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For Rules’ Sake: The Freedom in Letting Go

Although I was on the other side of the playground when it started, I suspect the conversation began something like this: “Hey, let’s see if you can throw the football so hard that it gets stuck in the tree!” Perhaps having never experienced the frustration of getting a ball stuck up high, this young boy saw an opportunity to try something new.

Most of us have wished for the lost moments of our life back when we were working to retrieve an irretrievable item. As a result, most of us have made an unwritten rule that we should never throw something up there intentionally.

But not this boy.

Fortunately, his muse (who happens to be his teacher) is often game for challenging long-held beliefs–especially the ones that adults have imposed on kids, often without good reason. Rules for rules’ sake, you know. “The way we’ve always done things.”

By the time I arrived, they were drawing a crowd. We watched our impromptu quarterback throw the ball upwards toward the high branches. It’s amazing how hard it is to get a ball to stick in a tree the one time you want it to stay there!

With some effort, but not too much, he threw the ball high enough. And it stuck, way up there. Right where the boy wanted it. Everyone rejoiced in the victory we all wanted.

We found joy in breaking a rule about how things “should” be. At least I did. It felt wonderful to do something differently than many would, just because we could. On some level, we found freedom in it.

As parents, we can find the same freedom.

We get to switch things up. We get to examine the rules we consciously hold because they’ve always been that way. Perhaps our parents raised us perfectly; gently; respectfully. It’s good to emulate that in all the ways we can. Or perhaps they didn’t, and now, with our own children, we can challenge our long-held beliefs about parenting. We get to break negative cycles. It’s important to do that, too.

Sure, some rules make good sense; I’m not suggesting we throw our belongings into trees. Still, along with the rules we know we have, we can catch a glimpse of the ones we didn’t even know we were holding. Maybe we reconsider a “truth” we have about discipline, boundaries, or the innate goodness of children.

In examining these things, we regain the same type of freedom that the boy unleashed for us by wanting the ball in the tree. We get to do things our way, even if they’re different from what our parents and friends have done with their kids. We get to make our own rules, tossing out our parenting “shoulds” and replacing them with, “Sure, let’s try that.”

Having this freedom in parenting is not only a gift to our kids, but it’s a gift to ourselves, too. Once we know the rules that don’t serve our families well, we get to launch them as high and as far as we dare. And they can stick there, never returning.

There’s incredible freedom in letting go.

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