I had sent them downstairs to fetch the laundry out of the dryer. I really don’t mind going down there. It’s not like our laundry is in a pit of a basement or anything. It’s a nice enough little room on the lower level of our raised ranch. It even has a window. Mostly, I just needed to give them a job before they decided they were — gasp! — bored.
My middle child headed down with enthusiasm, but bailed mid-task to use the bathroom or some such excuse. This did not surprise me overly much.
My oldest and youngest made quick work of the chore and headed back up the steps.
I heard their mumbled debate. Heard their shuffling feet. Made out some complaints and arguments. “I’ve got it.” “I’ll help!” “Watch out… just let…” “I’m right here!”
Finally, I heard A’s voice loud and clear, “G! I don’t need help!’
And then G’s sigh of sad frustration.
I asked what was going on and A. replied, again, “Mom, I don’t need G’s help. I’ve got this.”
And the words spilled out of me:
“A… sometimes it’s not about your needing help. It’s about the other person needing TO help.”
It was one of those parenting moments where the words leave your lips before your brain really even has a chance to review them but, as you process them, you are pleased to realize that your gut response didn’t fail you: the wisdom rings true.
Not surprisingly, A. gave it a few minutes to settle in, then asked me for clarification.
Honestly, despite the fact that I knew it was totally true, I struggled to explain it at first. Speaking in vague terms about general situations wasn’t really helping clear things up for him.
Finally, I likened it to the kids wanting to help me cook.
“The thing is, buddy… do I NEED all your help in the kitchen? No. I really don’t. I know how to do it by myself and, truth be told, I can often do it faster and more easily by myself. Having you all help me in the kitchen isn’t as much about me as it is about YOU. When I let you all help me, you gain confidence, learn about teamwork, and build new skillsets.”
He thought about that for a minute. Nodded…
…and wandered off to do some nine-year-old boy thing.
I sat there with my own words fresh in my mind.
Sometimes it’s not about your needing help. It’s about the other person needing TO help.
How often do I turn them down? How often do I brush them aside, knowing I can tackle the task so much faster on my own? How many times do I opt to shoulder the load independently because, if I’m honest, I consider the “help” I could get to be more inconvenience than assistance.
But it’s not about me, is it? Letting them help is critical and I need to do more of it.
Let’s call that a summer goal, shall we?