Perfecting Help

It is possible that having children who are in upper elementary is prompting many of these blog posts. No, actually, it’s true. Having children who are in upper elementary is prompting most of my blog posts. Why? The older they get, the more I find they have in common with my own students. The most recent issue? Help.

Is this the new four-letter naughty word? Since when did it become a ‘bad’ thing to need help?

My son could be the posterchild of the problem behind the word help. I feel so sad for his teachers who struggle to do their job simply because he won’t let them. For the longest time I thought it was ‘simply’ a pride issue. He didn’t want help. He wanted to do it on his own. You know, the moment when you are so encouraging of your child and their will to do it ‘their self.’ You wait for 30 minutes to allow them to tie their own shoe all while thinking how fast you could have done it and how now you will be late and have to deal with the repercussions of that?

Nope. It wasn’t pride. It was something much more serious.

Not only was he not letting his teachers help; I learned he was being rude to his peers, teaching assistants, and others along the way. To me, if there is one awful thing for a child to be, it’s rude. I can handle ‘not doing well in school’ or ‘not the fastest kid in class’ – but rude? Oh my, that is (was) so disheartening, really. One of my immediate thoughts was disbelief. I don’t see a rude or difficult child in my house – why was he being rude at school? Why is my child so different behind those sacred walls? These are all ideas that will be saved for another post (or two or eight).

We had a heart to heart. His honest, tear-filled response went something like this, “Mom, I know, okay. But I hate having help. It’s because I’m a loser. I’m dumb. Teachers only help the stupid kids and I’m one of them. I already know this and them helping me just shows everyone else too.”

Woah. That wasn’t what I was expecting. Not expecting at all.

Since when did ‘help’ become a bad thing? Oh yeah…maybe since we began expecting perfection. Not just from our children, but from us. I’m as guilty as anyone else – check my Facebook posts for evidence of my lovely life. I love my husband, my children are kind, I love volunteering at church. All good…all perfect. I don’t post how I was in tears Saturday morning for an hour because someone hurt my feelings. I don’t post how I have ongoing stomach issues because of worry, stress, and guilt – all of which are brought on my yours truly. I don’t post anything about being irritated with newspaper being scattered on the floor or yet another freezie pop wrapper stuck to a chair!!

Those things, I keep to myself. Always have – because I wouldn’t want to show anything but ‘everything is fine’ and I certainly wouldn’t want to ask for help.

I also don’t expect or believe that my children are perfect. I think they have lots of great qualities – perfection is not one of them.

They however, think I am.


Why yick? Because there is an interesting dichotomy going on here. I am a teacher. I am a helper. I am the first to volunteer and the last to leave because I’m helping to clean up. I do all of these things, but I don’t like to ask for help, ever. I am also as far from perfect as the east is from the west.

It’s one of those life lessons I’m learning by being a teacher and a parent.

I sat down with my sweet son and showed him my calendar. I showed him that I had 16 appointments that day to help 16 students with their writing assignments. I had three other meetings with folks who helped me with topics ranging from assessment to online meeting software. I couldn’t have learned without their help. My students couldn’t get better without my help.

We need each other. We need humans. It’s a part of who we are…so why? Why is it so hard for my son to ask for help? Better yet, why is it so hard for me to accept help? One of the worst things in the world is when you recognize the fact that your child has inherited one (or many) of your not so great qualities.

Vulnerability. Asking for help makes us vulnerable. Asking for help (and accepting help) shows that we aren’t perfect, that we need help, that we can’t do it alone. Most of all? Asking for help means we aren’t perfect and can’t do it all.

Well, I have to change my ways. While I’m always wiling to help students and other folks – it’s time I start showing my students and my children that I also have to request help.

Last week was a rough week – while this was happening with my son, I also had four students within two hours in my office that were brought to tears. Not because they were doing poorly, but because they couldn’t ask for help. Without asking, I offered my shoulder. I gave them a place, a safe place. Every one of them needed help. They needed help making friends, dealing with depression, another class, and the death of a family member.

I referred all of them to resources on campus that would help. It just made me sad. Very, very sad. Each of those students got to the ‘cry in my office’ point because they didn’t know where to go for help, or what I believe…they couldn’t bring themselves to ask for help.

So, I’m beginning today. Making it a ‘larger’ point to ask for help. Asking in front of my children, asking in front of my students. Maybe if I start a culture of ‘it’s okay’ within my own little world it will spread…as good things often do.

That’s my plan…to not choose perfection in itself, but choosing to perfect my ability to ask for help.

This entry was posted in Education, Mom, Postsecondary Education, Teaching, Uncategorized. Bookmark the permalink.

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