we all need a little help sometimes

by Stephen

It had been a long day at work, and I needed a break. I nestled into my reading chair and opened my book, setting my bookmark aside. River, my dog, collapsed under my legs with my feet outstretched to the small, black, pillowy ottoman. 

I began to smile as my muscles relaxed, and I felt liberated from my anxiety-ridden prison. You know the feeling.

I was reading The Old Man and the Sea, a twice my age-old tale about the simple, but exhausting life an old fisherman and his backbreaking battle to bring home a magnificent, larger-than-life marlin. It was starting to get good.

This is what I had waited for all day. This moment. My eyes drifted across the pages and into another world. 

Just then, I heard a loud sound screeching out from behind my daughter’s bathroom door where she was taking a shower. I’d heard this sound before; in fact, I’d heard it just about every single day. River was used to it too, although you wouldn’t know it as his head had been jolted up with alarm. I leaned forward onto my elbows and closed my book around my finger to not lose my place. I had no intention of getting up. 

DAAAAD?!

There it was again – that nauseating sound repeating itself as if an echo. 

DAAAAD? CAN YOU COME HERE?

I calmly turned toward the direction the sound was coming from and bellowed back, 

“NO CLAIRE!  I’M NOT COMING IN THERE. YOU DON’T NEED ME. YOU HAVE SOAP. YOU HAVE A TOWEL. YOU HAVE EVERYTHING YOU NEED.”

I paused, waiting for an argument I wouldn’t get. 

“I’M TRYING TO RELAX AND READ MY BOOK! I’VE HAD A LONG DAY AND I JUST WANT TO SIT DOWN. I’M NOT COMING IN THERE!” 

I yelled the last line again as if repeating it would somehow make it true.

Jostled, but still having no intention of getting up, I leaned back into my chair. A few moments of silence passed. “Silence,” I thought. “I won. She finally gets it.” I opened my book and scanned the page for my place on it. 

DAAAAD? CAN YOU COME HERE? PLEASE?!

I calmly threw the book down onto the chair as I calmly stood up. Moving toward my daughter’s bathroom at a calm pace of no more than one and a half to four times my usual speed, I thought to myself: 

“This will never stop. It will go on forever. The sun will swell to a size so large it will swallow the moon and my daughter will still be screaming out for me from behind her shower curtain.”

DAAAAD?” — I heard again, as I hastened my pace toward the door. I calmly threw the door open and gently replied, 

“WHAT, CLAIRE? WHAT DO YOU NEED? WHAT IS IT?!”

I already knew what it was.

My sweet little girl stuck her head out from behind the shower curtain with her eyes clenched shut. 

“Is there any soap in my hair?” 

I couldn’t be mad at her. She just hadn’t figured out the difference in feeling between wet hair and soapy hair. In fact, I recoiled from my anger sheepishly, and I realized that given another five minutes in my chair I might’ve been yelling to my wife, 

“GINA??  GINA?? — 

CAN YOU BRING ME A BEER?”

We all need a little help sometimes.

The world can be a difficult place. Bosses have deadlines. Customers have expectations. Our car is making that funny noise again. I don’t know what to make for dinner. When will we find time to clean the toilets? Homework is due and I haven’t even started on it. That presentation isn’t going to write itself! And sometimes… You just can’t tell if there’s soap in your hair.

We might think we’re not doing enough, but the reality is we’re just highly evolved apes roaming through this technologically complex world and trying to fit in to a society with incredibly high expectations. This is not The Old Man and the Sea.

Perfect job results. Perfect customers. Perfect car. Perfect dinner. Perfect home. Perfect grades.

I’ve always believed our standards should be high, but they should also be realistic.

We tend to think we need to do it all. Because of that, even the little things can sometimes make us angry. But, we can’t do it all. 

We need to know that we can stretch out our arms and feel the warm embrace of a helping hand. We may need to ask our boss for an extension or beg a customer for understanding. We need a good car savvy friend who can give us guidance on what to do next. Picking up dinner instead of making it can be a huge help. And hiring a cleaning service might give us just the time we need to finish up our homework or complete that presentation. 

We need to know dad will come smiling and scrub our head to make sure it’s clean, because— and maybe I’m writing this for me because I need to hear it the most, but—

We ALL need a little help sometimes.

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