My mother played music on Tuesday nights with a younger couple. When the couple had a baby, they would bring him over to our house to sleep in the back room until we were done. As he got older, sometimes I would play with him. I am the youngest child, and so babies were a bit of a novelty back then (and still). One day I was playing keep away with the baby, who was now one, and  Mama Clause said sharply, “Don’t do that, Indy, you’re teaching him to keep the ball from people.”

This is when I learned that kids were like sponges. I grew up and had no children. The dog knows how to keep the ball away without my teaching him. I work part-time in a college environment, molding and/or corrupting young minds. (True story: An entire year of college students decided it was okay to cuss at work because I cussed at work. Oh shit, I forget that I’m a grown up.)

Yesterday I introduced one student to another “this is L, she is and will be a tutoring powerhouse.” It was a dumb metaphor, but it was the end of the day, so you will excuse me. To my surprise, L turned bright red. Right, I forgot about that. What I say has more power than I think it does sometimes. Although I’m not a supervisor, I’m one of the adults. I am a mentor. I am the cool aunt friend. I fuss at my college-aged colleagues to eat, to sleep, to write well, to give good criticism, to apply to grad school, to write kick-ass cover letters, to ask for that raise, to try for that job, to study abroad, to write, write, write. And sometimes they listen to me.

They, too, are like sponges. Underslept, stressed-out, hilarious, lovely sponges.

Who do you mentor?


5 responses to “Mentoring

  1. I suppose my kids, who have selective memories when it comes to things I deliberately want to teach them and perfect recall for the stuff I wish they hadn’t witnessed.

  2. I used to mentor people at work and I didn’t realize it until I started the new job and am on the other end of the learning curve. I think I’m a better teacher than student.
    It’s hard to realize one day that you’re a model of sorts, that people are counting on you and that your actions are being watched. The other day after the Monster Truck Jam (oh, yes. It was a jam.) we were in the parking lot and this car would not stop beeping at us and throwing unpleasant hand signals. I tried my very best to ignore them…and then said I’ll be right back as I headed over to the car before my husband could plead with me not to get out (it may not be the first time I’ve done this). I walked over and explained to the two gentlemen (who were a bit surprised to see me coming and quickly rolled up the window until I encouraged them to unroll it) that as they could see we couldn’t go anywhere as the car in front of us did not know how to turn around and I would appreciate their patience. They smiled, apologized and I was on my way.
    Later on, I was walking with my daughter and said, “You know, I don’t ever want you to do something like that. It’s how people get shot and it’s really, really dumb.”
    “Me do that? Nun uh. But if you could have seen their faces. Man, were they scared.” And we laughed as I explained that it’s best to be patient in situations because you never know how crazy the other person is. I happen to have the advantage of knowing that most of the time, I’ll win that contest.

    Mentor? Only by default. More like a live demonstration on what not to do.

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