At least once a day, one of my daughters will come to me and ask for help buttoning a dress, tying a shoe, or putting a ribbon into their hair. Almost every time they do, they will turn and stand several feet from me, far out of my reach.
“I can’t help you unless you come close,” I’ll say, and help them move into my lap, or close to my legs so that I can reach whatever they need assistance with.
A while ago, that phrase hung in my mouth for a minute, and I realized how true it was for me, in two ways:
I have trouble asking for help or even admitting I need it. Needing help puts me in someone’s debt.
I have trouble letting people come close enough to see me vulnerable and in need.
Sometimes, I get weary with the demands of parenting. There’s always another ribbon to tied, a lunch to make, a spoon, a piece of paper, the spelling of a princess’ name. Sometimes, I love giving all that help. But sometimes, I want just a few minutes alone to think without answering any questions.
And yet: this constant need, this asking for help is the marker of a great connection and closeness between my daughters and me. My oldest needs my help far less than she used to, and I’ve realized sometimes that means I hold her, embrace her, pick her up, or hug her less than I do my youngest. Being present to help means that closeness comes right on the heels of need, of serving, of doing-for.
A friend of mine just finished a few-month stint caring for an elderly relative. It was a challenging time; her relationship with that relative is sometimes fraught. There were a lot of demands on her energy. She had to stay vigilant to make sure her charge kept safe.
When her caregiving ended, she expected to feel relief and freedom. But instead, she felt a little at odds with herself. She felt the loss of purpose, of direction, and of usefulness.
This desire to be CLOSE is deeply woven into our hearts. I sometimes forget how urgent it is for me to both give that kind of care–and receive it.