She was so delighted with the print she had purchased. It reminded JC* of a favorite vacation destination. She would prop it up against the walls all-around her home, looking for just the right spot.
I was the one that decided it needed a permanent home. I devised a scheme to sneak it out of her home in a bag of magazines that I was picking up, and delivered it right to the frame shop, agonizing over the perfect frame and just the right mat colors that would perfectly complement the print.
While it was a loving gesture and I was excited to present her with this surprise birthday gift, I realized later that it really was not my picture to frame; it was hers.
In a recent Ted Talk, author Anne Lamott reminds us “…We can’t arrange peace or lasting improvement for the people we love most in the world. They have to find their own ways, their own answers. You can’t run alongside your grown children with sunscreen and ChapStick on their hero’s journey. You have to release them. It’s disrespectful not to. Help is the sunny side of control. Stop helping so much. Don’t get your help and goodness all over everybody…”
I am a recovering helper. For every dollar you have, I can add in my two cents in order to assist, guide, advise, suggest or lend a hand. When I like someone, I have a tendency to go overboard and when I love someone, I can drown them in the H (help) word.
It is said that helicopter parents got their name from the yuppie moms and dads that were overprotective and took an excessive interest in their child’s life. There’s a delicate balance between involvement and smothering and Mr. Wiz* and I tried very hard to remember the difference. When our only child was younger and was starting to make his way onto the world stage, he needed us to be his attentive audience, not be standing backstage delivering him his lines. Anne Lamott was right; that would have been disrespectful. You do your very best and then set them free. But, between us, a quick spray of holy water while they are walking out your door or a dose of mom mental telepathy never hurt anyone.
Back then, Big A* and I came up with a code word. Anytime I was exhibiting an inclination toward being overzealous, he would whisper the word “Despacio” in my ear (Spanish for slowly) It was my que to slow down. This worked then and even worked recently, when I almost fell off the wagon.
I’m sure that by now my family and friends all know that I am there for them. I will try to control my controlling tendencies (hidden under the guise of helping), but there may be times when I veer off. One Hallmark card commercial viewed at a particularly sensitive moment may trigger an outpouring of unwanted and unwarranted assistance.
So, just in case you see me running toward you with outstretched arms and that tender look in my eyes that says “…I am here for you…,” just return the hug and whisper “Despacio” in my ear. I will get the message.
*Who’s who? See “Cast of Characters” on the “About” page.