Asking for Help

Things I’m learning from my son:

Every animal learns the necessary survival skills first. A horse can run within hours of birth. An adder can bite. A human baby can ask for help. I think this is a lesson we forget as we get older.

Before a baby can understand what it needs, before it knows who it can trust, it cries out to the world that it needs something, from some trustworthy person nearby. Seeking help is the all-important first skill that we learn. We learn it, and then spend our entire adolescence trying to forget it. We try to forge out our own identity as someone competent, as defined by our own independence.

When we first moved into this house, Shannon asked me if we could put a door between the bedroom and the bathroom. I handed her a hammer, pointed to the wall, and said: “let’s find out!” As she opened the drywall, she found there had once been a door there. Putting the door back should be easy. That began what was our first project as homeowners, the upstairs bathroom remodel. It’s still going on. Several projects have come and gone, many of less importance, but that this one remains incomplete. I’ve been stubborn. I should have all the skills I need to finish. I shouldn’t need to ask for help, and so I didn’t.

Then came this boy. He asks for help unashamedly, and it takes a lot to help him: sleep, energy, time. All of it is given willingly, but it leaves little time to finish the bathroom. That bathroom must be whole before he becomes self-mobile. So, I asked for help.

And I’m very grateful to say that it came. Stuart with drywall and mudding, Renee with paint. Brian, for a week, with absolutely everything. Help came without reservation or judgment. After nine years of beating myself up for never getting it completed, for not having the skill set to do it all, the end is in sight. It turns out all I needed was to be willing to use that very first skill of all, that defining skill that is the most important for our survival. I needed to ask for help.

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