I'm the type to take on a lot of tasks, and no matter how overwhelmed I might feel I don't ask for help. My stubbornness is my fatal flaw, so I'm stressed and anxious on a pretty regular basis. Sure, I'd love help, but I know when my partner offers it to me, or my kids, he doesn't always mean he'd like to help. Actually, some things a dad really means when he asks "do you need help?" have nothing to do with being supportive and everything to do with finding and exploiting a short cut that'll allow them to bypass a substantial amount of necessary work. Thanks, fellas.
Now, before the #NotAllMen grab their torches and run in my direction, I know that not every father doesn't want to help when he asks. And I know there are more than a few mothers and parents who, like me, make it difficult for another parenting partner to help because we want things done a certain way and would rather accomplish things ourselves. Still, we can read the subtext to a few universal dad comments, gentlemen. We know what you really mean. For example, sometimes my partner will ask my son if he wants help building a new Lego set, but what he really means is, "Leave me alone while I build it." When my daughter is struggling with her incredibly complicated math homework and my partner asks, "Do you need help?" I know he's hoping, praying, and wishing she'll say she'll handle it all on her own. Because, math.
That's not to say dads aren't willing to help their kids, or that they don't want to support their partners, or they're incapable of being equal and active parenting partners. I'm sure there's some out there who mean what they say. But when it comes to some of the hidden meanings behind a father's offer to help, here's what that dad probably really means: