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Someone to watch over me

Feeling in a serious mood – considering what is going on at my work at the moment being light hearted is perhaps indicated but difficult to come by. So probably better to concentrate on positive rather than on fluff.
I never had a mentor as a child. I am not even sure who my God parents were, plus we were a very small family and my parents did not socialise much or have people round, so I never really formed any relationships with other adults of any depth.
 Looking at this in retrospect this was unfortunate. As the first member of the family to be going to university, with all good intentions my parents did not have the experience to prepare me and it was a bit of a leap into the unknown. I think if I had had someone who had experienced that life to advise me I could certainly have used my first year more effectively and been a lot more confident than the flapping around I actually did. Come to think of it, there are any number of questions and concerns I could have offloaded on a trusted adult which I would never have asked my parents, even if I though they may have had the answer. I think many parents do not realise that no matter how much they love their children, and that love is reciprocated, that there are just some things you do not talk to your parents about. You can probably come up with your own examples of topic areas. Plus, no matter how world savvy your parents are they – as you later learn – are not actually the perfect omniscient super beings that you first take them to be. They do not know everything and the different perspective someone else with experience can bring does not undermine parental advice but provides important perspective that can put it in context and make it more useful.
 I wish I had a mentor as a teenager. I’ve had the pleasure and responsibility, with the Lovely Wife of having that role with a number of young people. According to them, it has been of great use. Well, they are the experts, so I assume it has been and they are not just being nice. What mentoring a young person means always looks a bit different (something which I had to learn the hard way of frustration). In the end, these are relationships and like all relationships it is formed by the individuals involved. In some cases contact is regular, and in depth – long chats over coffee putting the world to rights, or at least exploring it. Sometimes it is a brief text every few months checking that all is well. Knowing that someone out there is on your side is maybe all that is needed for some individuals. Sometimes the relationship will last a few months, sometimes they might morph into friendships that can last lifetimes as you get a shift away from the teacher and pupil dynamic to two adults who can share how their lives are going. As time has gone in it is interesting to me how much support I have had back when things were perhaps not going great in my life.
How does this happen? You cannot manufacture it, or at least that is very hard to do. I have been in a number of schemes that tried to do this but in the end it is never really satisfactory. There has to be some kind of mutual respect and you have to like each other. God parents do provide a good opportunity but too often they are not chosen with the child in mind, rather a way to perhaps show to friends and family of the parents how important that person is to them, rather than picking someone they are fairly certain will take the role seriously and engage with the child from the start (and is able too – with all the best intentions, you still need to see someone to establish any kind of strong link, although I am surprised and slightly scared at how some people can seem to get to know people very quickly over a virtual platform, so what does an old man like me know?). Extended family may also throw up someone that just clicks with the young person and can establish the trust needed with the child – and of course with the parents as these relationships can go badly wrong too. But my plea is never underestimate the young person. These days they are incredibly well informed and independent compared to the past and can judge pretty quickly when something feels useful and safe. It is not for everyone perhaps, but when it works it can be a springboard into adult life that both should be able to look back on fondly.
  Bird Update: By the way, if anyone actually reads these regularly, I can report that we believe the Great Tits fledged successfully sometime on Thursday 9th July. Either that or something ate them, but the timing would have been right and sometimes you have to be positive about the universe!

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