Right now, I should be hollering at various offspring to do various things related to cleaning up the various messes they have made in pursuit of their various activities, but I am….not doing that. Why? Because I don't want to do that, is why. It is our February vacation, and along with life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness, it is every American's right to be lazy during vacation. I realize Jefferson never said that, but if he were in his right mind when he plagiarized extensively from John Locke wrote the Declaration, then that's what he meant. He just got distracted by all that consent-of-the-governed stuff.
Anyhoo, since I usually spend quite a bit of time here airing my maternal shortcomings, I thought I'd share one of the (admittedly rare) parenting wins I've experienced lately. Trust me, this is not one of those "oh hey look at how effortlessly I can get my kids to be so much more wonderful than yours"-type posts (Imma looking at YOU here, Facebook); it's more along the lines of a, "If *I* can get my kids to do something then there is hope for all of us so just hang in there"-type post. And with no further ado, I give you:
Parenting Win: Laundry Edition
Generally one could find me of a weekend in the laundry room, surrounded by mountains of clothes being transferred into or out of a laundry appliance. I kid you not, for some reason, my little family of four managed to generate four or five loads of laundry per week, loads that had to be washed and dried and folded and sorted and put into various rooms there to stack up like unused building materials until the next weekend rolled around, world without end, amen - unless there was a bottleneck in the system (i.e., I could not bring myself to do anything else laundry-related), in which case, a gigantic mount of laundry would pile up in my room, thence to be raided by family members in pursuit of clean socks and underwear. It never ended, the laundry. Eventually, I noticed that certain younger members of the family always had so much clean, folded laundry in the wash basket, they would have to have worn an average of three outfits per day AND dirtied every item of every outfit to generate that much laundry in a week's time.
I did a little reconnaissance and identified that, yes, certain members of this family had a tendency to use the hamper as an auxiliary dresser. As in, if it takes three seconds to throw something in the hamper and fifteen seconds to put it back in the dresser, guess which one won out? So I sat the chief offender down and showed her various pristine items from the laundry hamper. "I spilled something on it," she said defensively. "And that one….and that one….and that one too," she added, as more items were presented for her inspection. Clearly, this was not going to be an easy fix. Then I remembered my coworker Lorna telling me about how, when her kids hit the middle-elementary years, she showed them how to do their own laundry.
And the light bulb went on.
I gave each girl a guided tour of the laundry room and showed them how to set the machine to the most basic wash cycle. I had them pour detergent and softener into the correct receptacles. I showed them how to turn the dial on the dryer and clear the lint filter. Then I got each one of them a cheap hamper from Target to put in their rooms, and told them they'd be doing their own laundry from now on. They can fold it or not as they wish, but I am no longer in the business of family washerwoman. Once she realized she was going to have to do all the work herself, the family member described above promptly went through her pile of dirty clothes and separated out the clean stuff she had just thrown in there because she was being lazy, because she didn't want to go through the work to wash it again.
This is not to say that there haven't been bumps along the way. The self-same person discussed above decided that the step of taking the clean clothes out of her hamper and putting them away was superfluous. She started throwing in dirty clothes with clean ones and then claiming she had to do laundry again, which had to be nipped in the bud (which I did by standing over her and forcing her to go through the clothes and sort them out, which she did not like in the slightest). There was an incident with a bottle of fabric softener and a couple of other minor issues, but those pale in comparison to the effort and time *I* save not playing laundress for ingrates. Now I can get all the laundry for the household done in one or two loads, which means I can finish it within a weeknight if need be. Unfortunately, the laundry left that I still have to do has not learned how to fold itself yet, but we have world enough and time - plus eventually, I can bribe someone younger and more impecunious than I am to do it for me.