In a conversation recently I relayed to my husband that I was having some anxiety over our son’s interest in learning. I said, I want him to enjoy learning….and I want him to be his own advocate and ask for help and take initiative on things. My husband quickly squelched my anxiety by reminding me that our son is only eight and in the second grade. That while he may put up a great deal of resistance come homework time, he does ask for help when he needs it. And as far as interest in learning, “Didn’t I recognize that he reads with a veracious appetite. Like can finish a chapter book in an afternoon appetite.” Finally, he added,”Maybe he doesn’t always know when to ask for help.”
At this statement, a lightbulb went off and I realized my husband was right, it is my job to teach my son how to be his own advocate. Now to be real, being your own advocate is not something I learned at age eight in the second grade. In fact, it was something I learned much later in life, like my mid-30’s late. That if I wanted or needed something, I needed to actually ask for it. Up until adult-hood I think I just maybe assumed that people around me, namely adults, had osmosis and knew exactly what I wanted and needed. I mean my parents just seemed so good at knowing what and when I needed something that I think I took it for granted that all adults had this special skill for reading my mind and circumstances.
As an adult I learned the hard way. That if you don’t actually ask for the salary you want, you’ll get the salary you don’t want. If you don’t actually request a raise or promotion, you’ll just stay where you are. If you don’t ask for what you need in a relationship, you’ll just get what the person is willing to give you, regardless of whether that’s a working relationship, romantic relationship or friendship. Once I figured this whole advocating for self thing out, boy was it on! Now I was advocating for myself like all the time, and maybe for things I really didn’t even deserve. But the point was, I knew that no one was going to just give me anything I didn’t ask for.
Sometimes the hardest thing about advocating for yourself is figuring out the ‘what’ and then narrowing down the list to what’s realistic and deserved. However, the biggest thing I’m still learning how to do is advocate for help. The very thing I expect or want my 8-year-old son to do, I still have a hard time doing at my 42-years of age. In this, I realize my son and I have something very much in common. We don’t not ask for help because we don’t need it, we just don’t want OTHER people to KNOW we need it. Somehow we have equated asking for help as equivalent to admitting we don’t know the answer, or can’t figure something out on our own. My son literally will not use scratch paper when doing math because he thinks he’s smarter if he figures it out in his head. What he’s learning is that regrouping (that’s new math language for carrying a number) is not so easy to do in your head. And he discovered he can get to the answer more efficiently if he works it out on paper. I’m discovering that too. Not the regrouping thing, though Common Core math drives me nuts! No, that asking for help is more efficient then not asking for help. I get what I need faster when I ask for help.
These days, I’m making an attempt to be more transparent about what I don’t know and asking for the information, help, or connection I need to get what I need. And I’m finding that, eureka! it actually works. People actually like to feel like they can be helpful, and they don’t think you’re an idiot for asking. I’m doing a much better job at getting what I want, by asking for what I need. And hopefully in the process teaching my son it’s okay to ask for help, so he doesn’t have to wait till he’s 30 to learn how to be his own advocate.