From the moment our children are born, we begin to teach them independence.
We teach them to swallow, then eat, then gum, then chew. We teach them to hold up their heads, then sit up, then crawl, then toddle, then walk. We respond to their cries, then their babbles, then their jabbers and then their complete sentences. Each milestone brings with it a little bit of joyful triumph as our babies stretch their wings and prepare to fly into life. But it also brings a touch of tears as we know that they are moving slowly away from us, becoming their own creatures.
Except when we teach them about laundry. That brings us tears of frustration as we curse Adam and Eve for even bringing about the urge to cover our bodies, thus, necessitating clothes and the act of cleaning them.
A few years back, after I’d washed the exact same outfit of my older daughter’s and she hadn’t worn that outfit in at least a year, I decided it was time that she learn to do her own laundry.
I set aside one Saturday in the early fall, devoting it to all things laundry.
I had her sort her laundry into colors and shades. I had her carefully determine the size of the load. I helped her learn about the various products and their functions and smells. I showed her the dial and how to select the exactly right cycle for what she was washing. I taught her to transfer laundry from the washer to the dryer and how to select the correct heat for her items. Then, when the dryer completed its cycle, I had her take the freshly laundered clothes back to her room, fold them and put them away.
The kid was ready for the laundry Olympics if I do say so my own self.
This seemed to work out fine. On laundry day, I’d do the rest of the family’s laundry and she’d finish up her laundry last. She was perfectly fine with going last—in fact, she insisted on it.
When it was time for her younger sister to begin doing her own laundry, our oldest child gathered her under her arm and tutelage and showed her the laundry ropes.
Again. I was surely candidate for Mother of the Year, friends. I beamed with pride and revealed in the fact that I’d just cut my own personal laundry duty in half.
A few weeks later, with both girls doing their own laundry, I found them squabbling in the laundry room. I hoped the Mother Of The Year committee didn’t make a surprise drop-in at that exact moment.
Upon investigation, the girls were arguing over who would go last at completing their laundry. While it was a fairly big argument and laundry soap pods were used as ammunition, I was still fairly excited about the fact that they were offering the other the preferred “first dibs” on the laundry room.
Only, that’s not at all what the argument was about.
“I don’t want to go first,” my younger daughter appealed to me in her best baby-of-the-family voice. “I want to go last because I hate folding.”
Hate folding. That’s an interesting take on going last.
“Yeah, well,” her sister interrupted, “It was my idea in the first place.”
“Going last was your idea?” I asked for clarification, trying to understand the logic of middle school girls.
“Yeah,” she explained. “If you go last, you get to keep your laundry in the dryer all week long and tumble it when you’re ready to wear it.”
Oh … I was beginning to see the light. I was raising one evil genius.
“Why don’t you just take it out and fold it?” I suggested, thinking about all the times I could have just left my own laundry in the dryer and tumbled it. How wonderful would my morning have been had I just been able to slip into a warm, wrinkle free outfit fresh from the dryer.
If it were possible to hear eyes rolling, I would’ve heard their eyes rolling at me in the laundry room.
“I hate folding,” my youngest reiterated.
“Well, so do I!” my oldest cried, pleading her own case.
Being the good momma, I did what all good mommas do. I bowed out. “Let me know how you solve this and if you need help folding, just holler.”
Then I stepped from the laundry room, leaving both girls with their hampers of a week’s worth of unsorted laundry. I stayed out of view but not out of earshot.
My oldest began the negotiations. “If we set the load to extra large, I bet we could fit both hampers in here at the same time.”
My youngest was a forgiving counterpart. “Great idea.”
And that’s when they learned to work together … as they overloaded and overflowed our washing machine.
Heather Davis is a momma, a writer and has been removed from the Mother-Of-The-Year short list. She is the author of several books, all available through Amazon.com.