Last night, we were up a bit late.
My son is part of an orienteering club Monday nights, meaning we get home late and he gets to bed even later. It’s wonderful, though, to listen to the children running and screaming through the darkened park and forest along the river, their headlamps bobbing in the shadows as they try to find the various flag stations and “punch in” before moving on to the next one.
Last night was especially nice as the weather has become warmer and sunnier again. Not that it was sunny at 7:30 last night.
As we drove home along the lamp-flecked waterway, windows down, music turned up, I thought about how valuable it is for my boy to be up and running wild through the darkness with a bunch of other kids. Yes, he would be tired today, but there was a certain value in last night’s activity.
And so, I said I would let him sleep in this morning and could drive him to school if he missed the bus.
This morning began cloudy but cool. And late. Even I slept through my alarm – for about thirty minutes! That was more to do with Homeland starting than orienteering fallout, though.
I jumped out of bed and ran downstairs, pausing for a moment outside my son’s room. I quietly pushed his door open, only to find him still asleep.
So I went back to lie down for a bit.
Eventually, though, I started moving about, getting things ready for his eventual return to the waking world.
When he did wake up he was still pretty tired and sort of wandered around lying down on floors in various rooms for a bit. So I said he should either get ready to go to school, or go back to bed. He chose the latter.
As I puttered around, getting this and that ready, I started to think differently. He is only 8, but now is when we start building our attitudes and ethics towards life and duties and responsibilities.
So, back into his room I went. If he had been truly asleep, I may have left it. But I could see he was faking.
“Up and at it!” I said, pulling clothes out of his closet. We had a bit of a moment when he tossed those clothes across the room and tried to cover his head with the covers. I gave him my most intolerant face and told him not to throw his clothes around his room.
“I want to stay home and lie around and read all day,” he tried.
“No.” I said, “You get up. You can do whatever activities you like in the evenings, but you have to be able to get up the following day and do what needs to be done then, too.”
I know I said he could sleep in and I would drive him, but in the end, I got him on that bus.
Technically, he did get the promised sleep in, though. And though in the end I made sure he made it to the bus instead of getting a drive, he got a sweet deal out of it – he didn’t have to eat the hated oatmeal but instead got fluffy white bread with butter and jam, which he ate standing at the bus stop.
So, did I do the right thing?
I may have confused him somewhat by changing my mind and rushing him along when I had initially said I wouldn’t, but I think it’s ok for parents to change their minds. As long as the child understands why.
Tonight, before he goes to bed a bit earlier than usual, I will explain to him the importance of fulfilling responsibilities. And his responsibility right now is going to school.
When he is in the working world, or even when he is older and still in school, he may choose to do any number of things in the evening. But he must still drag himself out of bed in the morning and make it to work or school or wherever it is that he needs to be.
Lazing around in bed because you were up late and having fun the night before is, I’m afraid, not the lesson I want him to learn.
He may still be young, but I think that now is the time to help him by building a foundation of values and ethics that will help him in the future.