Bigs With Kids Make One Big Family

Big Brother Ronan and Big Sister Amanda – and their sons Finn and Tain (twins, 12) and Senan (10) – became a new kind of Big Family when Little Brother Bryant came into their lives in 2015. In this feature, the “grown folks” describe how they got started with BBBSEMO while the boys cover the details for planning hang-outs with Bryant.

The right people at the right time

Ronan: I worked with a number of people who’d been volunteering as Bigs for close to 20 years. One of them, John Fechter, had chatted with me about Big Brothers Big Sisters a number of times, and he’s someone I really respect. I had also been searching for something I could do with my family.

Big Family Wallace is going on Year 5 with Little Brother Bryant.

Amanda: I worked in hospitals as a psychologist before I became a professor at Webster University. I knew one thing I’d miss was direct impact, connecting and having relationships with people. A really good friend had had a great experience with her Little Sister here. I’d also heard there was a huge list of kids waiting for a Big.

Just after Ferguson, I thought, ‘Where can I use my time and resources?’ When I called BBBS, I asked, ‘Is there any option where my kids can be involved?’ They said they’d just started something called Big Families. The timing was just right for us. And Bryant specifically wanted a match with a family ‘with kids who run’ (smiling).

Big Family = 1 Big Brother and/or 1 Big Sister + their kid(s) A Big Family match provides a unique opportunity to make a difference in a Little Brother’s life – and see your whole family’s life change, too

Building bonds, family to family

Ronan: The connections are good and healthy with Bryant’s mom Antwonette. It’s been interesting to see Bryant’s personality develop over time. Before, he was so shy; now he will have a conversation with us about school. Our boys have changed, too. All four boys are growing up. Our relationship with Bryant is slowly developing.

Amanda: It’s been nice getting to know Bryant’s family over the years. They’ve moved, Antwonette has finished school and changed jobs, I’ve changed jobs…. Every time we pick Bryant up and drop him off, we stand around and talk. I love that BBBSEMO did a Mother’s Day brunch this year, which we nominated Antwonette for. We wanted to do something for Bryant’s dad, too, so we put together a Father’s Day gift for him. Antwonette and I have also texted one another during the course of COVID-19 about resources for our kids.

You can hear from Antwonette and Bryant here.

Being together > being “mentor-y”

Both: Bryant is not at place where there’s a mentoring need. His needs are met by his family and community. But we have seen Bryant mentor our boys when it comes to video games…! When we’re together, we put all phones away so we can focus on our time together. Bryant is now comfortable enough to say, ‘I’m bored… can I go home now?’ Truthfully, it’s just best for us to get out of the way so the boys can play. And that takes away that expectation of “mentoring.”

“Bryant wanted a family with boys who run. We go to the park, have picnics, bake cookies – we don’t do fancy things. And that takes away that expectation of ‘mentoring.’” – Big Sister Amanda, part of Big Family Wallace

Q&A with Big Family boys Tain, Finn, and Senan

What did you first think about being part of this Big Family thing?
Tain: At first I was a little skeptical – ‘What are we going to be doing?’ I also thought it was going to be all-day things, but it wasn’t. So then it was like, “Oh, it’s going to be fun and cool…”

What was it like to meet Bryant for the first time?
Senan: It felt awkward because I didn’t know what to say or do.

Finn: We played soccer and tag, and had a picnic.

One of many park outings (with packed lunch/snacks, because kids!)

Is there anything you do to get ready to hang out with Bryant?
Finn: We start by asking, “Where do you think Bryant would want to go?” It depends on what’s happening, like if someone’s injured or something like that. We usually have one or two ideas in mind, and plan for an outdoor thing, so we’ve gotta get sandwiches and drinks… Bryant likes apples so we’ll usually get apples. And we have to plan which car to take because there are so many of us.

If you could go anywhere in the world where each of you could enjoy something, where would it be? What do you think Bryant would like about that place?
Tain: I think Ireland. There’s lot of fields. And Bryant likes salty food… there’s a lot of salty food there.

Finn: Yeah, Ireland. I know what’s good there, and there’s a lot of places you can be energetic.

What’s the benefit of being part of a Big Family?
Finn: It can be annoying to be with the same person every day.

Senan: It’s fun to connect over video games, like Roblox or any simulator.

Tain: When I get tired or Senan gets tired, Finn will take over.

For more on this match, learn why Bryant and his mom took a chance with the Wallaces.

Wondering if a Big Family match is right for you?
Ericka Sanders, our Volunteer Recruitment Manager, is a call away! Click here to schedule some phone time with her.

About the Author

Kristy Fairbanks