I have thought a lot about what it may mean to raise a boy. While I was not completely set on having a girl, I knew that if I had one I would make sure she was a badass. Knowing that I am having a boy, I often think — how do I make sure he is strong while also gentle and sensitive? What happens in a boy’s life that makes them want to kill everything they see, or punch everything? Is it nurture or nature? I guess I will find out soon enough.
I grew up with a dad that would remind us that we were to “be seen and not heard.” I have the smallest of bladders and would always have to go to the bathroom (and still do) and my dad always made me feel horrible about it. As though it was my fault that I had to go to the bathroom 30 minutes later. Thank you to my wonderful, patient husband who might sometimes think: “Seriously? You just went.” but still makes sure we can find a bathroom. (That was the case pre-pregnancy too).
In any case, a line from the book “Rising Strong” by Brene Brown reminded me of my childhood:
“In my family, being high maintenance was a huge shame trigger, especially for girls. Be easy, fun, and flexible. Need a bathroom break on a road trip? We’ll pull over when we don’t have to cross the highway to get to the gas station. Don’t like what we’re having for dinner? Don’t eat. Carsick? It’s all in your head. Unfortunately, being low maintenance also meant not asking for what you needed and never inconveniencing anyone.” Page 100
I cannot tell you how many times I was told by my dad that it was all in my head. I remember one summer we were told we needed to shuck about 6 dozen ears of corn. We would buy a large quantity when it was the end of the season, shuck them and then freeze them for the rest of the year. Supposedly it still tasted just the same (but corn was just corn to me). I vividly remember sitting on the front porch step, making a mess of all the remnants when I felt a sharp pain in my thumb. I look down and my thumb is covered in blood. Now, I have a very high pain tolerance, but I have NO tolerance for seeing blood (mine or anyone else’s). I yell for my dad and we go inside. As he is rinsing it off we realize there is a piece of glass in my thumb. It must have been in the soil and grown in with the corn husk. We get it out and I literally pass out from all the blood. When I am back and normal again my dad basically tells me it is all in my head and that I am a wuss. Seriously.
That and many other situations throughout my childhood made me not ask for help, and honestly it is hard for me to do so today. I did what I could to not be high maintenance, to figure it out on my own, and not be in the way. It was easier that way. However, I do not plan to raise my son that way. I want him to use his words, and speak up — whether he is high maintenance or not. I want him to be just who he is without being squashed by the judgements of others. Is that too much to ask for?
I will tell you now. I have a horrible time asking for help. Chris can back me up on this – I rarely ask for help. Part of it has to do with how I grew up, where I had to balance life, school, homework, being an awkward teen, taking care of my mom and all the household items that connected to that (paying the bills, groceries, cleaning, etc.). Due to all of those crazy tasks added to my plate from the age of twelve, I am used to juggling many balls, sometimes balls of fire. I am used to it, and it means that even to this day I have a hard time saying: “Can you help me?”
I recently found this article called: “Why Are We So Afraid of Asking for Help?” on the Daily Worth website. The funny part is that the article talks about not asking for help in the context of being a woman. Sure, that does not help my strange childhood upbringing. Yes, I am also a hardcore woman, and I want to be able to do anything. You know the line from: Annie Get Your Gun: “Anything you can do I can do better, I can do anything better than you.” That was always the mantra in my life. As the youngest of three, I wanted to make sure I could keep up, so if my sister and brother could play a board game, I would try to figure out how to play it so I can be included, and then I would concentrate, watch, and figure out how to beat everyone. To my disadvantage, eventually they did not want to play with me because I would kick their butt.
In any case, needing help. I never really learned how to ask for help. Generally, as a kid when I would ask for help, it would not come through, so I would just figure it out on my own and not expect anything from anyone. Sad, but true. I still have a hard time. The thought: ‘you could ask for help to do this’ rarely crosses my mind. Except for with Chris. Somehow he has me whooped, and I usually have no problem asking him for help. Maybe he wishes I was not so addicted to his help, but I think he should feel enamored. I have wholeheartedly given him my heart, and my ability to ask for help.
I am learning to ask for help, but the road is slow. Be patient with me.
Do you ask others for help? It is extremely hard for me. I have always struggled with it. Part of it I believe has to do with my issues with trusting others, and whether they will actually come through for me, but the rest I think results from having to do so much on my own at such an early age. I lost my parents when I was young, but most specifically my mom. I was just two months past 16 when she died. My sister was a strong force in my life, but at the end of the day she had her own life to live, and I was without a mom. My mom was sick for many years before she passed on, so I became resourceful early on. I learned that if I wanted something I would have to figure out how to attain it on my own.
Many years later I have wondered if my attempts to attain goals has been rooted in that early life dilemma to ruthlessly figure it out on my own. I rarely ask for help and, often, when I do, if I do not like what I hear, I pave my own way, steamroller and all. That does not mean that I steamroll others, more that I am going to do what I have set my mind to do.
Recently I read the book: “The Dance of Connection” by Harriet Lerner, and she shares an experience with a woman I think I would relate to:
“But this very same woman has enormous difficulty sharing her feelings of vulnerability with anyone close to her. A real do-it-yourself, she rarely acknowledges her own need for help and support. While she intellectually believes in the healing power of confiding in others, she herself is no good at it. As the eldest child of alcoholic parents, she had no experience of voicing her emotional needs and having them met. As an adult, she gains deep satisfaction from her capacity to give generously and to take care of others, but she is profoundly guarded against letting anyone return the favor. When she does share a serious problem, it’s as if she’s fiercely sweeping the ground in front of her to keep the other person from getting near her or emotionally connecting with her pain.” Page 42
There are countless times when I would go out and help anyone and everyone, but if asked if they can return the favor, I am at a loss for words. Partly, it is that the offer is freaky to me. I am not used to others asking if they can be of help. It is also that I am as the author says, “sweeping the ground” to keep others at a distance. I have often wondered if there is a way to put down the broom, and let others in. It is not easy, but I try to leave the broom in the garage, and invite others in, it just does not happen every time.
Any tips to keeping the dirt on the porch, and the offers open?