“Mama, I Have No Underpants!”

I’m sure you’ll agree that this is not what you want to hear on an already-nutty school day morning. Yet, it happens with shocking regularity when, for some reason, yours truly hasn’t kept laundry-doing apace with children’s general daily dirtiness. Oy.

The answer they usually get from me is: “You’ll have to fish yesterday’s out of the hamper and turn them inside out.” Gross though it may be, it’s either that or free-breezing as there’s certainly not enough time on a week day to get a laundry cycle done before it’s time to take the little darlings to school.

This morning, a conversation with my 7 year-old revealed part of the problem.

Mama, this is my last pair of socks,” she pointed out while getting dressed.

Well then, what does that mean?” I inquired, hoping the she’d realize the obvious.

It means that there must be clean, folded clothes downstairs that need bringing upstairs.

Ah, there’s the problem.

My children believe that somehow the dirty laundry that they deposit into the hamper upstairs magically transports itself downstairs, into the washing machine and drier, and is then neatly folded by the laundry fairies.

Ah.

Today this changes. Today, starts the beginning of a new chapter in the Annals of My Children’s Laundry. Henceforth, the onus is on them to do the following:

  1. Pay attention to when they are running low on key clothing items. Low is the keyword here. This is surprisingly challenging for them.
  2. Bring the laundry hamper downstairs. Bonus points for no eye rolling or dramatic sighing. Or fighting over who does it.
  3. Put dirty clothes into washing machine. Bonus points for actually adding detergent and switching it on (which I taught them today.)

If items 1-3 are performed dutifully, regularly and with the appropriate attitude, then there’s a strong chance that I may actually see the laundry through the conclusion, even folding their dry, clean clothes for them. (Because, ssshhhh, I secretly enjoy doing the laundry but don’t tell the little people.)

However, if items 1-3 are not performed, then it’ll be back to fishing yesterday’s smelly socks or skivvies out of the hamper.

Why Am I Doing So Much For My Kids?

“I cannot help you; you’re too independent.”

My Mom said these words to me a few months back. I think she was complaining but I’ll take it as a compliment. After all, I’m the middle child. The older one got all the first son status. The younger one got all the youngest child attention. So I was always determined to chart my own course. Consequently, I firmly believe that happiness and success are my own choice. I alone am responsible for the decisions I make and their outcomes. I create my own destiny.

So why the heck am I doing so much now for my kids? I do their laundry, I clean up after them (I use the word “clean” quite loosely), I remind them (when I remember) to take their swimsuits/library books/signed forms to school, I arrange their playdates, I (sometimes) check their homework. I organize their clothes, get new ones when they outgrow current ones. We buy groceries, new shoes, toys. My husband folds their clothes, packs their lunch every day. We plan and cook their dinners, recycle their trash. We ferry them here, there and everywhere.

Is this not part of the definition and commitment of parenthood?

Yes, they do have some basic chores but inconsistency is ubiquitous (our fault, largely.) Take your plate/glass/cutlery over to the sink when you have finished your meal. Put your shoes/coat/hat/mittens away when you come in the house. Hang your towels up after you use them. Make sure dirty clothes find their way to the hamper, at some point. To me, these are all part of respectfully co-existing in the same household.

But I have decided it’s time for the grown-ups to back-off and for these kids start stepping it up. There is much much more that they can – and should – be doing to be active contributors to our home and hearth, otherwise known as this working Mom’s domestic crisis.

Starting today – albeit gradually and with best intentions – I’m doing less and they are doing more. They are nine and almost seven years-old and I believe it’s time. Maybe even beyond time. It’s going to start with bringing their full hamper down and then folding and putting away their own laundry. We’ll move on to making their own school lunches. Stacking and emptying the dishwasher. Sweeping the kitchen floor. On the weekends, they can make their own breakfasts and lunches. They can call their friends and arrange their own social schedules (checking with parents, of course, who still have to do the ferrying.) I’m sure my husband would appreciate help putting the trash out.

The whining will certainly be loud. Eyeballs will roll. They will be plenty of “fine” and “whatever” and pushback. There will be days when the particular pair of pants he wants to wear are not clean because he won’t have realized that the hamper was full.  They will inevitably say “I’m hungry” and get all stroppy when food does not instantly appear. They will learn. I know other parents who have successfully drilled these duties into their kids’ and I feel ashamed that I am still doing it all for them.

Over time, I’m hoping, these chores will become natural, second nature and hopefully, this household will hum with organization, goodwill and less mayhem. But this isn’t just about making my life easier (though that’s a huge incentive, I’ll admit.)

It’s about getting them to think, anticipate and understand the ingredients of an independent life so that, as they get older and obstacles (emotional, physical and academic) plant themselves in their path, they’ll have the muscle memory to face them. Be responsible for their actions. Take failures and inequity in their stride and ultimately, create their own success – whatever that will be.

Emptying the dishwasher, putting away clean socks and remembering their library books are just stepping stones in this journey. Independence is the goal, but happiness is always a choice.

What Is It About Kids & Socks

Why are they always liberally distributed around my house?

Why are they never in pairs?

What are they always damp and stinky?

Why do they never make it into the laundry hamper?

Why do their toes eventually always poke through?

Why are there never any clean, matching ones when you need them?

Why do they have to match, anyway?

WHY CAN’T I CONTROL THE SOCKS?????

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For the Love of … Loading the Dishwasher

I recently blogged about my love for laundry, how it feeds some deep-seated compulsion for order and organization, how much I enjoy converting a smelly disorganized hamper-full of dirty clothes into fragrant, neatly folded piles. A few of you called me weird. I get it, that’s cool. But it also sparked a lot of empathy and discussion among readers of the Framingham Patch (where my post also ran.)

And so this brings me to the topic of loading the dishwasher, another contentious topic methinks, especially among married couples. Raise your hand, readers, if you reload the dishwasher after your spouse does. My hand is raised. The Boston Globe even wrote about the marital strife that the dishwasher causes.

Bottom-line, I have a system and it works.

On the top deck:

  • cups and mugs on one side, handles all facing the same direction
  • big drinking glasses on the other side
  • kids drinking glasses in one row
  • bowls, lunch boxes and other random plastic items in the middle –  but arranged to make optimal use of space

On the bottom deck:

  • plates of the same size, stacked all in the same direction
  • silverware sorted by type
  • bowls, dishes, lids, other utensils around them –  but arranged to make optimal use of space

This, my friends, is not rocket science. Note the phrase “optimal use of space.” For the life of me, I cannot understand why some people throw everything haphazardly? There is absolutely no rhyme or reason to it. And while I’m pointing the finger mostly at you, men of the world, the fact is that I also know of some women who are dishwasher-challenged. (You really must check out this funny card on the topic!)

But let’s get back to the enjoyment factor. When the sink is full and the counter is littered with the detritus of dinner, I get deep pleasure from opening the empty dishwasher, assessing the mess and then methodically organizing and loading. It is always a titillating challenge to try to fit as much as humanly possible into the machine, while not overloading it and rendering the cleaning ineffective.

Equally pleasing, though at first mighty annoying, is opening the dishwasher to find that someone has already filled it, kind of. After an initial sigh, the process of reorganizing and reloading ensues and, lo and behold, another 50 percent more stuff can fit in there. And, because there is organization, the unloading and putting away process is equally efficient.

Call me OCD, call me a control freak. And I reassure you I am NO domestic diva. But I have this strong inkling that you get my drift, am I right?

Several months back, I wrote about the importance of teaching your kids resourcefulness (so that ultimately you can get them to do stuff for you.) My goal is to teach my son how to load the dishwasher efficiently. If I do it right, then not only will I have to load the dishwasher less but I’ll be setting him up for future household (and marital) bliss!

For the Love of …. Laundry

This is going to sound warped and you are probably going to think I’m nuts or completely abandoning the mothership and womanhood and all that. But here goes:

I love doing the laundry.

Yup, you read that right. I love doing the laundry.

Sure, I complain about it like everyone else, but that’s just to give off the appearance of being harried and frustrated by the regularity and dullness and domesticity of those large, often pungent, sometimes sticky piles of clothing that are either strewn about or heaped up in dank corners. (Why do they never all make it into the hamper?)

The reality is that I actually relish – yes, that’s right – relish the process of converting the mess, wrinkles and smell into fragrant, smooth and orderly piles.

There’s also a certain OCD element in me that appreciates the anticipation of timing the laundry just right so that I can be one step ahead of someone being out of clean underpants. If I time it right, we can (hopefully) avoid the meltdowns when the batman jammies are not available or someone’s favorite T-shirt can’t be found. Or, heaven forbid, when there are only clean skirts or skorts instead of shorts or pants (guranteed to incite whines and tears from my 5-year old tom boy.) Plus, during the summer months, there’s the extra thrill of ensuring that there’s always a regular supply of clean towels, swim suits and changes of clothes for two kids for camp.

I’ll often secretly inhale from a big of clean clothes, fresh from the drier. That smell, to me, is almost as pleasurable as the buzz I get from that first sip of coffee in the morning.

Next, I’ll turn on the TV and methodically take each laundered item and create piles. Socks, underpants, facecloths in one pile, everything else in the other. And then I’ll fastidiously fold each item and create more piles sorted by kid, by item (shorts in one pile, T-shirts in another). I often finger each item as I handle it, smoothing out the wrinkles and fondly remembering something entertaining or interesting about my son or daughter when last they wore it. As I inspect each item, I muse over how much they’ve grown, calculating how many more wears these pants might get before the eventual holes at the knees , or how many more Marmite/sardine stains her tops can withstand before they must be forced out of commission. I recall the source of each piece of clothing, which store or from whom it was handed down (thank heavens for hand-me-downs!) I think about the upcoming season and whether last Spring’s clothes will fit them come Fall. I hope so, because the hand-me-downs are running low….

Finally, in front of me, roughly eight orderly, uniform towers of neatly folded and sorted clean clothes. Then begins the process of putting them away, closet by closet, drawer by drawer, making sure that the rotation of yet-to-be-worn clothes takes place.

This complete, detailed and yes, maniacal, process happens at least once a week. It’s fantastic!

Woe betide he who messes with the process.

Actually, the truth is my husband willingly folds laundry. Except he folds it differently from me. Which causes this whole internal battle in me in which I have to talk myself into accepting that the folding is not being done my way. Gratefully accept the assistance. Get over myself, in general. It works most of the time, though I do admit to often checking in the kids’ closets and drawers after he’s done putting their clothes away and reorganizing stuff.

Any men reading this probably think I am a lunatic. Or maybe they recognize this behavior and witness it in their own homes. But, my fellow Moms, I bet I am not alone here. Maybe you are not as controlling as me about the laundry. Maybe you are. Maybe it’s some other aspect of household management?

Tell me …. do you enjoy doing the laundry as much as me?

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A Random Post About Circles

I’ve been thinking about circles lately. The way my life is full of them and what they represent, especially as a parent. In Judaism, the bagel symbolize the eternal cycle of life – and I guess eating one of them recently set me off on this trajectory of cataloging some of the circles in my life. Here are just a few:

  • Looping from room to room picking up Legos, socks, and other random stuff and them depositing wherever they supposed to be.
  • Hugs and more hugs.
  • My circle of Mom friends, so essential to my sanity.
  • The sparkling three rings I wear on my ring finger – marking our engagement, our wedding and our five year anniversary.
  • My Google+ Circles – not that I am using them much.
  • The daily drive to preschool, school, to the office and then back all over again.
  • The endless laundry – from hamper to washer to drier to closet to hamper to washer to drier to closet to hamper …
  • Holding hands around the dinner table on a Sunday when we each say what we are thankful for.
  • Target.
  • Waffles, pancakes, pizza, crackers, cookies – and of course, bagels!

Coming next, the impact of rhomboids on my life.

Just kidding.

Really.

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