“Colonel Miller” on the Necessity of Unicorns
Christy Foster’s story as told to Mitch Isaacs
This experience has opened up my eyes. The world isn’t all rainbows, unicorns, and glitter like my mom painted for me. I had a very sheltered life. My parents were very protective with me. I am a military brat. I lived all over the country, but we moved back to Muncie my freshmen year. I always attended private Catholic schools, so when I came to Delta I was like a deer in headlights.
I’m learning that there are people who love their children, but can’t always give them what they need. Every kid doesn’t get what they should, even though in my happy little world everyone did.
I got involved with Big Brothers Big Sisters through the Dance for Kids’ Sake fundraiser. A friend asked me to be her dance partner. Shortly after the program, I talked to the staff, said I wanted to be more involved.
I remember the first time I met Tessa. It was about a year ago. She came in a cute little dress, with dark curls. She was 11, almost 12, at the time. She was very quiet—she didn’t say a whole lot at first. I’m a talker so I asked her a lot of questions. We talked about camping and getting on my boat. I was her third Big. Her first Big, a Ball State student, did well with her but left after graduation. The second Big wasn’t a great fit.
It’s hard for her to open up. She’s very close to her mom, who loves her very much. Some days Tessa is quiet, other days she’s open. It really just depends with her. It takes time.
I hope to bring her some peace and normalcy. I worry all the time about Tessa. Being a Big isn’t easy, mentally, because you want to do everything for them. I try hard to set boundaries. She’s very smart, very, very smart. She loves to read, especially young adult Harry Potter type books. She loves to sing and dance. Tessa has done a dance fitness class with me at the Y and has performed in two plays. She’s a creative type–art, drama, dance.
She’s also a mother hen. She likes to mother her little brothers, so she needs to get out of the house. She needs to be the only person getting attention. I know that is something I can give to her.
Being a Big doesn’t take as much time as you think, but it does take a certain type of individual. You have to be able to draw that line between what you want to do and what you can do, but when you draw that line it’s very rewarding. You may not always know if you are making a difference, but you have to keep trying. I want to feel like I’m making a difference in the world, and this is a program where you can make a difference in the world. All it takes is a couple hours a month, even if it’s just a Saturday afternoon once a month, that’s something.
Sometimes it’s the simple things. Even though Tessa was 12, I took her tubing her first time. We went out on the water, and it was a completely new experience for her. We went out in the fall when were first matched and again this summer. She spent some time on the water with my four granddaughters. She’s so used to boys, it was a nice change for her to spend time with girls.
Tessa makes me want to be a better mom, and a better person. Every child deserves to be supported, loved, and encouraged. Honestly, she’s softened me a little. I’m a firm believer that you have to work hard to get what you want out of life, and I’ve raised my children the same way. My mother was a young mother–she was 15 when I was born. We grew up together; she was a stay-at-home mom. Later on, I was a young mother myself. I worked hard to break that cycle with my own children.
My kids call me “Colonel Miller.” I’ve always raised my children that there are expectations and consequences. But Tessa helps me realize that you don’t have to be so hard on your own children. Ease up a little. The world can be a rough place and it’s OK to be soft with a child because sometimes they really do need it.
I don’t know if I make a difference, and I probably won’t know for a while. But that’s OK. This experience has helped me realize that all we can do is all we can do. And maybe sometimes all a kid needs is a little bit of the rainbows, unicorns, and glitter in the world.
Mitch Isaacs is the Executive Director of the Shafer Leadership Academy (www.shaferleadership.com) and a Big with Big Brothers Big Sisters. He is committed to enhancing the leadership skills of the community and dedicated to Shafer Leadership Academy’s mission to ensure that individuals who have the desire to demonstrate leadership have access to world class leadership training close to home.
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