I met my dear friend and her three year old daughter at the Children’s Museum this morning. Her daughter, we’ll call her Kayla, is an absolute delight, even for those like me who are prone to hives when surrounded by too many of the younger set. She is in exactly the 50th percentile in height and weight, has the most adorable curly blond tendrils and little pink glasses that she is always pushing back up with a furrow to her brow. She has a stubborn streak born from her early months as a survivor after a premature delivery complicated with additional health issues. Like all three year olds, she like to state, “I am a big girl,” and ,”I can do it,” whenever someone steps in uninvited to render aide.
But this survivor has another side.
My friend and I were sitting on a nearby bench while Kayla played in and on a hybrid treehouse/ playground within the museum. Kayla scrambled halfway up a climbing net, looked back at her mom and said in a pitiful voice, “Help me, help me. I’m stuck.” Now, my friend, being an awesome mom, immediately read the situation and realized her child was fine. We stayed on the bench, watching, but not moving to offer assistance. Moments later, two other children approached her and helped her climb the rest of the way to the platform. She began to repeat a circular route: up the net, across the bridge, through the house, and down the stairs. Each time she arrived back at the net, she would look around to see if there was anyone, child or adult, that looked like they might lend a hand. If she spied a willing soul, she would ask for help in a soft voice. If no hands appeared particularly helpful, she would easily scamper up the net on her own, a satisfied grin wide on her face.
How many times do we do that in our own lives? You do not need to be three or even female to act like a damsel in distress, calling out for someone to rescue us when we are perfectly capable of helping ourselves? It is an easy trap to fall in to that is reinforced by other’s good intentions.
I saw a lot of myself in Kayla today. I am also a survivor with a strong stubborn streak. And apparently an inner three year old. I will bristle all too easily at unwanted advice, my inner child stomping and shouting, “I can do it.” While, at other times, I can act like a damsel in distress, helpless, so that I do not have take on the responsibility myself. Because Kayla’s mom does not reinforce her distressed damsel, Kayla will learn what she is capable of and will develop independence and confidence. Sometimes we all need that lesson.
As I have written before, there is no shame in asking for help, but there should be a timer set on assistance. Take that hand, but know when it is time to let go.