Help me help you.
This line from Jerry McGuire keeps running through my mind this past week as I navigate the world of three hormonal children.
The “helpfulness” I try to provide is usually met with an eye roll or a “whatever mom” these days. I know nothing. I thwart all fun. I limit. I am nobody’s favorite. I am the bad cop all the time.
It hurts to be seen this way when all I want to do is help. How did this become me? I use to be the fun one. But now I feel like my only role is to make sure everyone gets homework done, piano practiced, chores finished, and their schedule managed. There is no time left for me to be the fun one.
This past week we had the funeral for Grandpa Dickie. And although the loss was not a surprise. The thing is, I am Midwestern and therefore programmed for the long goodbye. It is what we are known for. But, even when saying goodbye for the last time is long and drawn out, it doesn’t make it any easier.
(here Grandpa Dickie teaches me to swim in the backyard pool)
When you say goodbye to those who have helped make you who you are, a hole is left behind. After two funerals in the past month, I feel off kilter. And sad. I have been telling myself all the things – he is better off, it is a blessing in the end, etc. But none of it really helps heal the hole. Only time will do that.
I keep going, just hoping for things to return to normal. I hustle and hurry and fill my calendar, just hoping I don’t notice the hurt. I wear my masks, take care of my kids, and hide away in the January cold. I try to be the person Grandpa Dickie and Uncle Ken taught me to be. I am acting, though, not really being that person.
While hiding in the January cold, my youngest wanted to go sledding so badly. It was cold outside, really cold. Nobody wanted to go out into the cold with her. But she needed to get out. She was so tired of being in. So she negotiated with me. I needed to get away from myself, so we headed to the sledding hill for a few runs quick before dinner.
As the sun began to set, she tried her best to get some momentum down the hill, only the snow was not really very good for sledding. It was too cold to make the wet, sticky snow necessary to pack down for speed. She became frustrated, but wouldn’t give up. I snapped a picture as she worked away.
Looking through the lens, at the mounded body as she rode down the saucer on her tummy, I decided she looked just like a creepy, crawly tick of springtime breaking for the grassy meadow at the end of the hill. A shiver ran down my spine, not from the cold. I brush my leg. I picture ticks crawling up the walls. Ticks engorged on the dog’s neck. I am grateful for winter.
I post the picture that draws a comment from a friend. She is reminded of a turtle heading back to the lake. Visions of a young turtle breaking for freedom, new life, or the unknown are brought to mind, maybe because she wasn’t out there freezing, I think. Then I look at the picture again.
Of course. If only I would have turned my head away from the meadow and toward the lake, would I have thought the same?
The truth is, I am the same mom all year. Sometimes that person comes across as helpful. Sometimes that person comes across worthy of an eye roll. The thing that changes is our place in time. I just have to keep on doing me, waiting for the perspective change from meadow grass and spine shivers to lake view.
This morning, as I sat feeling particularly sorry for myself because yesterday was a snow day and all three kids were home all day filled with emotion and I still have my healing hole of loss. The day ran long and was filled with too many eye rolls. So my sorry self came prepared at dawn to take God to task for all the things that need fixing. Only instead I heard God whisper to me, “help me help you.”
What? I thought. You stole my line.
Yet, only a whisper in reply, “help me, help you.”
What does that mean? Am I focusing too much on the emotion of these three and not on their potential to work things out for themselves? Am I getting bogged down in burdens that are not mine to carry? Should I focus instead on my hurt and my pain? Am I hiding in my masks and pretending too much? What do you mean, God?
Bottom line, my job is to raise healthy, functioning adults. But, I also need to be an example of one who has her own shit together. And maybe when the eye rolling is at its peak, it means that I am not doing a very good job doing a healthy me. Instead, I am hustling hard to manage other people so I don’t have to face myself. Ouch, it hurts to see that in myself.
Remember the book Free Range Kids published in 2010? It was a movement sparked from a mom who let her child ride the NYC subway. The world went crazy from 2010 through 2015 with articles and blog posts about the topic. Do you free range? Do you protect your kids? Where is the balance? Now there is a website which encourages parents to let kids do things on their own. (let that sink in…we have a website that encourages parents to let kids try stuff on their own, like load the dishwasher.)
As I looked back into this book, remembering the freedom it gave me in 2010 to let my kids play outside and help with load the dishes imperfectly, I wonder if maybe I need another reminder to let go a little.
I am not talking full on free range – like letting my three hitch hike to Vegas. Just a reminder that letting some imperfection come into the mix can be good for a mama’s sanity. As I have one get closer to college applications, one starting high school and one starting middle next year, I ponder the line between encouragement and letting go or just allowing them to be themselves a lot. When is it no longer my problem? When can I just phone it in and call it good enough? How much do I nag/help/encourage (and what is the difference anyway)?
Is it on really on me that they “make it?”
What is the goal?
To be enough? To be themselves? To get into a college? To get into the “best” college? To make sure they have some options? To make sure they have all options?
Help me help you.
Help me. Help you?
Help me find you.
Help me be me.