foundation, and we begin to wonder how we got ourselves into this situation. These are normal reactions that we experience any time we get outside of our normal range of emotions, decision making, and life experiences.
It really is a normal thing to wonder what you got yourself into and to question whether you know what’s necessary to help a young dad with his background. When you experience these feelings, recalling some of the lessons we’ve already learned will help. First, remember to redefine success. Success looks different for everyone. Your mentee may be ready for college or it may be allowing him to start college is nothing more than a waste of financial aid. The background these young men have come from affects each one differently. Having patience and understanding that what success will look like right now and in the future will be different for each young dad can go a long way toward reducing your stress and frustration.
Setting attainable goals will also be important to your mental well-being during this process. Understanding that your young dad has a few more obstacles to overcome than your average teenager will help you keep the frustration to a minimum and make you more understanding and compassionate as they work their way through this stage of life. The goals you set may seem trivial or shortsighted but they may be what’s best for him. They don’t have to be on our schedule, but they do need to have a vision of the future that goes beyond what they are currently experiencing so they can take responsibility for their child. Setting attainable goals will help them have a sense of achievement and make them more likely to consider more career oriented goals in the future.
When you begin to have these feelings of frustration, it may be a good thing to go back and watch the white privilege video that we watched in the first lesson. While it focuses more on cultural background, our young dads have experienced many of the disadvantages mentioned because their family has broken down. Having a solid family experience is foundational to childhood development. If that gets derailed, your student is behind the 8 ball and may never get out without someone to show him the ropes and help navigate life. Remembering where they’ve come from and what they’ve been through will give you the patience you need to see things through.
Last of all, remember two important things. You don’t have to have all the answers and the most important thing you can do is come back. These young men would rather have a guy who doesn’t have all the answers but won’t give up on them than someone who does have all the answers and doesn’t care. Jesus told us that the greatest commandment was to love Him and love your neighbor as yourself. The key is seeing everyone as created in God’s image and for His glory and realizing while you don’t have all the answers, God does. The more you surrender your relationship with your young dad to Christ, the more He will empower you to be effective with him. You may feel in over your head and may not think you know what you’re doing. Good. God has you right where He wants you. You’re now dependent on Him and ready to be the example your young dad needs.
He said to him, “Love the Lord your God with all your heart, with all your soul, and with all your mind.[m] 38 This is the greatest and most important[n] command. 39 The second is like it: Love your neighbor as yourself.[o] 40 All the Law and the Prophets depend on these two commands.” - Matthew 22: 37