This post was submitted by Aliz Koletas, host of Connecting Point on WGBY in Western Massachusetts.
“Valentines…the only day a baby gets violent and shoots arrows at innocent bystanders and we think it’s cute.”
I’m attempting to write a witty intro for an interview I’m about to tape on Connecting Point, the WGBY show I host and produce…and this is the only one I can think of at the moment.
I don’t get the point of the holiday and refuse to celebrate it. Never have, never will– although admittedly, that’s been harder to live by recently as I’ve gotten older, less of a rebel and found someone who I actually care about. I kinda broke the rules last year though – and no, it didn’t involve a tall handsome Greek man. Just a handful of tween girls and some junk food.
Sadly, most girls think that Valentine’s Day must include a boy in some shape or form…and I’m talking girls that aren’t even old enough for high school or can even drive yet. The last thing they should be worried about is being with a boy. Last year I set about to change that mindset with some pre-teen girls I had been mentoring in my hometown back in New York.
We set up a spa night at a local church’s basement. We ate pizza. We wore mud masks and did our nails. My two-year-old niece was the makeup artist of the night. I may have thought I was teaching them how to stand apart from the “norm” or how to look past skin color and ethnicity and be friends with “that girl across the room” but instead they were teaching me. Everything silly from rap lyrics (they threw in the word ‘Greek’ as a nod to my ethnicity) to serious stuff like how prevalent peer pressure is nowadays, especially on social media.
Although I now live further west in the Pioneer Valley, I still look back at last year and relish that night not just as a way I could teach younger girls but also what they taught me. Sometimes when mentoring, you may think the child is receiving the benefit of the relationship and while you hope they grow and learn from it…you may be surprised to learn that we adults can benefit just as much.
Mentoring is so important because if a child doesn’t believe that someone cares about them, they will in turn not care for themselves or the people around them, and a general dislike for life puts them in a very bad place that can negatively impact them and those around. If, however, that child or tween or young adult has someone who believes in them, they are more likely to turn around one day and not just be a better member of society but also a mentor themselves.
Like most other mentors, I could rattle off a list of people who touched and helped form my life: my dad, my mom, my grandparents, my teachers, my church, even my neighbors…but without all of their help, I would’ve never been able to reach out to a younger generation and “pay it forward.”
So this year, whether you celebrate Valentine’s Day or the ridiculousness behind it, find a way to be a mentor and impact someone’s life.
Just stay away from babies with arrows.
They might turn into pre-adolescent girls that’ll change your perspective on Valentine’s Day!