Since my granny moved in with us last week, I’ve been thinking a lot about the differences between her generation and mine, and how that affects our behavior and choices. Gran is extremely independent, and loathe to accept help from others. She wants to do everything by herself, even when it’s something she should not be doing in her present condition.
For instance, her last major fall at her house occurred because she got it in her head to let the dog out the back door. Unfortunately, she was not supposed to be walking due to her fractured pelvis from a previous fall, much less trying to navigate the steps out her back door. This particular fall resulted in her nearly completely severing her pinky toe on her left foot, which required many stiches and further urging from her doctor to avoid walking for the time being.
I think part of the issue is just the mind-set of that generation. We had a lot of the same issues with Rob’s Nan when she lived with us. She did not want to be a burden, and so tried to do things on her own instead of asking for help. We were never particularly successful at convincing her that it was far better for everyone concerned if she “disturbed” us by asking for help to get to the restroom in the middle of the night, instead of waking us up bolt upright from the THUD of her hitting the floor because she had fallen again.
And I will spare you the gory details of an elderly person who is not thinking clearly trying to clean her own diaper when she didn’t make it to the toilet in time. Not a pretty sight. And FAR more work for me.
I think another part of the issue is that they have both had a mild but worsening form of Alzheimer’s or dementia. I think sometimes they just flat out forget that they can no longer accomplish certain tasks without help, or that it simply does not even occur to them to ask. It is strange how the aging mind works, and which core aspects of your character seem to linger even after other things are lost.
And yet, it seems that there is a much different mindset in the current generation. So many people think the world “owes” them fancy shoes, big screen TV’s, game consoles, etc, whether they have worked to earn them or not. I guess I am far more like the older generation than the current one, since I definitely tend to avoid asking for help, sometimes even when I should. Bear with me for a moment as I sound like an old lady and say, “Life is not fair. You get what you deserve and what you work for. The world does not owe you anything.”
I must add at this point that Rob and I were briefly on government assistance, when Nick was a newborn. We found ourselves (through our own poor choices) with an unexpected pregnancy, and Rob was working fast food for minimum wage. I believe that this is exactly what government assistance should be for: SHORT-TERM help. We worked our butts off, got a lot of greatly appreciated help from certain family members, and are still paying on some of the debt that we incurred during those rough years.
But I think it was during our generation that the change really occurred, because I knew many peers who shared our mindset, as well as many who have the modern “entitlement” mindset. We even knew one person our age who had calculated that if she had her FOURTH child on welfare, she would be getting enough assistance to attend a local private college, rather than just the lowly public school in our area. And we wonder why the system is in trouble.
But I would like to put forth that refusing to ask for help when you truly need it is not necessarily a good thing, either. As mentioned above, there are times when you can actually be a danger yourself, or end up causing more work for the person that you depend on than if you had just asked for help in the first place, but even in everyday terms, I think it’s a good thing to let your friends and family members know when you have a need.
First, it gives others an opportunity to be a blessing to you. They cannot help you if they don’t know that you have a need. Usually, it’s little things, like asking to borrow a car when yours is in the shop, or asking for help in planning a dinner or event for the family. But not only does that give them a way to truly help you in a way that is needed, it strengthens relationships by making us more appreciative of the people around us.
Second, it can be very humbling to admit that you need help. We have to be willing to give up our “martyr” attitude, and exalting ourselves for doing everything without help. When we are too busy patting ourselves on the back for everything that we do, we deny others the chance to help.
The problem is, who do we ask for help? Some family members may be superficially willing to help, but will permanently hold it over your head, using it as leverage in all future interactions. We made the mistake of borrowing a sum of money from a family member in order to put a down payment on our first house. Even though we paid it back almost immediately, it was still brought up on a regular basis. And who wants to borrow something from someone who continually frets about the condition in which it will be returned? I’d rather just go without, whenever possible.
So obviously we have to be careful about who we are willing to ask for help. But surely there are at least a few people in your life who are willing to help, without exacting constant praise for doing so, or holding it over your head until you repay them. If it is someone who is going to keep a score card every time, it’s just not worth the added stress. We need to find those people who will help us without expecting anything in return, leaving us able to help them out at a later date, simply because we WANT to, and not because we feel obliged to even the score.
And then we need to retrain ourselves to realize that asking for help does not mean that we are a failure. Part of maturity is learning that we can’t do everything alone. No man is an island, and it takes a village, and all of that stuff. Those clichés stick around because there is a measure of truth in them. We are not as connected to our community as we could be when we refuse to reach out for help. I admit that this is a problem for me. I want to be strong, not weak; independent, not dependent. As a result, I tend to bite off more than I can chew.
So what do we do? Get to know your friends and family. Observe how they treat the other people they help. Are they constantly nagging for praise? Are they levying a “tax” on the assistance? Do they brag about all the people they help? Or are they silently doing the little things, and the big things alike, without asking anything in return?
Then start with baby steps, asking people for the little things, until you learn who you can trust to help you with the bigger things, unconditionally. This also gives you a chance to retrain yourself gradually, starting with the small things. 😉 And don’t hesitate to show gratitude for even the smallest attempt to help. Be especially appreciative to those who offer help and don’t keep score. Tell them how much you appreciate not being made to feel indebted to them.
How about you? Do you have trouble asking for help, even when you need it? Do you have trouble finding people who will help you unconditionally?