Parenting

That time a friend had to bring our family emergency toilet paper

A Border Patrol agent looks out a water drain tunnel that runs from Mexico into Nogales, Ariz. (Photo by Josh Denmark/U.S. Border Patrol)

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December 2013 is a month that will live in infamy in our family. Earlier that fall, the offer we made on our first home was accepted. We had been searching (on and off) for five years for a home, but had never found one that my husband and I both liked at the same time. The day we saw this house, we loved it so much we put an offer on it an hour later. The typical home loan closing shenanigans delayed the process from Labor Day until mid-December. At the beginning of the month we knew we were facing a move, our son’s first birthday, and a week long trip to visit family for Christmas. We knew it would be a busy month, but we had no idea what was in store for our young family.

A week before our closing date, my husband came down with the flu—the stomach, both-ends kind of flu. My days were filled with keeping our almost 1-year-old clear of his Dad, packing, caring for my sick husband, and praying I would not get his illness. Three days later, I got it. At that point my husband was at about 60% of his normal health, so he did his best to care for me, but the next day our son joined the wounded list. I have never felt worse for my son than the day he stopped trying to crawl away when I changed his diaper. He had a terrible diaper rash, but our cream was useless when his diaper needed to be changed every 10-20 minutes. Sadly, he was so sick he could not even muster up the energy to cry and push away. We were in terrible shape.

Because of our upcoming move, my normal coupon-stockpiled toilet paper stash had been depleted. My husband joked about my stash enough that I was not willing to have our friends haul several hundred rolls of toilet paper to our new home, so I had stopped buying in anticipation of our move. Had we not all been struck with the flu a week before our move, we would have made it. But we all DID have the flu—a week before we moved and thus we found ourselves in the midst of a toilet paper shortage.

Because our extended family lives in another state, calling my Mom was not an option, so  my only alternative was to ask a friend for help. With a deep breath and giant gulp, I swallowed all my pride and asked for help. I sent a message to two friends who live nearby to see if either of them were headed to the store (okay, I only swallowed half of my pride, but the request for toilet paper was only a question away, right?). Neither had plans to make a trip to the store that day.

“Um, we all have the flu and we are out of toilet paper… could either of you help?”

I know it is okay to borrow a cup of sugar from your neighbor, but this may have been pushing it too far. I actually asked friends to bring me toilet paper. TOILET PAPER!

Fortunately, this overwhelmed and sick mom received the kindest reply: “I am on my way now, and I will bring you guys some dinner in a few hours.”  (I am seriously tearing up even writing this — nine months after if happened.)

A few hours later, that busy mom of three brought piping hot soup, some rolls, and hot chocolate for our family to enjoy—the first not-from-a-can meal we had consumed in four days. 

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Help was right there, I only had to ask. And when I did, I was graciously given more than I asked for.

Moms, do you need to hear this today? It is okay to ask for help!

We live in a fast-paced world with airbrushed women, unrealistic to-do lists, and Pinterest perfect expectations. We simply cannot do it alone. Unless you live someplace like Montana, where neighbors tend to be further away than you can see, you live in a community — a town, a county, a neighborhood. You have people who share things in common with you.

There is someone who wants to help share your load. You do not have to do this alone!

When I think about the community that helped to raise me, I am so humbled. My mom worked full-time as a night-shift nurse. This complemented my dad’s day-shift schedule so that a parent was always available if we needed one, day or night. Unfortunately, there was a gap in the schedule. My dad had to be at work at 7 a.m., my mom did not get home from work until 8, and school started at 8:30. My mom’s friend Shawn filled this gap. She was also mom to one of my closest friends and their family faithfully took us in three to five days a week before school. We slept and watched television on her couch, she fed us breakfast and then ushered my sister and me and her own two children off to school. It sounds like a simple enough task (feed and get two extra kids to school) but Shawn always went over the top. She listened to our nonsensical kiddo stories and jokes and tried to stump us with music trivia. She gave us her wise counsel and invested in our lives. All because my parents were willing to ask for help.

Through all of the stages of my life I can identify a Shawn — someone who, when asked for help, met the need and then some. Someone who took the time to invest in my life and made me a better wife and mother because of that influence. My parents did an awesome job raising me and I am emulating so many aspects of their parenting style. But one of the best lessons they taught me was to ask for help when you need it.

How willing are you to ask for help? Are you building a network of support for your family? Are you able to swallow your pride and seek out the encouragement you need to make it through today?

I thank my mom for teaching me this valuable lesson all the time. If you set the example for your children and ask for help, someday they’ll thank you for it, too.

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