We’re dealing with some sort of bug infestation that’s leaving me with bites all over my legs. It’s reminding me of summer camp, how my friend and I covered our legs in clear nail polish to root out chiggers. How did we know to do this? How did we procure the nail polish? I don’t think adults were involved. I imagine a long line of children, passing this information on one to the next. I think of nine-year-old me, already owning my own medical treatment, feeling no need to involve adults.
And then I remember an even earlier camp trip in which I used a friend’s craft scissors to cut my own bangs. They came out uneven, but they were out of my eyes, and that was enough for me. Taking charge of my own personal grooming, age eight.
Perhaps it’s nothing. But I can see in these recollections hints of a person who already felt she could only rely on herself. It’s hard to know if that’s true, if I really couldn’t find support in the adults in my life, or if I just didn’t know how to ask for it in the first place. Or maybe I already knew that asking wouldn’t result in more support anyway.
I still have a hard time knowing how to ask for help. I still often have a hard time believing I deserve it at all.
My son, at three, will often cry out vague, non-specific complaints. “My nose!” he moans. I almost always know what he needs, but try to get him to articulate it, to clearly ask for help first: “Do you need something? I’m here to help you if you tell me what you need.” Sometimes that’s not enough, and it requires more prompting: “I don’t know what ‘My nose!’ means. What about your nose?” But we almost always get there in the end: “Tissue, please!”
Perhaps it’s nothing. But I’m doing my best to teach him how to ask.
Last updated May 17, 2022