“Get in the car! It’s time to go!”
“I can’t find my head band!!”
“I can’t tie my shoe!”
“The dog just ate the cat’s food!”
“Mo-om! Madelyn has on my socks!”
“Lets go guys, we are going to be late.”
“uh Oh. I forgot, I was supposed to be at school early.”
“and I have sharing!”
….five minutes later…the drop off….
“Ok guys, have a terrific day! I love you!”
“Bye! Love you!”
“Love you too!”
“Love you, Mama!”
“Wait! Jackson, we need to tie your shoes.”
And so goes a typical morning 8 minutes before school — before work! As much as I try to prevent said drama, I always come up short. I do the setting things out the night before, get up earlier, take responsibility for your own lunch and making your bed thing. Still, the drama ensues. It’s exhausting.
Suddenly it occurred to me that no one was asking for help. Oh they were asking ME for help, but they were not asking each other.
“Let’s try this,” I said, “instead of screaming, ask for help. Instead of whining, ask for help. And if you see that your sister or brother is struggling with something, ask them if you can help them. Now, that doesn’t mean you do it for them, or you take over, or you put them down. Just say, ‘can I help you with that?’ AND, if someone offers to help you, you can say ‘no thanks’ in a polite way without getting snarky. Recognize that someone is trying to help you. And if you offer to help, and they say ‘no’ you can’t take it personally. So let’s stop screaming and start helping each other.”
So far this modeling has worked 60% of the time….but what occurred to me was that asking for help, receiving it, and offering it are all learned behaviors. We don’t innately know how to ask, offer, or receive help. Maybe it’s ego that keeps us from this behavior. Maybe it’s culture that defines help. Whatever it is, it struck me that every child is learning whether intentionally or not, how to ask and offer help.
As adults we take that behavior of helping on, either expecting it, or being embarrassed by needing it, or feeling that we don’t deserve it.
I think helping is an art. It’s never perfect. It takes practice and experimentation. It takes understanding two things. We can only help as far as we are able. We have to know our own limits in helping. And second, we have to be able to ask for help ourselves and receive it as it is offered. In essence we have to respect each other’s humanity in the art of helping.
When Martha asks Jesus to tell Mary to help her. Jesus gets triangulated in family drama. Jesus didn’t have mediation training, so he doesn’t tell Martha to talk to Mary herself. He does tell her that she is troubled by many things and that Mary has chosen what was best for her. Did Martha say “fine” and leave and go out for Martinis with the girls? I would have.
Martha still needs help. I think Jesus helps her by seeing that what she needs help with is not emptying the dishwasher. She needs help in sitting still and leaving the dishes in the sink for one more hour. Chill out Martha. You’re missing the point.
If the library books are late, or the hair isn’t brushed, and there is sticky orange juice on the floor. Yeah, it’s annoying and a royal pain, but chill out, and ask for help and take what you get. What matters is this:
“Have a great day! Know that I love you!”
“Bye! Love you too!”
“Love you, Mama, see you after school!”