The subtle sound of industrious chewing pricked my mother-of-a-toddler ears as I laid the littler little down for a nap. Investigating, I stepped quietly into the hallway, trying to locate the source.
“Dex? What are you doing?”
Pause. “I’m just hidin’ and eatin’ cereal so you can’t find-a me.”
Crinkle. Chomp. More chewing. Nervous shift. So he was in my small office, not the living room then.
“D… Where are you, buddy?”
Thinking. The speed of the crinkle-chomp-chew procession increased. He knew the jig was about up.
“Um. In back-a your big chair. Where you can’t find me.”
Surreptitious shifting from behind the recliner that served as both baby soother and blog drafting inspiration point was the final confirmation.
I peeked over the top of the chair to see my firstborn’s dark blonde head bent over the huge box of Lucky Charms my parents had given us the night before, chubby arm liberally dusted in marshmallow sugar and elbow deep in deliciousness. Hearing the creak, Dex sloooooowly looked up from the stolen treat.
“Oh. Hi, Mommy.”
The crazy part was, I would’ve made my goofy kid a bowl of cereal!
He only had to ask.
Dex had been up since 6 AM and consumed a bowl of oatmeal and fruit a few hours before sneaking the Lucky Charms.
He was hungry. I was sleepy. Sugar cereal at 10 AM, after a particularly long night with the baby, was not a worthy battle cry. I mean, he’d already had a solid breakfast, assuming he’d eaten it and not hid it in the sink again.
This could be called snack, right?
I could handle the justification! All Dex had to do was ask.
After putting on the appropriately disapproving Mom face regarding his thievery, privately giggling and sending pictures to my family, and storing the cereal on a higher shelf, two things clicked in my head.
- What don’t I have because I haven’t asked?
- Why didn’t he ask?
Ye Have Not Because Ye Ask Not -James 4:2
After dinner a couple weeks ago, I silently stewed while shoving rinsed plates into the dishwasher. My back hurt, my feet hurt, I had 400 things to do still before bed, and I was doing the dishes completely by myself.
And I’d totally hinted for help!
“Ughhhh, I have no desire to do dishes!” I had meaningfully grumbled earlier, glancing significantly at my significant other, who was resting back against his chair in utter repletion.
“Yeah, I bet” was the stirring reply.
Later when he finally asked why I was acting huffy (and I finally explained that I’d needed help), my patient husband rolled his eyes skyward and said (half to me, half pleading for divine understanding), “Well, why didn’t you ask???”
I didn’t get, because I didn’t ask.
What else have I missed out on, unwilling to ask, to put myself out there, to open my desires up for disappointment?
How many times have I hidden my hopes behind the recliner, hoping no one would see and maybe judge me for them?
Asking is Opening
Verbalizing our needs and wants, allowing someone else to fill them, is an incredibly vulnerable position. As humans, we tend to avoid vulnerability. An open place is often a dangerous place.
But our relationships with our spouses, our friends, our children, and even with God require openness.
I hate to ask for help.
I self-identified as “the smart kid.” To ask for help, to ask a question, was to demonstrate that I didn’t know the answer. My self-image was so fragile that I truly believed that admitting ignorance or insufficiency would shatter it.
When I was about 14, my mom got pretty sick for a few days. At this point, I don’t remember what the ailment was, just that it made an impression! But in typical mom-fashion, she pushed through, driving us to school and keeping things generally running along while she was under the weather. One of these mornings, it was pouring down raining and my mom’s Yukon XL was parked in the yard rather than under the carport.
Mom asked me if I knew how to pull the car up. I immediately said, “Yeah! Of course.”
I definitely didn’t.
Though I’d watched my parents drive for years, I’d missed some of the finer points. Like you have to press the brake to shift gears. Which I worked unsuccessfully to do for about 5 minutes. And let me tell you: A Yukon XL, even by my current standards of regularly driving a full-size SUV, is a BIG vehicle. For a 14-year-old who doesn’t even know how to shift the thing, it’s a rather terrifying and conspicuous aircraft carrier on land.
Finally, my mom came out to rescue a frustrated and tearful me with my little sister in tow, and I fessed up my ignorance. Finally backing us out, Mom showed me how pressing the brake released the shifter in the console, and we talked about how to use mirrors to back up. A few minutes into the ride, she asked that question I used to hate:
“If you didn’t know, why didn’t you ask?”
Honestly, it was because I was scared to admit my own insufficiency, hesitant to open myself to judgment.
But in doing so, I erected walls that actually impeded sharing information.
My tight rein on my own vulnerabilities were even a barrier to friendship.
Because we build in open places.
Relationship. Community. Sisterhood. Our vulnerabilities allow others to stretch out their strengths and touch us.
All I had to do was ask.
Receiving Another’s Request
Why didn’t my son ask me if he could have those delicious Lucky Charms?
Because he thought I’d say no.
Maybe he felt the waves of exhausted tension rolling off me, pushing his needs and wants away.
It concerned me because sneaking isn’t his style. Asking and being volubly disappointed in a resulting “No” is a regular occurrence. But Dex almost always asks.
But in this case, in me, his mama, who has sheltered him and provided for his every need since before his first breath, my son didn’t see an open, safe place to ask.
So he hid.
Making Space for Questions
I strive to raise my children with boundaries and guidelines. We try hard to “train up a child in the way he should go.” Dex is a force of nature and constant ball of energy that I’m nearly always struggling to corral and channel.
But I want my children to always feel safe in their questions.
Because we all have uncertainties. We all have doubts. I still have wants and needs that I need to express sometimes.
Am I making space as a mother, a spouse, and a friend for the asks of others?
What Do You Need?
Help with the dishes?
Information you don’t have?
The key to the dressing room at a store?