Monday, September 14, 2015
Feeling with clumsy fingers
The girlchild and I had a fascinating conversation today about wanting to help when help is not wanted.
She and her brother got into it hardcore over him making mac & cheese for lunch and her wanting to teach him a more efficient way to do it because she’d done it so many times and is good at it. And she loves to help, to be seen as a helper, to love the people she's loving through the help. She stomps off, he rolls his eyes, emotions fray all around.
So we talked through the wanting to help and what that feels like and how to separate wanting to help because you care about the person and wanting to help because you feel like you have something to offer and wanting to help because it satisfies something in you. And how sometimes, in the best of all worlds, it’s all three. But sometimes, it’s not and sometimes you have to check in with yourself about that. And sometimes as much as you want to help, it’s more important for people to do it on their own, to feel their way through an experience with clumsy fingers, not to rob them of the learning that they need and desire.
This concept of wanting to help when help is not wanted has been my most powerful and profound lesson this summer, from friends and former loves and people I would give a kidney for. Wanting to help is clumsy. And checking yourself as to why, to what your frustration might be, to how you orient yourself in relation to the person at the center of the trauma (Susan Silk pretty much nails it in this piece) is critical. Awash in the warm bath of good intentions, we forget that part. Next comes the anxiety of being seen as a "nonhelper" or not being helpful or aidful and you've tied intention squarely to identity. Pow! Pow!
So chicamia and her bro did a little back and forth about how to decline help politely and how to receive that decline graciously. It was a moment as a parent where you are teaching, but you are learning 100000x more, or to quote Robert Heinlein, "When one teaches, two learn."