Ayla & the upside down sleep

The creative adult is the child who survived
— Ursula Leguin

It’s amazing how sometimes we hold the key to others creativity and limitations. 

My wife and I came back from a night out once at around 1 AM, to find the kids sleeping on the same bed. Squeezed obviously but they seemed to be fine. They were sleeping upside down to each other, one’s legs beside the other’s head, and vice versa. Nothing weird, when you have children!

The next day, a Sunday, they woke up and I asked if they were comfortable. Ayla, the eldest, said of course it was nice. Actually, I created a way to sleep comfortably.

I asked “what do you mean?”

She said, proudly: “I noticed that when we are sleeping side by side, we are not that comfortable while the lower part of the bed is quite empty. Our shoulders are the widest, then our tummies are average and our legs are the thinnest. I thought of trying it differently, so we flipped. This way, we filled the whole bed, and we are more comfortable.

I smiled and said, “that’s genius!”

Going back to my room, I thought that it’s quite an obvious thing, don’t you think? I mean the upside-down sleeping. Thankfully, I didn’t say it out loud. I went in my room and was thinking “what if I told her that it was the obvious thing to do?” which is something we say without any bad intentions.

I believe that if I told her that, I would have closed the door of her creative thinking. Obviously, she thought about it as a “discovery” … and if I shot it off as something “ordinary and obvious,” her thinking will be dimmed bit by bit, thinking that everything she thinks about is obvious. So, she would stop thinking creatively and critically.

I decided to take the conversation forward. Went back out and asked her “Ayla, so, how did you really come up with this idea of sleeping upside down to create more space for you two” and she said the most brilliant thing, for me at least: “Daddy, see the folders we use for our papers, how they’re thick from one side and thinner from the other? I was putting them on the shelf that day and noticed that they have filled the whole width, but the other side of the shelf was quite empty. So, what I did is flip every other one and the shelf could take 3 more folders. I thought about the same thing when we slept, and it worked.”

And honestly, this discussion is not as simple as it looks.

It could have gone in so many ways. I could have shut it off as “obvious,” I could have said “great idea, nice work,” I could have done what I did taking the discussion a bit further and I could even take it forward later, by asking her to relate other things in life to come up with ideas and solutions exactly like she did with the folders and the way we sleep.

So, as I was saying in the beginning, it’s amazing how sometimes we hold the key to others’ creativity and analytical skills, and we really have the power to open the door wide open for it or shut it off bit by bit until we kill it forever.

It’s our choice and responsibility as parents, as leaders, as creative thinkers, as friends… as humans!

Amr Habbal