There are so many stories I can think of in my 20+ career where I chose to lean in or lean back and each one proved to be a lesson in either what I can accomplish or what I should have accomplished. However, one of my most memorable lean in moments is seeing my daughters lean in at the ripe ages of 10 and 13.
I am described by my three daughters as a geek, nerd, cool mom and a few other less flattering adjectives when I hold to my house rules or make them eat healthy "all the time." Being the nerdy geek and working with many of the same ilk, I often come home from work with some new gadget or a link to a website about something cool I heard about that we should check out. One evening, I came home excited about a new project I decided to back on Kickstarter. It is a very basic tool to teach the fundamentals of computing and simple science with a whole lot of potential for fun. My two youngest girls immediately got excited about it and begged me to back the project at a level that would get us two of the kits.
After months of (not so) patiently waiting for the kits to arrive, we finally got two red, very nondescript boxes in the mail. When the girls got home from school, I pointed to the boxes and told them "it's all yours!". They opened the boxes and found very little information about what to do: just a main board and some wires. After puzzled looks, I told them to just go figure it out. They grabbed the boxes and took off to the family room to explore.
About two hours later, they came to find me and were beaming about what they were able to do with the kits. They were creating games and experimenting with various conductors of electricity. They were dying to share with their classmates at school and suggested that experimenting with the kits could be a fun after school activity. They go to a progressive Montessori school that encourages the elementary and middle school kids to lead programs after school.
At first, the girls looked to me to arrange the program. This was my opportunity to encourage them to lean in. They had figured out how to use the kit on their own, they were motivated to share with others, so I told them to just go for it and propose the program to their Head of School. They planned their strategy carefully. I was asked to set up the meeting with the Head of School (mainly because my calendar is pretty brutal and my laptop and I were needed for the demo). The girls prepared a presentation to the Head of School that included the demo (I held the laptop, they did the rest), a lesson plan, and a confirmed teacher who was willing to volunteer her time to serve as the adult supervisor for the class.
The Head of School was thrilled with the idea and the girls had the opportunity to lead a group of eight elementary aged kids in a six week program. It was not only tremendously fun for the girls, but they clearly took great pride in their ability to lean in and make something they were passionate about a reality. I of course am equally proud of them for doing this and would like to think that my years of leaning in — which often led to missed school activities because of travel or events because of meetings — has demonstrated to them that anything is possible if they just go for it.