Over the past week I’ve been in the situation where I’ve had to talk people into accepting help. Namely, my 75 year old father and my 11 year old son. I mean really talk them into it, which meant walking them through why it’s okay to accept someone’s help, whether with outsourcing certain aspects of international travel logistics or finding the area of an irregularly shaped garden in chapter 12, question 3a.
It got me thinking again about why it’s just so dang hard for us to accept the help sometimes. In our book we talk about the shift to parenthood being a time to sift through feelings of vulnerability and insecurity, a time to thoughtfully recalibrate the needs and demands of a new and complicated role. It can be hard to let go of our sense of control, to feel our competence questioned.
There is no shortage of cultural messages that portray independence as a sign of strength. And, don’t we raise our kids to move toward greater autonomy and self-reliance, applauding as they feed and dress themselves when they’re little, hoping that someday they will be able to “stand on their own two feet?” But as kids move toward greater independence in all the places that are developmentally appropriate, it is also important to help them balance this increasing independence with maintaining interdependence – connection to others. And being in connected relationships includes accepting help. (No surprise, it also includes helping.)
Relying on others—and being reliable and relied upon—is an important part of being a family, of being a friend, of being a citizen in the Great-Big-World. People help each other. And it feels good to help—which requires a recipient— and we all need to take our turns. Someone who understands the ways in which he can be helped is a good thing. It is self-knowledge. Hooray for the person able to recognize their own limits, to self-advocate, and to know how to connect with the experience, talents, or insight of others. What better way to learn and grow? -t