Me help! Ohh, those two words.




The day’s been long before lunchtime. The kitchen looks like a truckload of spaghetti sauce-encrusted ick exploded overnight. Cornucopias of pots, pans, Mount Laundry and Such. It’s your turn to make snacks for Wednesday night youth group. Forgotten until that moment you glanced at the calendar for a refresher on what month it is. Mostly, an extra pair of hands offered inspires gratitude in such circumstances.

Yet, you groan.

For “help” is coming courtesy of two chubby-wubby, impossibly cute hands that inevitably fling flour like so much fairy dust and christen you his Kitchen Princess with it.

So sweet but makes for a rather pale complexion.

He’ll crack eggs, delighting at ooze on the countertop when he misses the bowl. The few pots not growing something strangish will get strewn out in a makeshift drum kit, he’ll beg a wooden spoon or two dozen to make “music” for you while you scrub and curse tomato’s stick-to-it qualities when applied to your granny’s trusty old sauce pan.

OK. So, cooking and cleaning are out.


Tea towels will get wadded, socks unmatched and snowed down on the floor in a colorful display. Your unmentionables will be deemed a most terrific pirate hat as he parades the house with an undeniably adorable, “Arrr, me matey!” You’ll just have to refold, re-explain, recover.

Laundry? Dismissed undoable, too.

So, you mumble a hasty “no,” scoot him on his way to play trucks with Curious George and turn back to the monumental tasks at hand.

There’s relief at the lack of underfoot in your day. I mean, no doubt every mama needs it sometimes. Yet, guilt gnaws. A something missingness wells up and you glance to tiny helpful tyke wondering why it is so hard to just let them learn, mess and all.

A significant challenge in our house.

Autism, physical delays, and toddlerhood means learning gets awfully sticky. Also scattery, slippery, and sometimes shatter. There’s much let’s-go-over-this-ten-more-times in many of our days on everything from the clean clothes shuffle to squeezing toothpaste without bright blue ribbons going awry. Not to mention entrusting major real-life things like trash-toting, rug-vacuuming and extracting applesauce sludge from dinner tables.

Sometimes, I have this urge to snatch the rag and scour said sludge myself when it’s all just a slow spread across the wood. But, then, what would dear daughter learn about “me help?” Or I find my fingers itch to take the vacuum handle and demonstrate how to get the dozens of fuzzballs missed. But, then, dear son’s “me help” would feel for naught. So, I hold back, welcome the wonderfully imperfect help, only sprinkling hints here and there, praying the best over this bubbling broth of parenthood. For learning’s not just classrooms of neat little rows, but, rather, digging moments of squishy hands, explorations of trying, missing, and trying again.

Grace needs long leashes, patience deep and ready supplies.

Helpers aren’t born, but cultivated. Without wiggle space in the soil, how will they ever remain motivated in this quest we have to do unto others? For our Father never avoids our flour-flinging or childish attempts at getting life. Rather, He gently dabs us clean, guiding our chubby hands once more in the fine art of “me help,” grinning as we grow for all the room we’ve been given.

How can I do less than open up my kitchen to the not-so-small-anymore “me-helpers” in my world, mess-making and all?

Marisa Ulrich

Marisa Ulrich is a mom of four, two autistic, two “typicals," living in one of those great old fixer-uppers in rural Kansas. She is in a blessed second marriage with the handyman of her dreams. Her writing has appeared in Autism Parenting and Zoom Autism. Her first book, Broken Cookies Taste Just as Sweet: The Amazing Grace of Motherhood, Marriage, and Miracles on the Spectrum is set to debut July 19th via eLectio publishing. Join her ongoing thoughts on Facebook, and online at