Wanted: Help

I do not like asking for help. At last week’s lecture on teen boys, Rosalind Wiseman said getting help is a lifelong skill, I agreed, intellectually.

I am the driver who does not like asking for directions. In fact, I am the sole long-distance driver in my family. Chris’s Parkinson’s Disease — or his meds — have compromised his ability to drive. My son does not yet have his permit. We don’t own a car any more. But I am the family driver, metaphorically too.

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At the Yacht Club with Lindsay a few weeks ago. We were toasting out new rules for living.

In 2009, on Lindsay’s birthday, we made up 7 rules for living on the back of a paper napkin while drinking champagne at the Yacht Club. This year we did it again, but had to finish up over coffee the next morning at the Inn. Lindsay Pontius and I made up seven new rules for living. And I will blog about these rules in the coming weeks.

In the last round of rules, my number one rule was Pile on the People. Which I then changed to Pile on the Useful People. Because, at some point, I felt that I was helping more than I was helped by helpful babysitters, caregivers, friends.

For example, I remember hiring a professional babysitter when Hayden was a tot. She took Hayden to the playground, while I stayed home and folded laundry. I loved the playground. I hated the laundry.

Luckily, at that time, I had a therapist, April Feldman, who helped me see the error in this equation. Do the fun stuff. Farm out the chores, like the laundry.

Because of Chris’s Parkinson’s, everyone says to me (and I say to myself) “Get help!” But piling on more people (for me) is often piling on more work. I am exceedingly generous, even to the point of bankruptcy.

This may have to do with my white (and wife) guilt for needing to hire caregivers at all. Caregivers are often people of color. I dont’ want anyone to think that I am better or believe I am better than they are. We are all equal.

The typewriter on the counter at the inn in Westport. So charming.
The typewriter on the counter at the inn in Westport. So charming.

So what can I do?

  1. Care about the helpers
  2. Go to the park
  3. Farm out the tasks I don’t like
  4. Get help
  5. See that asking for help requires practice.

I wrote this at the 475 Riverside Drive ecumenical library’s first and third Wednesday of every month writing group a couple of weeks ago.

The post was inspired by today’s Daily Prompt. The task was to grab any book, open anywhere, go to the 10th word. I grabbed Melissa Gilbert’s Prairie Tale: A Memoir. My word was “wanted.” As in, Wanted: Help.

Boys Are People Too

English: , American author
Rosalind Wiseman, courtesy of Wikipedia

I have blogged about my son driving me insane with his Xbox habit.

At Trinity School last night I got some insights into my son and his boy culture. Rosalind Wiseman spoke about the social pressures and dynamics of being a young man in today’s hyper connected world, based on research from her new book, Masterminds & Wingmen.

Here were some of my take aways:

We say to girls, “‘You can do it. You can do anything.’ And girls have a vibrant support system.” Wiseman is not knocking this important empowerment base for girls — after all, she’s also the author of Queen Bees & Wannabes so she knows girls. But Wiseman says, ‘If you are a 13-year old boy, you don’t see that you have power.” Because, at 13, a boy is still a boy and a girl is a young woman.

Wiseman likened the emotional life of 11th grade boys to 8th grade girls. This cracked me up. This is who I’ve got at home!

For her book, Wiseman interviewed 200 boys and 40 girls. She came away with some surprises.

One gem? “Straight theater boys get more hookups than football players.” (All right! Let’s hear it for the theater boys.)

More gems:

Happiness is …

  •  Meaning beyond one’s self
  • Hope of success
  • Social connection
  • Satisfying work

I love archetypes. And Wiseman, with the boys she interviewed, came up with some types:
The Mastermind
The Associate
The Bouncer
The Fly
The Entertainer
The Punching Bag
A Conscience

But these boys don’t mind being stereotyped. Remember that rule for happiness? They are happy to have social connections.

I loved Wiseman’s advice to a boy when he criticizes another boy’s sensitivity, “You cannot deny someone’s emotional truth.” So true!

She also says, “There is a difference between snitching and reporting.”

And this! “It is a social skill to get help.” One mom I chatted with after Wiseman’s presentation said she she was going to put this quote on sticky notes all over the house.

When a boy comes to a parent with bad news, here’s what to say, “1. I’m sorry this happened. 2. It’s hard to come forward. I respect that you did. 3, Now let’s think about what we can do about this.”

And when there’s conflict, expect push back.

When you get a “Bad news bomb,” Wiseman says a parent can realize:

  • This is one moment, not a lifetime.
  • Don’t make excuses.
  • Ask for what you need.
  • If it gets heated, you might say, “Let’s talk in 10 minutes. I can’t hear you over the sound of my heart beating so loud in my ears.”

I am going to try and talk about the tough stuff with my son. Wiseman advises, ‘Talk to your son about falling in love and breaking up. Don’t expect the generic advice to ‘respect a girl’ to be useful, especially at a party. What does respect mean?’

Boys, like girls, feel used and confused over relationships. Some boys asked Wiseman how to deal with aggressive drunk girls.

Wiseman began her lecture with a scenario of how one boy felt shamed by other boys’ comments around his body. Yes, body image is important to boys.

This lecture helped me realize my son’s “emotional life is deep and rich.”

Even though my boy always seems to have some tech thing in his hand, he still needs his hand held!

And I’m going to hold his hand — and yes, embarrass the hell out of him while doing so.

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Rosalind Wiseman talks about boy culture.