Tuesday, February 24, 2015

The Little Red Hen Does it Herself

I'm an independent person. When I was a kid, my brother's favorite milkshake flavor was chocolate, so I always chose strawberry. He always chose orange Popsicles, so I chose cherry. He loved peanut butter, so I hated it. I never realized how many of these early assertions of  my independence revolved around food. That probably means something.

The LRH likes to do things herself, too.

"But wait," you cry. "She asked all the barnyard animals for help and no one would help! She had to do it herself!"

"Ah, but whom specifically did she ask?" I ask with a knowing smile.

At my house, if I throw out a question like "Who's going to help put away this laundry?" I will hear silence- and possibly a cricket. If I ask , "Elinor, will you help me put away the laundry?" I might get a groan, but there will be some assistance. A specific need requires a specific question of someone.

Sure, I've thrown out a random question on Facebook, hoping that someone will help me out with a project, or babysitting. But, if you've got something specific in mind, from a specific person, a random Facebook post is not the way to go! Really, that drives me crazy- the subtle to not-so-subtle hint for me to fetch something, do something, help with something. I know, I should be a better person and just recognize the need, but like I tell my kids, sitting on the floor while pouting and declaring that you want toast is NOT how you get a piece of toast from me. Ask the question.

True, sometimes we may not know what to ask for. True, sometimes we know how to help without being asked. True, sometimes we shouldn't need to ask- or at least we feel that way. That is most often my problem. Can't the rest of the barnyard look around and see that some wheat clearly needs to be planted if we want bread any time soon? In my experience, the definitive answer is no, they cannot. And why is that? Probably because the wheat is most important to the LRH, and she has probably planted the wheat so many times before that no one even thinks to help or sees that there is a need. Wheat planting is always taken care of- like the dishes and the laundry, and the making of meals, and the turning on of the Wiggles DVD.

And really, who was the LRH asking for help? The LRH is off talking to the goose and the pig, who are clearly not in the state of mind to be planting wheat. At least they were honest and said they weren't going to help. Why ask the question then? Was it to just reassure herself that the LRH is more productive than those other farm creatures. Selfish. Was it because the LRH really didn't mind doing the project herself, but just wanted a bit of recognition or attention? Kind of selfish again. Was it so that the LRH would feel justified in eating the bread "all by herself"? I think it may come down to the fact that this LRH still likes to get a gold star and a smile from the teacher.

Still, there is hope! If the LRH can learn to humble herself and time the asking, she usually gets happy results. If she needs help with the baby, timing her request while the Rooster is not in the middle of a raid on "Clash of Clans," delivers. If she needs help with the laundry, timing her request not when the kids are actually getting along, delivers . If she needs help with the dishes, asking instead of grumpily shoving dinner plates into the dishwasher, delivers.

 Honestly, this isn't about hen-shaming or goose-shaming. I think we've all been the hen asking for help, and we've all been the goose who doesn't help, for a myriad of reasons. Ultimately, this rambling just illustrates how my perspective is changing. I can't always trust or understand another person's motives, but before I react and resent, I can step back and evaluate mine. For example, before I had my fourth baby I was really concerned that I would go into labor and the house would be a mess. So every night, I would frantically sweep, do all the dishes, grumble at the kids to clean up all the toys, and act resentful. I told everyone I was paranoid that people would come to my house while I was in the hospital and if the house was a mess they might a) think I'm a slob, b) I'd come home to an equally big mess, or c) people might want to clean the mess up, but think I liked my house to be messy and for fear of offending me, they wouldn't clean up. Consequently, I resented the possibility of people coming because I wanted a clean house. Ridiculous, right?

I have read this great book called The Bonds That Make Us Free  by C. Terry Warner, and it is filled with examples of how we put ourselves into situations where, deep down, we know enable people to hurt or offend us. And, he gives really great counsel as to how to break that cycle. Obviously, this LRH has far to go, but it really opened my eyes to recognizing what I can control and my motivations for acting.

Bottom line- if you want help with the wheat, ask. If you want to do it yourself, don't ask. If you want a pat on the back, ask for one- directly. "Hey, look at this beautiful wheat I planted! I'm so excited about it because I want to bake bread in a few months and I'll totally be able to write an entire blog series about the process! Isn't that cool?" You'll be met with interest or ambivalence, but you'll get some sort of response!

No matter what though...

Bake the bread. Share the slices.

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