Thursday, February 23, 2012

One Huge Little Word

The other night, while C and I were busying ourselves with evening chores (packing Em’s lunch, cooking dinner, briefly contemplating folding massive amounts of laundry, trying to scrape unidentifiable gook off the coffee table…) Emmy was entertaining herself with one of her beloved toys. I am so grateful that my daughter is now of the age where she is starting to engage her blossoming imagination in play. I love watching Em pretend her dolls (and teddy graham crackers) are alive, giving them squeaky little voices and animating their bodies with her hands. It’s just one of those things that makes me a very happy mama.

C and I sat down to eat dinner while Em was still playing on her own. I hardly noticed when Em tiptoed up next to me and tugged at my pant leg. And then I heard:

“Mama. Hepp”

Oh, lordy. My heart just melted.

C and I have been repeating the word “help” to Emmy in various situations. We’ve been trying to encourage her to tell us when she can’t reach something she wants, can’t figure out the way a toy works, or when she is just generally frustrated. Every time we’ve lent Em a hand with some toddler-sized trauma (i.e., weeble wobble stuck in weeble wobble house), we’ve prefaced our assistance with “Do you need HELP, Emmy? Let’s see if Mama or Dada can HELP.”

But to hear the actual word “help” (or “hepp”, as the case may be) come out of her mouth caught me off guard and sent me for an emotional ride I hadn’t been prepared for. I teared up, mouth agape. I asked my husband if he understood the gravity of the situation (he nodded, appeasing me). And then I took Em’s little hand as she led me to the “situation”. A toy she wanted to play with was stuck between the couch and rocking chair. Clearly adult intervention was needed.

I know, I know. I’m probably making a really big deal out of a not-so-big-deal kind of a thing. Every child learns to say “help” eventually. I’m sure my urge to throw a block party upon hearing my daughter’s first verbalized cry for assistance is a little over the top.

But here’s the thing. I have NEVER been good at asking for help myself. As a kid (and well into my adulthood) I’ve always assumed that asking people for help was being an imposition. I always felt like I could either figure the problem out myself, or just learn to “deal with it”. Why bother others with my issues? They’ve got better things to do.

I think it’s just one of those traits that I was born with. My mom often recounted a story of my experience in kindergarten. Apparently the teachers were concerned because I wasn’t getting my work done in class. I would just sit there and stare at construction paper. When my mother approached me about the situation, and asked me why I was refusing to do any of the assignments I was given, I told her it was because I hadn’t been given any crayons to work with. My mother then asked me why I didn’t just raise my hands and ask the teacher for crayons? I told my mom I was too embarrassed to ask for help.

Luckily, I’ve matured since kindergarten, and have learned (albeit rather late in life) that asking for help is actually a sign of strength, not weakness. It took true love, pregnancy, and motherhood to get me to a point where I can now raise my hand and ask for a box of crayons when I need it. I’m still not stellar at reaching out to others in times of need, but I’m evolving in that department. Slowly.

My daughter has conviction and courage that I find enviable. Even at this early age, she is daring, inquisitive, and opinionated. I love these traits, and hope that as her mother I can support her maturation into a strong-willed young adult (even if it bites me in the behind every once in a while), and a super confident woman. I hope that Emmy never gets embarrassed to ask for help, and that I can encourage her to continue to use this little word with big meaning as a sign of her strength, not of weakness.


  1. Actually, the implications of her asking for "help" at under 18 months old are kinda impressive. She's making the connection that Mama and Dada can fix it if she uses the right word which is pretty abstract. It's not like a ball she can see and identify, it's an action and one that has many different manifestations.

    Besides, it's always awesome when they come up with new words.

    Please don't ever hesitate to me for crayons any time you need them. Even if it's my most treasured silver sparkly crayon. Even if you have to hint that you need's yours.

    1. Thank you for the kind words, and for the standing offer to share your crayons. Do they have silver sparkly ones? Might have to come over and borrow that from you real soon. I'll try not to use it as eye makeup. I swear.:)