When my younger son was in grade three or four he told me about a project he needed to do for school. Me, being a crafter, was instantly inspired and together we bought cardboard and new coloured markers and set about printing out pictures and googling and finding information together.
It was so much fun, but a week later my son was despondent when I picked him up from school. His teacher didn’t believe he had created the project himself. I was at a loss because I knew that he did, but I was also worried – had I overstepped some parental line? I just didn’t know.
In my defence I boarded at a hostel when I was a child so I never had the opportunity to ask for parental help on a project. And in Pats defence he did do all the work himself, I just helped him find the information and resources he required.
The outcome of our enthusiastic collaboration was a great project that he was totally absorbed and excited by. As such, the work was of a higher calibre then perhaps some of his other work at the time.
If I had had the age and wisdom to not be so bullied by a teachers opinion then I would have put forward exactly that case. I mean, wasn’t the object of the project that he learn and enjoying learning as much as he could about the topic and then demonstrate that learning?
Hadn’t he done that? Yes, tick tick tick
Unfortunately I was a young parent and a person who had always been brought up to believe the teacher is right. Which they are not. Although they should be respected – always.
And thinking back maybe I did take my project solving a bit too far. I have a hard time with knowing how much help is just enough, or when I have done too much, when it comes to those that I love.
At the time I remained confused and silent on the matter. Pat never really came to ask me for help on a project again.
I think from that incidence perhaps, he developed a strong idea that he had to do everything in life himself, and that he wasn’t to ask for assistance.
And that is a broken lesson that needs rounding out – for both of us.
Problems are like projects. Each person is delivered projects from the universe. We can’t solve other peoples projects but we can listen and if we have the ability, it is absolutely within our rights and responsibility to direct them to the resources they need to help them solve their projects themselves.
Collaboration is a human instinct. It’s a survival instinct that is incredibly important as a linking mechanism within communities.
I am a very independent person due to the fact that I had to solve all my own problems and projects when I was a child. This wasn’t explicitly told to me, it was implied and made necessary by the fact that I boarded away from home when I was a small child.
The outcome of this is that it makes it extremely hard for me to ask for help. I don’t even have the language to do that most of the time – it feels awkward and stilted.
Sadly, I have discovered that I am therefore missing that vital linking mechanism that ties me to community.
I have volunteered and helped and aided and assisted in charity and community organisations for many years.
It is absolutely no problem for me to extend help, but it is near impossible for me to ask or receive help.
It is also difficult to know when to stop helping and just step back and let someone else step in. So I used to burn out quite frequently.
Collaboration is by its nature a reciprocal thing. I’m learning.
Family is our first experience in how to collaborate, but sadly for many it doesn’t work out that way. but just because you didn’t learn the knack early doesn’t mean you can’t learn it later in life. I know our family is.
It’s deeply rewarding to feel love come back to you in a thoughtful way. It’s an intelligent way to act and react. Others have a different perspective from you and may offer something you haven’t thought of when you are looking for a solution to a “project”.
It’s good to know that support and guidance are always there, and when people set and observe healthy boundaries, project collaboration becomes the beautiful problem solving mechanism that it should be.
I’m grateful that this lesson has finally revealed itself to me. Thought I would share in case it’s beneficial to someone else. Have an awesome day, hope you have some special people to collaborate with. If not, find some, that’s the beauty of being a living member of the human species.
Header photo: my two brothers chatting and planning. I took the photo from behind them in my bike. We were all on a trip together and it was an interesting meshing of adult siblings establishing leader follower patterns when deciding where we were going. Me? I let them talk and then went at my own pace and did my own thing. Just not anflocking bird I’m afraid. But as I said, I’m learning the art and beauty of collaboration. My sons are teaching me how. Life is so circular.