Posted in Mommyhood

Aren’t I being helpful, Momma? The unanswerable question

Last Updated on July 12, 2020 by World's Okayest Mom

My Girl wants to be helpful. It’s her new fad.

Considering some of the fads she’s had, I’ll take it.

For example: She went through a fad when she was obsessed with Anne Frank and terrified of diaries because she thought the Nazis would come get her. She was fascinated by HIV for awhile… that was a fun one to explain. She’s been engrossed with the Titanic. She went through a time period where she pretended to be a snow leopard from morning to night – wait, that one is ongoing.

But this summer, she’s decided she’s going to be helpful.

This fad doesn’t entail me having to discuss with her first-grade teacher why she asks if she has AIDS every time she coughs, so I’m not complaining.

But can we agree that kids are very rarely helpful?

Like when you are grocery shopping and your little one wants to “help.” We all know that means they commandeer the shopping cart, run it into the back of your heels half a dozen times until you lose your cool in front of the 83-year-old woman in the pasta aisle, and then pray she doesn’t call CPS on you.

The Helpfulness of The Husband

This “helpfulness” has been a work in progress all summer, but recently ramped up due to my dum dum husband (Love You!)

So why is The Husband a dum dum? Let me count the ways.

Actually, there’s just one way (recently). He wrecked his four-wheeler. Without a helmet. Driving too fast. Trying to turn. And brake. At the same time.

If you ask me or his brother, he was racing said brother. The Husband maintains that wasn’t the case, but added, “If I was, I was winning.”

That’s a racecar driver for you.

We were extremely lucky, though. The Husband only (I say only because thoughts of feeding him through a straw the rest of my life flashed through my mind while waiting at the ER) broke his collarbone. To be more specific, he smashed his collarbone.

To be really specific, the surgeon said he had to “piece it back together like a puzzle,” using a metal plate and 7 screws.

Helpful X-Ray
When The Husband does something, he shoots for the stars: the X-Ray of his pieced-together collarbone.

Honestly, I’m surprised that this is the first injury my daredevil of a husband has ever had. He had a good run without any doctor visits. I’m estimating about 34 years-worth of no doctor visits.

The Husband, on the other hand, wasn’t shocked about his busted clavicle. As we were driving to the ER, he said (somewhat lucidly): “I always knew my bony-ass collarbone would be the death of me.”

So with his bony-ass collarbone in pieces and his arm in a sling, I was in more need of help these last few weeks than usual. I know I make fun of The Husband a lot, but truly, he is an amazing partner. He splits all the household work with me. I’d say it’s an even 50/50 split, but after covering his share of the load solo, maybe not. I’ll give him credit for 60/40.

Picking up the other 40%

With him out of commission for a bit, I now had to shoulder (hehe… a little broken clavicle humor for you) all the cooking, all the dishes, all the yard work, and all the miscellaneous things like dragging the trash can to the curb and making the dog go outside before bed.

It was exhausting.

(And yes, The Husband does the majority of the cooking, though I would say I do the prep work, AND he does the dishes. For a very long time, I never thought this strange or worthy of too much praise, because my dad also did a lot of the cooking and the dishes. The Husband says my dad “ruined his life” by setting too high of a bar for me and The Sister. Our husbands rose to the challenge, though.)

So with The Husband in pain on the recliner, I was in pain trying to keep up with all the work.

Enter My Girl.

Edith’s Helpfulness

She’s been dabbling in helpfulness like the rest of us dabble in a new hobby – gung ho at the outset, dwindling enthusiasm with bursts of recommitment – not dissimilar to my interest in Braille many, many years ago. I bought the books, did the research, tried it for a bit, then bored quickly. Learning to read dots with your fingers isn’t as entertaining as it sounds. Every once and awhile I think it’s a valiant goal to attempt again, but then get distracted by Hamilton behind the scenes videos on YouTube.

But My Girl found a resurgence in her helpfulness when Edith (see Cast of Characters if it’s hard to keep up with my slew of nieces) visited for two weeks earlier this summer.

Edith was given the same rule in regards to chores as My Girl: there are “because you live here chores” (make the bed, set the table, feed the animals) and there are “because I don’t want to do them chores (scrub the floor, empty the trash, wash the windows). The “because I don’t want to do them chores” all have a price tag attached.

I learned this: Edith is motivated by money. I had to get more dollar bills from the bank when she stayed with us. I’m not complaining. My house was clean.

After watching Edith head home with greens in her suitcase, My Girl was a little more active in completing chores for allowance. But she has also been more helpful in the kitchen – see here.

Helpful mopping
My Girl doing an excellent job on one of her “because Momma doesn’t want to do it” chores.

The Helpless Husband

All those recent experiences prepared us for The Helpless Husband.

As I assumed many of his normal responsibilities, My Girl was just itching to help.

The problem is, she’s not always helpful.

First, she gets in her mind what she wants to do to help, and that’s it. So while I’m begging her to brush her teeth and feed her tortoise in the morning so we can get on with our day, she’s trying to wash the windows.

Ok. I heard that. She’s trying to wash the windows. You might be thinking something like: Damn, woman! If I could get my children to wash the windows, I would never complain again. But at that point in time, I don’t need the windows washed. I need her organic life killing, awful morning breath to go away and her tortoise to not starve.

The refrain in our house is often (with exaggerated patience):

“I know you want to help, but you aren’t helping when you don’t listen. Here’s what I need you to do…”

Second, My Girl makes a mess wherever she goes. She leaves toy droppings behind her like a Shetland pony walking in a Fourth of July parade. She cleans up but somehow only makes it worse. And don’t get me started on the crumbs. She looks at a piece of bread and I need to sweep the kitchen, somehow.

Helpfully doing the dishes

So when My Girl wants to help by doing the dishes – remember one of the many things The Husband assumes as his sole responsibility, mainly because he doesn’t think I do it right – it often ends up in more work for me.

To her credit, she hasn’t broken any dishes yet, but water is everywhere. Everywhere. Running down the cabinet, on her shirt, all over the floor, on the ceiling, on the stainless steel refrigerator on the other side of the room.

I get the water down her shirt. If you don’t have a soaking T-Shirt after washing dishes, did you even do it right? But on the fridge on the other side of the room? How did she manage that?

So after she completes the dishes, the floor needs to be mopped and the fridge needs to be rubbed down with baby oil.

Don’t get me started on rubbing the fridge down with baby oil. (#cleaninghack – it’s the only way to get streaks and spots off of stainless steel.) That’s another one of the things The Husband does, because not only is he a lot of help around the house, but he’s also certifiably crazy. Like if he was a 1920s housewife, he would have been locked up ala Zelda Fitzgerald style. OCD is real, people. (This isn’t the first time I’ve complained about The Husband’s OCD-ness, ICYMI.)

After “helping” with the dishes, My Girl wants to make lunch. (Technically, she makes lunch and then does dishes.) This is a chore I am happy to pass off. The worst part of quarantine and ELearning is that you are expected to feed your child THREE TIMES A DAY! Three times, people! It’s exhausting.

Helpfully nursing The Husband

So I gladly left My Girl in charge of The Husband’s at-home-healthcare and meals when I went back to work after his surgery.

Time out real quick for a word on The Husband’s surgery. Bless his sweet, naïve, Opie Taylor heart. The man has never had anything bad happen to him, so he wildly underestimated the pains from surgery. When I say nothing bad has happened to him, I mean nothing. (Ok, ok… he had stitches on his forehead when he was very little but he doesn’t have any firsthand memory of it – whether that’s because it was a head injury or because of his age remains to be seen.) The man has never broken a bone or had surgery. He doesn’t wear glasses and never had braces. He hasn’t even had his wisdom teeth removed! He’s the Blessed Virgin Mary of injuries.

When his surgery was scheduled for a Thursday afternoon, he assumed he’d be sore but fine on Friday and ready to hang out on the boat Saturday afternoon. Spoiler Alert: He wasn’t.

With his “slow” recovery (all three days of it), I was a little nervous leaving The Husband home on Monday when I went back to work. But My Girl stepped up – taking over the cooking, dishes and ice pack duty.

Helpfully mowing the yard

The worst part of The Husband’s convalescence was the yard work. You don’t have to know me well to know that I hold some pretty strong feminist ideals (much to The Husband’s chagrin) but The Husband does most of the outside work around the house. It’s not because I’m a lady and can’t, but because he should have a place reserved in Bedlam as he literally loses sleep at night if the lawn isn’t mowed in straight lines.

So in my entire life (all 29 years – ha!) I’ve mowed maybe three time, and that was with the little push mower we have. Since our yard is an acre and a half, The Husband upgraded to a zero-turn mower last year. When he tried to show me how to use it upon arrival, I got stuck doing donuts on the road. Nuh-uh. Not for me.

Chandler took pity on me the first weekend after The Husband’s accident and mowed the yard, except the small, fenced in part, which I can easily push mow. Thank you, Chandler. I don’t care what everyone else says… You’re a pretty ok guy.

But the next weekend, I was on my own. I decided that I would rather push mow the whole yard than attempt the scary zero-turn again, but The Husband threatened that I either try using it or he was mowing, arm sling and all.

So I tried it. And I conquered it. Feminism at its finest! After about the tenth turn, I even stopped screaming like I was riding the tilt-a-whirl at the county fair.

I continued to push mow the backyard though. That’s when My Girl decided she really needed to be “helpful.” At first, being helpful entailed her running ahead of the lawn mower and picking up any small stick or leaf so it wasn’t “in my way.” This neither helped nor hindered me and it made My Girl happy, so I just kept nodding and smiling. “Sure… You’re helping. Keep it up.”

But then she wanted to mow. The Husband was being really lenient about the job I did on the yard with the zero-turn. It was “straight-ish”, he admitted. But I knew that the stress of seeing a lawn cut by My Girl would send him over the edge into lunacy, and it’s been determined I really do need him around. So I let My Girl walk behind the mower, while I pushed and walked behind her.

Have you ever tried to mow while straddling an eight-year old and cutting grass around a swing set? Of course you haven’t, because it’s madness. But My Girl was so jazzed about “helping.” She kept looking back at me and shouting: “Aren’t I helpful, Momma?”

What can you say to those big brown, expectant eyes? 

Eventually, I wised up and reminded her that “Poor Daddy” needed her help than I did. While I commiserate with The Husband in his pain, I still have no qualms about pawning our “helpful” daughter off on him at any moment.

Who’s being helpful now?

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