I have always been an independent or self-sufficient person, especially as a child. Though shy and timid on the surface, I held deep stubborn ways and a strong-will. I knew what I wanted and it was going to be that way. My Dad tells a story about how I had to have my sock line perfectly straight across my toes. I would not “give-in” to the crazy-lined ways. My dear Grandpa Jack used to laugh telling a story of my stubborn attitude. He used to recall how I used to throw food I disliked behind my shoulder in my highchair, very determined to only eat my favorites. No one was going to tell me what to do or eat. It was endearing and maybe even cute as a toddler or preschooler, but the desire to do my own thing kept growing.
I was the girl that was not going to settle, I was going to be independent and find my way. I wanted to do it all on my own, not listening or asking for help. Through my teen years and early adulthood, when things were hard, I got harder. My mind was determined that weakness was failure and asking for help was not an option. This idea that self-sufficiency was the answer ruled my life. In our world today, it is respected and even applauded to build a life on your own and the goal seems to be all about independence. I believed that idea and followed it hard.
Now, ten years into being a parent, I sit here pondering our society’s obsession over independence. Just this week, I witnessed both my sons tearfully struggle through situations where their need to be independent tried to win. The lie that needing help equals weakness (and weakness is not something to be encouraged) was screaming too loudly. The lie that only things done “all by myself,” are note-worthy and applauded were already, in their young minds, trying to win. As their mama, it was heart-wrenching to watch. All I wanted to do was help them, but I was pushed away. It pierced my heart even more when Luke, with big salty tears screaming down his face, demanded he needed to put his pants on without help so I would be “proud.”
Parenting a typically-developing child and parenting a child with physical limitations has caused me to ask the question: Why are we obsessed with independence? Why does needing help translate into inferior? I think about my Lukie, my child, who could have never taken a step without a team of people helping him. My child, who sometimes can’t make it up the hill and needs a push. My child, who is in kindergarten and still needs helps putting on his shoes. My child who can’t get on the swing on his own, but needs to be placed on the seat. Does that make him less? Does it make us less… if we need help?
Maybe we need help. Maybe we need to ask for it. Maybe we need to stop believing the lies. Maybe we all need to let go of our “independent” masks. Maybe the help is just waiting to reach us with an open hand. Maybe …. just maybe, we need to know we are loved. Maybe in the freedom of knowing a deep love, the need to prove, the need for applause, the need for the pat on the back won’t drive our motives. Maybe when we rely on this great love, a love that is strong enough to move mountains and save souls from themselves, we will have the freedom to be weak. Maybe the weakness is made strong by love freely given. Maybe this freely given love is death to the notion that I/we must conquer. Maybe this Love already did.