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Crossing the River Together

Posted by Fatherhood Admin

This is a blog post by NFI's Director of Program Support Services, Mike Yudt. In addition to being a father of two boys, Mike is a Double Duty Dad by being a mentor to a boy who is growing up without a father. Mike and his mentee recently went on an outdoor adventure together - Mike shares about this experience as part of NFI's campaign to help Dads "Get Out: Hit the Great Outdoors with Your Kids This Summer."

I’ve been mentoring a boy from Baltimore city for the past 4 years. His name is Aaron and he recently completed his freshman year in high school.

When we first met, he was a skinny 12 year old kid, but is now fast becoming a young man. My heart has been tied to Aaron for several reasons. Given what I do at National Fatherhood Initiative, I sense a special calling to stay connected to Aaron as much as possible since he does not have a relationship with his father. It’s a long story, but the short of it is: neither his mom or his dad are there for him, but he has been raised by his loving grandma.

I know that I can never completely fill the role that his dad is supposed to fill. However, that’s not to say that good can not come out of mentoring relationships. I would not be serving as a mentor if I felt that it wasn’t going to make a difference. The power of a mentoring relationship can go along way in helping fatherless children avoid destructive behaviors, experience the love of another adult, and feel affirmed in ways that they otherwise might not. Investing in the life of another child, whether as a mentor or as a father, can alter the trajectory of that child’s life. We need to have good men step up to the plate as mentors, just like we need an organization like NFI that can address the root cause of why mentors are needed in the first place.

Recently, Aaron and I experienced a special outdoor adventure together. We were visiting Patapsco State Park and ended up on a trail that took us down to a fast flowing river. The river was shallow enough to cross, but you had to be careful given how quickly the water was flowing downstream. We may have been able to cross the river without each other, but quickly realized that the best chance we had to get to the other side was to lock hands and move as a team. When doing so, we were able to cross the river together. And on the other side, I was able to have a conversation with Aaron about something that he was struggling with recently. Aaron is not a big talker, so I kept it brief, but to the point.

In many ways, I view my role as a mentor and as a father as helping Aaron and my children “cross the rivers of life.” Some of those rivers may seem impossible to cross. That’s why it’s critical that we as fathers commit to not only being present, but to being an active and engaged part of our children’s lives. I don’t know which rivers Aaron will be crossing in the near future, but I want to do my part in helping him cross those rivers successfully. Given the baggage that he has from his absent father, it’s especially critical that he have an extra set of male hands to do so...

Topics: Get Out, nfi staff, double duty dad

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