When we first thought we were moving to Europe, I read all sorts of books about the country’s culture. I learned that the folks were reserved, saved humor for family or very intimate friendships, and did not intrude on neighbors’ lives, meaning, nobody was likely to show up at your door as you unpacked, bearing a plate of cookies.
I worried. I’m not reserved and I don’t really know how not to inject humor into any situation. But as for not intruding, I feel a kinship there. I do not expect “neighborliness.” When we moved here to the southeastern States, I was floored by all the neighborliness. It kind of threw me, almost to the point of suspicion..
It’s likely because of how I was raised. My parents, in our neighborhood, would help any neighbor, but they never asked for help, barring an emergency (open gas valve, car accident, things like that). I called a neighbor when a frog was loose in my bedroom (frog came in through the roof stack–nightmare, trust me) and when a snake was on my patio, or a giant bug was lounging near our pool (I have issues)…
My husband is on a camping trip this weekend. Two years ago he was on a a camping trip, and our son had an accident at his preschool which required me to take him to the ER while his sister was at school. I called my friend, without really thinking it through, only knowing she happened to be home…. I remember saying, as I drove to my son’s preschool, “I don’t know what I’ll need, but if you could just be available for the next few hours.” Ridiculous. My friend is a true friend.
Basically, I call for help when I can’t think straight. But for general life stuff, like running out
of a certain grocery item or office supply… It doesn’t occur to me to ask for help. I kind of hate to do so. It’s like admitting defeat–readily admitted in the face of a snake, frog, or giant cockroach. Other stuff, no way. I wonder sometimes what that says about me.
Just today, our daughter told me about some boy in the cafeteria who bothers her and her friends. She’s tried to tell him to stop, tried to get the attention of the adults in the area, to no avail… We kept talking about it, I kept reminding her that if you do everything you can, and it doesn’t work, your next step is to go up, to a grown-up. That’s what grown-ups are for. If you’ve helped yourself as much as you can, and you’re still in need, it’s okay to ask for help. It only makes sense.
That’s what I tell my children. For me though, I’ve somehow decided that unless I’ve lost my mind due to a phobia or an injured child, I will not ask for help. Even if I’m still in need. I do not want to need. It’s a very… Uncomfortable feeling. I would rather fail, or not do something, than ask for help.
That’s messed up.
Another dear friend has called me out a couple of times for neglecting an obvious resource my husband and I have, should we ever want to get away for a night (hard for us to do, as we do not have family in town and paying for an over night sitter is cost-prohibitive). I sincerely do not want to impose on a friend. My friends have already raised their children, I don’t want them to have to help me raise mine.
And truth be told, I don’t really like the idea of asking even family to care for our kids for a night or two. It just feels like an imposition. We did leave the kids with my husband’s mom for two whole nights this past summer. It was great for her to have time with the children, great for the two of us to be on our own, but I was comfortable doing it only because our kids are now old enough to be easier to hang out with for a couple nights. My husband’s mother watched our kids for a night four years ago, but I felt horribly about it. She lost sleep, she was tired, and I felt, honestly, like a jerk.
It’s like I don’t think I deserve the help. Or worse, that I think that getting help is all about me. Sometimes people help because it makes them happy. I mean, it’s the reason I help people. Why don’t I assume that of family and friends?
Maybe it’s because what I need from friends and family is not help, but something else. I want and will ask my friends and family to read what I write, for example. I want them to remember things about me, remember what I say, what I believe. My feelings actually get hurt if they don’t remember. But I’d never ask them to watch my kids, or for a cup of milk.
Again: Messed up.