Learning to Accept a Helping Hand

helping hands, always appreciated. bicycling in a jungle regionA friend of mine was telling me about an interesting situation his 7th grade daughter’s gotten him into….

Seems her best friend lives with her Dad every other week even though they have a schedule problem: he works in Denver and has to leave by 7:00am to get to work on time, but school doesn’t start until 8:30am. She can, of course, get up, get ready for school and bike the about 2mi without a problem, but what happens when the weather’s unpleasant?

Enter my friend’s daughter who suggested that on days when “the weather’s yechy” they could swing by and pick up the other girl on the way to school, so she doesn’t have to bike through rain, snow or similar.

Seems reasonable, but when the Dad hears about it, his pride is apparently wounded and he gets upset about the deal, insisting she’s fine to ride her bike in any weather. I mean, we do all live in Boulder, Colorado, home of the most hard-core bicyclists in the world, as far as I can tell. 🙂

Well intentioned offer but now the other Dad’s upset. Problem.

That’s when my friend asked me for advice.

Oh good.

My impression of the situation is as I have already labelled: a father’s pride and, probably, frustration with the fact that he’s a) single parenting and b) has to leave for work so that he can’t help his girl get safely to school adds up to a difficult situation for him. Definitely tough.

What you’d like to see in a situation like this is someone who can gracefully accept help and say “that’d be great if you can help. thanks!” but I think that us men in particular have a hard time asking for help, even from our closest friends and, yes, spouses.

It’s something about our cultural programming that we might not be islands, per se, but we sure have to act like we’re strong, capable and never falter. That can be a heavy burden to carry sometimes, and when most guys do finally ask for help, it’s way into what therapists call the “911 zone” rather than the “411 zone”. Y’know what I mean?

My advice for my friend was to step back and tell the other Dad that he’s in charge: If he’s more comfortable having them out of the loop, the girls can easily meet up at school, no worries. But if the weather ever stinks, they’re happy to be on standby, ready to swing by and pick up the daughter if they just have sufficient warning to leave for school a few minutes early.

I haven’t heard back about how it went yet, but I’m hoping that’s sufficiently safe for the other Dad to be cool with the situation.

Because we can all use a little help now and then. We just have to remember that asking for it — or receiving it — is a sign of being smart, not flawed.

6 comments on “Learning to Accept a Helping Hand

  1. Ahh, the Dad who is a fickle, stubborn warrior in his parenting arena.
    Dad does need support, everybody needs support at some point., but the Dad who refuses support and most of us are in this category, is truly disadvantaged and is not helping his family.
    In two weeks we are having the National At Home Dad Convention is\\here in Denver and one of the keynotes put on by Man Therapy. http://mantherapy.org/ is on this very topic.
    Cheers, and great post,
    – The Project Engineer

  2. Dave, you may be forgetting something.

    I believe you are correct about men asking for help. My first impulse is always self-sufficiency. And I also believe self-sufficiency is a strikingly undervalued practice.

    However, helping each other is also a good thing, and nothing wrong with accepting an offer one can reciprocate.

    What may be missing here is the nature of the relationship between the families in question. There are certain families with whom riding home might not be a good idea. I’d never place our kid in a car with a family I suspected of substance abuse or with the school bully. I’d never place our kiddo in a car with people who’ve acted in a hostile way, or demonstrated signs of morals or behaviors I find unacceptable.

    Granted, I have no idea who these folks are in your example. But there are good reasons for fathers to make those choices.

    • Ah, a good point (as always). As far as I know, there’s no reason that a child would be put in even the slightest risk getting a ride home from the other family, but you’re right, perhaps something happened in the past…

  3. Given our nature to want tit for tat, it’s hard to respect a “handout,” as the conservative right likes to cry. This both goes for taking assistance ourselves and for watching others who need assistance. Another good solution would be to find something to exchange for the ride or to put the offer in terms of what the offering family gates. As a member of Boulder’s carless, biking class of people, I’m always grateful for a ride, but it makes me feel better about relying on others to exchange breakfast, gas money, or a favor to be called in later for my rides. I can also rationalize riding with a group as more enjoyable and more environmentally sound (as a group, that is, since biking is still better than riding any day)..

  4. I was a single dad (after my daughter was 2.4), and went through a hurt/macho period. Once, I understood that any negative attitude was being absorbed by my daughter, I changed my ways over night, like kicking the smoking habit cold turkey (not that I ever smoked).

    From that moment of “attitude adjustment”, life has opened its doors with happiness and sincerity. And, most importantly, my daughter has benefited with a zest for life, as well.

    Dads writing blogs is awesome. Thanks for sharing.

    Papa G B

    • Thanks for the thoughtful message, John. I completely concur that the best place to create happiness in your family, whether you’re single or not, is within yourself. Sounds trite, but it’s really true…

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