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Sunday, January 17, 2010

You Can Help By Staying Out Of My Way

Despite the nasty head cold that has hit me, I still thought it was a good idea to climb onto the roof today to take down the Christmas decorations. The temperature was, after all, above seasonal, and there was no snow on the roof, so what better time to get the job done? (I mean, what better time than waiting until spring, that is...)

As always, Alexander was helping me out. When I began preparing for the job, Francine reminded me of the time Alexander was 2 years old and helped me with the same task. Fran was at the hospital visiting her mom, and Alexander and I were home by ourselves. I went out onto the roof, and was handing things through the window to my son who was watching me from inside. I passed Alexander the mini Santa Sleigh and two reindeer through the window, and, amazingly, the little guy was carefully placing them on a towel I'd laid out in the hallway.

This afternoon, after he helped me get things off the roof (again, receiving items through the window while I passed them to him), we moved on to the garage where we were packing the lights and rooftop decorations away.

He started off by announcing he was going to be the "tester" and insisted on testing each and every plug in item to ensure it was still working properly before we packed it away.

Once the testing was complete, he said. "How can I help, Dad?"

And, in a sudden flashback to my own childhood I could hear my own father's voice: You can help by staying out of my way.

To hear my father's words stated so bluntly, I know it sounds harsh; but my Dad really was a great guy. I know he loved me and loved doing things with me and I couldn't have loved him more than I did as a child. There were plenty of times that we worked on things together, but almost as often, there were certain tasks that were better off as solo efforts. I think it might have been the simple fact that there were some tasks in which I wasn't strong enough or tall enough or coordinated enough to properly help out, and he didn't know quite how to incorporate my eager yearnings to be a part of it. Thus the "stay clear" advice. I actually hold no grudge about it -- in fact, I've joked about it for years, at how good I was at helping around the house by staying out of the way.

So, when my son asked me the same question, because I wasn't feeling well and all I wanted to do was get back inside the house so I could be comfortable and warm again, my father's words rang in my head. After all, most of the work I had to do was pretty simple and a one-person job. It would take me longer to instruct him in a task than it would just to do it myself.

Then I thought about how that might make my son feel.

Devastated.

It would likely be the same way he reacted the other day when he wanted to come in to work with me, but, instead, had to go to school. He was truly crushed.

So then I thought back to the time he was 2 years old and I was passing him things through the window. I thought back to the proud smile on his face, the wonderful sense of accomplishment he must have had knowing he was helping Daddy, and I seriously considered what needed to be done.

Then I thought back to all the times when my own father accepted my willingness to help with a smile and encouraging words, and how wonderful it felt to be doing something alongside him. Some of my fondest childhood memories involve working hand in hand with my Dad.

"Well," I said. "You can start by helping me take all the clips off these three light strings. Then, when we're done that, let's see if you can get the little Santa into this box, and these wreaths into that box. Sound good?"

"That sounds great!" he said (Actually, he said That sounds gwate! in that cute manner of speaking which I know I'm going to miss when he gets older and begins pronouncing his "R's" more clearly)

And the coolest thing about that exchange wasn't that I felt I was giving my son a little boost of self-confidence or achievement.

No, I was giving myself that little boost.

And, despite the nasty head-cold that was getting worse as the day went on, I can honestly say that I never felt better.

1 comment:

lime said...

i can't tell you how this post warms my heart. i'm so glad you paused tp ponder the weight of words in this context.