How is it that my children became so skilled at asking for help, in particular, for my help? Here is a typical scenario. I am peacefully minding my own business somewhere in our house when the following is yelled from a distant room: "MAAHHHM. Do you know where the – blank – is?" When you fill in the blank, put in something that is usually as difficult to find as, say, mayonnaise or maybe clean laundry. Then you will get the idea of how much, and how often, I am asked for help. No matter how minuscule the cause, I am generally assumed to be the go-to girl. Not only do they gift me with some sort of Google-earth view of the interior of our house, but they also assume that I will willingly stop whatever I was peacefully doing to help them out in their time of – I hesitate to even use the word – need.
Helping your children do every little thing comes pretty naturally in
the beginning. I mean, they actually do need you to help them change
their diapers, tie their shoes, and find the sock hiding under a
mountain of Legos. But here, at the end of motherhood, it really should
be tapering off. It is becoming painfully clear that I have not trotted out Roseanne Barr’s great line nearly enough: "A uterus is not a tracking device." That should have been my mantra. I am well aware that I could fix this problem if I really wanted to. Clarity with children is everything, so all I have to do is give up my life-long addiction to being a goody-goody and no longer struggle with the loss I feel knowing my time deep in the heart of mothering is over. Then my responses to their requests would be more appropriate, more along the lines of, "Are you insane?"
That said, I still can’t believe they are so comfortable asking for help. It may be gender related, but I don’t think so. Mate has been known to huddle in our bed, shivering in the grip of a 103 degree fever and still resolutely insist he doesn’t need a thing, and certainly not chicken soup. And they definitely did not learn this ask-for-help-before-you’ve-even-tried-to-solve-the-problem from moi. Hardly. Remember that Simon and Garfunkle song, "I Am a Rock?" That was written with me in mind.
So if behavioral modeling is out, what is left to explain their adoption of behavior so alien to their parents?
At the risk of sounding horrendously narcissistic, it was all me.
The first culprit is plain old habit. We do what we do and we keep on doing it, like some golf ball struck from the moon. Then there is my hyper-awareness of how swiftly everything is passing. From that kind of existential standpoint, why not just do everything? It’s all going to be over in a millisecond. And then there is my old pal, overcompensation. This is where my fear of delivering my boys a childhood replete with all the perceived slights and deficits of my own childhood trumps my good sense. Habit, existential dread and fear: my mothering staples.