Can I help you?
No thank you. I will always answer that question with a no. Why? Because I’m strong, independent, capable and people depend upon me to do what I gotta do. Well, I’m starting to realise what a steaming, smelly pile of poo that really is. To God, and to His plan for things.
Heath is helpful. My 4 strong, capable boys are helpful (this may be from endless repetitions of you’re in this family, now do your bit.) Not only that, they’re actually WILLING to help. But unfortunately they haven’t yet developed the skill of sniffing the air to sense when I NEED it. I will never ask for it, because I’m just plain stupid. I don’t know how I got wired like this, but I need to get rewired soon, because it’s destructive, and I’m starting to drive me crazy.
What got me thinking about this lately is a friend of mine and I were discussing her elderly parents, and how dependent they’ve become as they’ve aged. Her husband vowed that he would cover himself with jelly donuts (yes, Americans) and walk out into the woods to be eaten by a bear (American too) before he ever had to become dependent on someone else to physically look after him. My own mother and father, with the same desire not to be a burden when they’re old, would joke about taking some pills and…okay, hold on, let me clarify this. Mom got bitten by a spider when we were on holiday at the South African coast when I was about 12. The doctor she went to for treatment prescribed these pills, I don’t even know what they were, but they were a bright colour (blue or pink, but more than ibuprofen, methinks), and they made her feel euphorically happy and wonderful, and so those are the pills they’re referring to. So they’d take the pills, feel happy and wonderful and wander off into the sea together, forever. I know, it’s horrifyingly morbid actually. They’re still alive and well, and not living near a coastline, so we’re all good for now! Maybe that’s where my weird wiring came from, because I don’t want to inconvenience anyone, put them out, or make them go through extra effort because of me.
And I’ve married my opposite. Heath will rope the boys in on any job he’s doing, not so much to help him (although it’s a great teaching and conversation opportunity), but he loves the company. He’s all about quality time. Come and sit in the bathroom to chat while I shower is a standing joke between us, because he loves that, and it just about kills me, who has 49 unfinished things that could be getting done instead. And at these times, God’s voice rings in my ears (well, at the time, he was speaking to Martha, but she’s my Bible double. Sigh, she was such a pain…doing the dishes again, and frustrated that no-one would help. My double, for real. Luke 10:41)
41 “Martha, Martha, (Lea, Lea)” the Lord answered, “you are worried and upset about many things, 42 but few things are needed—or indeed only one. Mary has chosen what is better, and it will not be taken away from her.”
Okay, so maybe the comparison between Martha and myself doesn’t work, because does that mean that Heath is Mary? Gets complicated, yes? The point is, clean kitchen counters and folded laundry are the ‘many things,’ and the time, energy and care put into a relationship are the ‘needed’ things.
Back to Heath being able to accept input from others. He has discovered that Ethan can massage. He’s got strong little hands, knuckles and elbows, and surprising endurance. So Saturday mornings (and whenever else there’s relaxing going on) Ethan will be summoned to massage Heath’s back. I’m the one with a knife-in-my-back muscle seizure under my left shoulder blade, but I just cannot accepta massage. I don’t know if you pick up martyr-like characteristics in maternity wards, but maybe that’s just what moms do. I reckon it’s because in those early days of motherhood, when breastfeeding makes you feel more like a dairy cow, and you begin to look more like one with less sleep and less concern about appearance with your ongoing obsession to fit in 5 minute power naps, that we struggle to regain the balance of self-sacrifice and accepting help from our people. As a new mom, you barely have time to bath, let alone get dressed in matching clothing. And hot meals are non-existent as a baby mom. Babies are hungry / fill their diapers / fussy / bored / tired right at the point where a hot meal is served. So mama’s food is eaten a half hour later, stone cold. Or it gets cut into bite-size pieces so you can one-handedly stab them with a fork while the other hand holds/jiggles/feeds/burps/rocks/entertains the baby. Self-sacrifice. Toddler moms can’t even pee in peace, and if there ever is peace, it’s worrying because they’re up to destroying something. Self-sacrifice. Pre-teen moms carefully instruct and tend to adolescent’s emotions and outbursts, as much as they can without swearing, crying or outbursts of their own (hmm, yeah, not always successful, that). Self-sacrifice.
My family helps with laundry, they clear up after themselves, make their own beds, often fend for themselves when hungry, and they have responsibilities they take care of. But when it comes to me personally, and taking care of me, I often refuse help. Cup of tea? No thanks, I’ll do it just now. Carry one of your 23 shopping bags? Don’t worry, I’ll manage.
While it may seem like humility to get on and do it by myself, it’s actually pride. Pride in my own ability, capability, independence.
But I have realised that I am needing to make the progression from a baby/toddler/pre-teen mom to a they-can-help mom. And I’m learning, and it’s quite wonderful. And I’m not holding back. AND if you’re going to help someone, do it properly. I take my tea hot, Three quarters. Hey, if I have to remember child #1 doesn’t like those particular crackers, and has to have raisins with his cashew nuts, child #2 doesn’t like cashew nuts, or eggs, but will eat all forms of dried fruit or ham and cheese daily, child #3 doesn’t like apples but loves oranges, and needs spaghetti instead of nachos, and child #4 doesn’t like oats or cheese, but will eat 9 apples a day if you don’t watch out, then three quarters of a teaspoon of honey is not a big ask.
Best of all, of course, it teaches them to be aware of others, to serve, to self-sacrifice. And I think I’d be good at teaching them. Hey! Can someone put the kettle on to make tea, please?
May the lessons learned in the quiet or the chaos lead you closer to Him.
Lots of love,
Don’t be selfish; don’t try to impress others. Be humble, thinking of others as better than yourselves. Don’t look out only for your own interests, but take an interest in others, too. Philippians 2:2-4