Time for a Franklin Friday!

I have a colleague and friend who does amazing work with and for young people in rural communities. The structures she’s put into place for youth who have a whole lot stacked against them – especially those who are aging out of the foster system are truly inspiring. And she’s getting great results. 

 You can imagine how pleased I was to be asked to serve again as a mentor for some of her youth over the summer. I’m all in and already thinking about how to level-up my mentor tools and skills because I can’t wait to be  guiding, cheerleading and advising as they take those first steps in finding the best in themselves. That is, until they stop walking. More on that in a minute. 

Shortly after I received my friend’s call, it was time for one of Franklin’s walks. These are not easy affairs because Franklin is easily distracted. Smells, people, cars going by, and especially sounds from unseen sources stop all forward progress. We can be tripping along at a nice pace and suddenly Franklin will lie down. And we wait. For what, I have no idea. When whatever it is that is going on in Franklin’s head is resolved, he stands up and we move forward. But until he removes the invisible barrier he sees, hears or feels, nothing will get him moving. Not praise, not treats and especially not a tug on the leash. Any attempts to start his engine again results in his play dead pose – rolled onto back – four legs up in the air. Some days it can take 45 minutes to walk a 2 block square.

While this is like a live comedy show for my neighbors, it often pushes me to a pretty significant stress point. I’ve put hours and hours into helping my little pup grow up and after five months, I still can’t figure out what exactly makes him tick. When I get the leash ready for a walk he goes bananas with excitement and I make sure he always arrives home safely. So, Why?!  And it’s not like we can have a calm conversation and work out whatever the issue is. As this daily frustration continues to play out, I’ve had to dig deep for understanding and more patience than I’ve ever needed. 

And it got me thinking….

Have you ever worked with a student over a period of time and feel like they’re really leaping towards something wonderful – and then just on the verge of a breakthrough for no reason they stall? I had a mentee last summer who sprinted right up to the first day of college classes and then…panic. No warning and no obvious explanation.  I was devastated and felt like a complete failure. But as I look at it through the Franklin lens, there was an invisible barrier that only she could see. She wasn’t quite ready to move forward.   

I wish I could say I have a brilliant new strategy for dealing with Franklin. I got nothin’. But I do have a new plan for my mentees this summer. We’re still going to head out and hit the path toward whatever future they envision – but I’m going to ask more questions and take more time to openly discuss what they see, hear and feel along the way. Most of all, we’re going to work for a healthy balance of pushing and pulling (as good mentors do) and time-out for confronting the things that make moving forward scary and difficult.

I’ll let you know how all the summer “walks” go. 


P.S.  Franklin is my beautiful (and extremely challenging) new golden retriever puppy. Despite our many difficulties, he is forcing me to try new things, be a better problem-solver, and find new reservoirs of patience and flexibility. I’ll be sharing the trials, tribulations and revelations of growing up with Mr. Franklin Roosevelt on Fridays.