The other day, I stood there listing out to my son the things he had to do before he left for soccer practice and what he should be doing with his time. And then I just stopped.
I stopped talking. I stopped time-keeping. I stopped nagging. I stopped micromanaging.
“Why am I doing this?” I asked myself, “He knows what he has to do. He knows what time it is and how to manage his time. He’s ready for this.”
I am organizer of our family. I am the “I’m on top of it all” one in our family. And that can be exhausting and definitely not appreciated. Here’s the thing: I don’t think it’s just circumstances that put me in this role; I’ve taken hold of this role and ran with it. I’ve held onto it like “my precious!” (Lord of the Rings reference, people). Does that sound crazy? Yes.
Does it sound familiar?!
Why on God’s earth would we keep holding onto this role?!
i know I’ll hear: “Because everything would fall apart.”
Or: “No one else would do it.”
Some of that may be true for you. Maybe. But for me, this is what I’ve noticed: I stay in this role because I’m afraid and anxious. And being “the organizer” and the “one who has to be on top of everything” and playing the “under appreciated victim” is a way of trying to keep the lid on my fears and keep control of what seems so out of control.
It’s B.S. Being responsible for another human being’s life is a huge responsibility and you don’t get that quarterly review indicating how you are doing. Most of the time you feel like you are messing up or you don’t know what you are doing and you question if you are doing it “right.”
We as women have this habit of doubting ourselves. And it exhausts us.
I realized it was time for me to back off and allow my son to take the reins. The other night, if he he wasn’t dressed and ready for soccer practice, his ride would go on without him. If he was ready, he’d make it to practice.
I said to him, “You know what you have to do. You know what time your ride is coming to pick you. I know you know how to manage your time. So I’m going to leave this up to you.”
I told both my children that I wasn’t going to “get on them,” tell them to “hurry up,” or remind them again and again. I’m going to let them take more responsibility and experience age-appropriate natural consequences to their decisions.
Throughout our children’s lives, Brian and I have been about giving them age-appropriate responsibilities. But I realized the other night that I could micromanage less and they could take more responsibility for their everyday activities. I don’t have to be the time-keeper…as much!
My son knew he had to get on his soccer clothes and cleats. He knew he had to get his own water bottle and snack. And he knew that he had to load the dishes into the dishwasher before he left for soccer. He also knew that I wouldn’t be able to take him if he missed his ride.
He played one video game. I so badly wanted to say, “You only have ten minutes left. I wouldn’t play a game. The carpool is going to be here soon! And you still need to….” but I chose to see how it played out.
I stayed quiet and instead, I texted my girlfriend: “I told the kiddos i am no longer keeping track of their time nor nagging them about what they need to do next. I’m done being the time keeper. And you know what?! The kids are fine with it!”
Here’s the thing: I believe in my kids. I know my son is capable of getting himself out the door. He may not do it the way I would, but he can do it. I know that he is a responsible child. So why be so “helicopter?”
Because like all parents, I don’t want our children to experience disappointment or failure. But when we rescue our children or save them for experiencing disappointment and failure, we aren’t really “saving them” in the long-run. When we talk to our children about taking age-appropriate responsibility for their lives and that they are going to get to experience the consequences of their choices now in the safety of a loving home, our children learn how to be the leaders of their own lives. They get to practice making wise choices. And they get to learn from these choices.
This isn’t being harsh. It’s teaching natural consequences. This is teaching responsibility. It’s teaching self-discipline. It’s teaching time management.
I wasn’t mean about this as I talked to my son. He was actually up for the task! He was excited that I wasn’t micromanaging him.
It’s actually an act of compassion to help our children learn these life skills so they carry them into adulthood. I would rather my children experience fumblings and failures now when the consequences aren’t devastating or life-threatening.
My son was ready and waiting when his ride came to pick him up. He did it differently than I would have and he made a choice to not take a snack with him knowing he wouldn’t eat dinner until 8 p.m. But he did it his way and he made it happen. He didn’t complain when he got home from practice and ate dinner at 8 pm.
This is the same kiddo who got up early on Thanksgiving break to complete a homework assignment because he didn’t want it hanging over his head for the whole break. This is the same kiddo who planned out the food for his Boy Scout troop’s biking and camping trip.
It was time that I let go of the reins even more and give him the space to manage his time.
Maybe you, too, are in this boat of micromanaging your children’s tasks and their time. Maybe it’s getting old and you are ready for a change. I bet your children are, too. They might fumble. They might fail. But let them. Be alongside them in it, coach them in it, but don’t micromanage them through it.
This is what builds inner confidence. This is what supports wise decision-making, especially when the consequences are bigger and more lasting. This is what supports our children being responsible “leaders of their own lives.”
And friends, it feels…good. And it’s time.
In Regarding Our Children, my 30-day online course that starts on Monday, October 15th, I’ll be sharing more ways you can support your children in being “leaders of their own lives” — today and in the future. Come join us!