It’s a little after noon, and my younger son still hasn’t found his way to the world of wakefulness. At the age of ten, he has finally become part of that elite group who can sleep in. It’s summer after all, and this summer looks worlds different for my family.
Growing up, my dad had some pretty strong feelings about sleeping in. As in – my sister and I weren’t really allowed to. We had to be up by 8:00 no matter what. He didn’t want us wasting our lives away one sleepy Saturday morning at a time. (All of that changed after my brother was born ten years after me…I swear he didn’t grow up with the same parents I did!) Somehow, over the years, that morning philosophy spilled into so many other areas of expectation for myself and for my boys.
Past summers meant scheduled time at the pool, participation in as many reading challenges as possible, complicated lists of chores and jobs around the house, and measured amounts of time on electronic devices. One summer I spent days crafting an intricate system where chores done translated into screen time – there must have been over a hundred little pieces that could be manipulated on the magnetic board to show how the boys’ spent their time each day. And here’s the truth – the boys did learn some valuable lessons about work, and family life, and boundaries.
But this summer has been very different.
This year, the boys are old enough to take care of themselves. So there’s no one getting them up in the mornings by a certain time. We often don’t even tell them when they need to go to bed – we just give a hug and a gentle reminder as we make our own way to sleep. No one tells them that it’s time for lunch – some days they choose to eat strange concoctions like blue cheese and pepperoni sandwiches with hot sauce. Some days they live on goldfish crackers and pretzels. Video game time is limited, but you’ll often find them, lounging on the couch halfway upside down, legs hanging over the edge, phone in hand as they watch a video or scroll through iFunny.
Can I tell you how difficult it has been for me to let go?
It’s not that I’m doing a scientific study on how to allow kids to turn to mush in 60 days or less. I’m not trying to get into the Worst Mom Hall of Fame. And it’s certainly not that I’ve stopped caring about my kids.
It’s just that I believe they are growing.
My older son started a job this year. Not only do I not tell him when to go to bed, but I also don’t tell him when it’s time to leave for work. He has to do it all on his own. And if he’s late to work, he pays the consequences. When my younger son sat down with a ginormous bowl of ice cream topped with everything he could find in the pantry and fridge, I didn’t tell him he couldn’t eat it. He came to the conclusion on his own that it wasn’t a good idea – after it made him feel gross the rest of the day. After finding out they missed a trip to Waffle House because they were still sleeping, the boys realized that it stinks to miss out on doing things as a family.
This year, my boys are reveling in laziness, and as a result, they are learning some things that they may not have learned otherwise.
Growth happens when we allow space in our lives.
It makes me think about the teams I lead. When I hold their hands too tightly, the job gets done, but they don’t really learn anything in the process. When I dictate every process and every timeline, things may run smoothly, but my people don’t have the chance to grow. When I insist on doing things my way, I stunt the potential of my team.
Maybe it’s time for me to step back and ease up a little. Maybe it’s time to allow people the space they need to, yes, fail. Because failure produces some of the best learning experiences imaginable.
How can I let go so that my team can experience growth?