A mentor's perspective on topics related to fathering.
I’m often asked, “What's the difference between mentoring and being a father?”. It’s not an unusual question but it is one that is always tricky to answer. As a mentor, I will never be my mentees father but I’ll proudly be his father figure.
My mentee is a 17-year- old high school senior. We were paired when he was 13 years old through a college prep mentoring group but our bond transcends the program. Since I’ve known him we’ve been through quite a bit: following the wrong crowds, homelessness, lessons on timeliness, dressing for an occasion, respecting women, college and career exploration. My mentee is an excellent young man with a sharp mind but needed guidance navigating high school and his teenage years.
I give advice on topics he doesn't feel comfortable talking to his mom about. I lead by example, showing him what it means to be a man that takes care of his responsibilities. I motivate, encourage, and teach him how to overcome any life roadblocks that may come his way.
I grew up with my father in the home but his drug addiction put a strain on our relationship. Naturally, I found positive examples of men in other places. I collected mentors in everything I was involved in; church, summer programs, marching band, school, etc. This collection of men directly influenced my life and taught me lessons that I remember and live by today. Although I never saw them as my father, they were definitely father figures encouraging me and giving advice like I was their son.
I’m sure other mentors will have different answers that question but for me, the only difference is that my mentee isn’t my biological son but I encourage and care for him like he’s my own.
My mentee isn't the only beneficiary of our mentor-mentee relationship. I understand no one is actually ready for fatherhood but my experience with my mentee has taught me a lot about myself and the parent I want to be.
Mentoring has taught me to be more patient and thoughtful with my words. I’ve learned how to coach and develop interest, helping someone reach their full potential. I’ve learned that not all situations require the same response. Knowing when to push the issue and when to back off to allow space and reflection.
Mentoring gives me the opportunity to learn while doing. If you ask someone about their success, you’re likely to hear about an influential mentor. Whether it’s professional, personal, or spiritual, mentoring is often a catalyst for growth and accomplishment. Regardless of the context, mentors offer steady support, hope, wise guidance, experience, and critical encouragement. One of the most effective ways to give back to your community is not necessarily money – it’s time. You don't have to be a father to help shape and mold the next generation. Consider how you can invest in the future of someone in your community.