And it is in those moments when doctors or neighbors or friends try to relate to the “hardness” of parenting, that the true difference of parenting a differently wired child feels so much more isolating. Parenting is hard. Parenting the “easy” child is difficult. Parenting the fringy child is unyielding.
I suck at asking for help. I suck at accepting help. Which is completely ironic because I make my living from people who directly reach out and ask me for help. And I spend a good portion of my time reassuring people that asking for help shows strength and wisdom, not failure or weakness. And yet, here I was, refusing help at a time when it really would be quite reasonable and expected that I’d need help.
Two weeks ago I had fairly extensive foot surgery. Tendons were repaired, bones were shaven, an incision which looks remarkably like the forehead scar of Frankenstein’s monster now decorates the outside of my foot. And as a result, I have 6 weeks of non-weight-bearing. 6 weeks of raising 3 fringy kids, running a business, speaking, writing, wife-ing, and living on one foot.
I am so thankful for the invention of the knee-walker scooter-thingy so that I am not stuck with crutches, but even so, it takes a lot more effort and limbs to simply move through the home these days, and no one wants to see me make my way up or down the stairs. I am also so thankful that the foot on injured reserve is my left foot, so I am still able to drive independently. Loading, unloading, and transporting my scooter, purse, computer bag, and dry goods and sundries, not to mention my own broken body requires a ridiculous amount of energy and time, however.
So, you’d think I would gladly accept the offers of my family as they meet me at the van to help me unload. But, instead, what do I say? “No, that’s okay. I can do it. I have to do it by myself whenever I go to work.”
Nothing that I say is untrue. Yes, it is okay, whether or not they help. Yes, I can do it on my own. Yes, I do have to do it by myself at times. But what do those things actually have to do with the particular moments when my husband reaches in to pull out the scooter? At those particular moments, I have help available, so lets take advantage of it, woman!
I’m not entirely sure if this hesitation to take help is a mom-thing, a gifted thing, or particular to my own version of german-ancestry, Midwestern, raised by a pick-yourself-up-by-the-boot-straps-libertarian-style dad, gifted mom thing. But, it certainly seems common to many people with whom I work and talk.
And, I do firmly believe there are pros and cons to everything. So the pros of this staunch independence is that I do maintain my independence and self-efficacy. I was about to say and my dignity, but actually, the other day when I fell over on crutches when trying to navigate a tight corridor on my own was definitely not dignified.
The disadvantages: I do too much, I wear myself out, I take unnecessary risks, my family gets frustrated, and, perhaps even most importantly, I rob people of the opportunity to help. It feels good to help. I remember getting so frustrated when my mom was recovering from a very serious surgery and illness and she refused my help. I wanted to help. I felt extremely helpless as she was going through treatments and healing. I needed to do something to feel more empowered. But, she refused, saying, “That’s okay. I can do it. I have to do it by myself someday.” Sound familiar? My response was always, “Yes, I know you can do it by yourself, but you don’t have to and I really want to help and feel useful.”
And yet, here I am robbing my family from the opportunity of helping and feeling useful in the face of my healing. So, I am going to stop being so ridiculously stubborn and independent. I’m going to accept help and even ask for it (gasp!). I’m going to gladly show appreciation and, without guilt, embrace and enjoy the help I’m receiving. And hopefully, I’m going to allow these next 6 weeks of help to trickle into my entire life moving forward. But, I’ll probably need help remembering to do so . . .