“Grandma, when can I have a sleep over at your house?”
I looked deep into the eyes of my 5-year-old grandson, Rowan, as he sat on his bike looking back at me, patiently waiting for an answer.
“On Saturday you can have a sleep over.”
“How far away is that?” he asked.
“5 more sleeps.’ I replied.
“OK,” he said, and rode off on his bike, satisfied and happy.
This conversation got me thinking.
Why can’t I be as forthright asking for what I want?
Rowan didn’t think twice about asking for he wanted. He asked as freely as he would ask for a glass of milk. He believed he would get what he wanted. OK. Maybe in that case it’s easier for him to believe that he’d have a sleep over at grandma’s house. It is grandma, after all.
I’ve seen situations where people have been offended by the boldness of a child’s request. They call it rude, inappropriate, and often the child is scolded or pushed aside for being upfront about their wants and needs.
That is why it’s hard for us to be forthright. A young child learns how to cope with disappointment when their request isn’t fulfilled. When they are encouraged to ask for what they want, they get enough yeses that the disappointments don’t have a big impact. When they get scolded, ridiculed or pushed aside, they feel hurt and might not even understand why they got that reaction to their question.
It is that pain we carry with us to adulthood. It is that pain that builds the brick wall and cements our belief that we can’t count on others and must be able to do everything ourselves.
It’s time to change.
When you are caregiving for a loved one, asking for what you want is a necessity, not a luxury. This lesson I learned the hard way when I didn’t ask for enough help earlier in my journey when I was caring for my husband, leading to 4 cracked teeth from the clenching my jaw for I don’t even know how long. It took a full year of massage therapy to unlock my clenched jaw. One. Full. Year. That is pretty powerful evidence that I’d been holding stress. And that was the physical evidence. I have no idea what was going on inside my body. Accepting help when I was caregiving for Callum would have decreased the stress and given me a chance to bring some regular stress management strategies in my life. I didn’t, and I paid for it.
Don’t let that happen to you.
Whether you are looking for someone to go with you to a movie, come to your place for tea, visit with your loved one or mow your grass, there are key points we can learn from Rowan.
Be clear on what you want.
Rowan knew exactly what he wanted – a sleepover with grandma.
If someone would come and give you a break, exactly what would you do?
Don’t worry about what other people think.
Rowan didn’t give it a second thought that his mom was standing right there, listening to our conversation.
You deserve to have what you want. Don’t worry about the opinions of other people. What other people think is none of your business.
Believe you will get what you ask for.
Rowan asked as if he knew the answer would be yes. True, there was a better than good chance that he’d get a yes from grandma. By asking the question, he still invited the possibility of a no, or an answer he didn’t want to hear.
Don’t listen to the chirping monkeys in your brain, telling you that you can’t have what you want. There are many people in your life who are waiting to help you. You give them a gift by allowing them to help. It is true. Believe it.
Clarify what you want and negotiate.
Rowan clarified his request by asking when he could have the sleepover, and how far away it would be.
When you accept help, ask questions to be sure everyone has the same understanding of what you asked for and how/when they will help. Be willing to adjust your request when it still helps you get what you are asking for,
My interaction with Rowan was quick. It was easy to confirm the understanding that the sleepover was on Saturday, 5 sleeps away.
When you have come to an agreement, review the details of the agreement to getting what you want and confirm the agreement with the other person.
There is nothing wrong – and everything right – about getting what you want and need. It is a necessity, not a luxury.
Children show wisdom that we can use as adults. Let’s follow their lead.
Comment below or send me an email to let me know the first thing you will ask for so you get what you want. Lorna@TheCaregiversLighthouse.com
May you find peace, hope, and joy in every day.