I think I missed an opportunity to experience something beautiful today. Why? Because I’m prideful and insecure.
With five inches of snow yesterday, school was canceled and today there was a two hour delayed start. Since we’ve had the baby, Kullervo has been taking the kids to school in the morning, with a two hour delay, the responsibility fell on me. The kids were ready for school, and with snow and ice and salt all over the sidewalks, it seemed obvious to me that babywearing an infant and pushing a reluctantly riding toddler in the stroller was not enough while taking the other two to school. Clearly, I needed to bring the dog along.
There is a method to my madness-with this terrible weather and the snow and the ice and the salt, I haven’t been walking Dally like I was before the baby came. It’s been too icy for Kullervo to take her running at night, because it’s even harder to avoid ice in the dark. Also, he’s been crazy busy at work (if he still exists; I don’t know that I’ve seen him enough recently to be certain that he isn’t just a hologram or a wonderful dream that’s going to fade away).
So, this morning I put the dog into her face harness. I have multiple harnesses and collars for walking her; my ideal would be for her to just naturally walk on a loose leash… her ideal would be to RUN! RUN! RUN ALL THE TIME! I have a pinch collar that I’ve been training her with, and a face collar that annoys her to the point that she won’t pull. Snow, ice, salt, baby, and toddler and all, I figured today wasn’t the day to train her, but get her some exercise.
So we walked to school. The sidewalks were thankfully not too bad on the main road—in fact, they were perhaps oversalted in front of the schools. I mentioned to the kids that we should have brought a brush and dustpan because there is a salt shortage in the stores, and our sidewalk is relatively treacherous. (Sorry, neighbors.)
I kissed the Bigs and they held hands and trudged into school, stopping to pick up some clean snow to eat on their way inside. I convinced Henry to climb back into the stroller and turned around to head home. I started walking home when Fitz’s hat fell off, into some slush. No big deal, right? I retrieved it, shook it out, and then attempted to put it back on his head. But with my mittens on, I couldn’t get a good grip. No big deal, right? I just had to take my mittens off.
In order to take off my mittens, I had to unwind the dog leash from my hand.
As soon as I gave Dally some slack, she started edging away.
Henry decided it was time to stand up in the stroller and lean backwards, causing the stroller to begin to tip over.
So, I had a hatless infant, a struggling dog, a tipping toddler, and mittens tangled up in the leash.
I just needed a minute to sort everything back out. To pull Dally back and get her to sit so I could re-mitten. To instruct Henry to sit back down and make sure the stroller was steady. To secure Fitz’s hat and put my mittens back on. I could totally do it, it just needed some juggling.
A woman approached me from behind, and attempted to take the leash. In the moment, I was confused. I resisted. I said I was fine. She, wordlessly, attempted to hold onto the stroller. I resisted. I said no thanks. I sorted myself out quickly, and walked on.
I have seen this woman before. In fact, to be honest, and to my current shame, I haven’t had the kindest of feelings about her. She’s an older Asian woman who picks up her kindergarten grandson from school when I am picking up Hazel. I see her regularly. She doesn’t speak English. And I have been certain that she has thought nasty things about me because she has fussed over me when I’ve had Fitz at school pickup—attempting to help cover him up with a scarf, etc.
I have assumed that she has been judging me, thinking that I’m incompetent or that I shouldn’t have a new baby out of the house or that I’m doing everything wrong.
As I was walking home this morning, though, I was imagining what it would have been like if I had allowed her to hold onto the dog, or push the stroller, and we had walked together. I was thinking about how uncomfortable I would feel, walking with someone I couldn’t speak with. I’m an awkward enough conversationalist that when you throw in a foreign language I’m pretty much dead on arrival. But, then I started wondering what if I had let her anyway. What if I had let a stranger help me shoulder the load?
I realized that the unkind thoughts I’ve had about her, and the assumptions I’ve made that she is judging me are all me and my own insecurities. She hasn’t said anything—she doesn’t speak my language. The actions that she has taken, that I assumed were assertive and presumptive—what if they were an older woman reaching out to a younger woman to help? What if they were the acknowledgement of the challenges of juggling multiple children and responsibilities, and an attempt to lighten the burden?
I don’t let people help me. I don’t ask for help, and I am very resistant to accepting it. I like that about myself, but it has a flip side. I am lucky because I have good, wonderful people in my life, and I’ve had good friends basically smack me over the head and help me over my protestations. One friend once said, “I know you don’t need help. I know you can do it all on your own. But I am going to help you anyway.”
I’m always surprised when people show up for me. When people are willing to go out of their way for me. Like, sobbing into my pillow at night surprised. It’s clearly something broken inside of me that makes it so hard for me to accept it. Something that, for all of my independence and can-do-it-all-by-myselfishness, I need to fix.
I might have missed an opportunity today. I might have spent the rest of this year walking in companionable silence with an older woman from another country, someone who was gracious enough to try to help someone clearly juggling too many things. Someone who was willing to put herself out there for someone else even though she couldn’t communicate her intentions verbally in a way that I could understand. I might have gotten to know her over time, gotten to understand her, gotten to learn from her.
But because I’m too prideful to accept help, and because I’m too insecure to realize that people who offer help aren’t offering it because they are critical of how incompetent I am, I didn’t. Because of that, I might have missed out on something beautiful. At the very least, I certainly missed an opportunity to let someone else lighten my load this morning.
Now, in writing this, I see obvious tie ins here to Jesus Christ and to my Christianity and my willingness (or reluctance?) to accept His sacrifice for me. I’ll leave that alone for now, and spend some time on my knees working on that.