Wednesday, July 25, 2007

"After Enlightenment, The Laundry" (Zen Proverb)

If I had my way, something like this, reproduced in either gold or platinum and perhaps jazzed up with a few pave-set diamonds, would be a classic milestone wedding anniversary gift.

No dewy bride, smiling tremulously at her brand new husband on their wedding day, is calculating the number of pairs of socks he's going to wear--and need washed--over the next forty or fifty years. Few new mothers can, while holding their sweet tiny infants clutched close, envision the loads and loads of tiny adorable outfits needing to be laundered over the next few years, or imagine the sort of day when everything baby is wearing has to be replaced and washed two, three, or four times, along with a load or two of crib sheets. But they will discover, as we all do, that nothing says "I love you" like a load of freshly washed and folded clothing.

I'm not in a position to complain. My girls have been washing and folding their own laundry for a while now, and only the youngest still needs some occasional help. For this I have a friend of my mom's to thank, who told her one day that since ten-year-olds are quite capable of using the microwave, running the dishwasher and programming a V.C.R., they can easily learn to operate a washing machine. This is probably even more true for today's kids, who can use computers and cell phones by the age of ten; compared to the technology the average ten-year-old can handle a washer and dryer seem downright antiquarian.

Still, the change in my role from sole laundry operator to chief operator/supervisor has occasionally led to a few problems, not the least of which has been the need to remind my children gently and sympathetically half a dozen times (or as they put it, nag them) to finish the loads they've started, so I can have a crack at the washer and dryer on occasion. I still do two people's laundry plus most of the household linens, so I need more than three hours on Wednesday to do the portions of the week's wash that continue to be my responsibility; once summer's over I'm going to have to insist on everyone's sticking to her predetermined laundry day, or there will be chaos.

And that would be a shame, because the thing I actually enjoy about laundry is that sense of accomplishment, the bringing about of order from chaos, turning the slightly rank and tangled contents of a laundry hamper into piles of neatly folded and organized clothing items. Few household tasks for a mother offer such an immediate payoff, in my view.

Dishes? Nah. Somebody's always got a glass or two hidden away somewhere, ready to plop into the nice clean sink exactly twenty minutes after you've turned on the dishwasher.

Vacuuming or mopping? Not unless your entire family is out while you're doing these chores; otherwise you may not even finish one room before dirty footprints mysteriously appear behind you, in the area you thought you already cleaned.

Clutter management? I'm not even going there.

But those clean piles of clothing represent a task well done, which will not have to be done again for at least a little while (maybe a whole day or two, if you're lucky). Few things in a mother's life have such a sense, even a temporary one, of successful completion.


Opal said...

You post this as I had to do a MASS wash of DD and DS sheets/spreads/EVERYTHING because of poison ivy outbreak!!!!
If I didn't think I would be excluded from everything, I might consider giving this to the next one in family to be married. :0)

I agree with you on the satisfaction part...still don't like it tho. And changing the tile color from white to a medium brown helped on the tracking up kitchen part (snicker).

Red Cardigan said...

Oh, Opal! Poison ivy's no fun. Hope everyone recovers quickly!

And good thinking on the tile! :)

4andcounting said...

I agree. Laundry, while annoying, can be started and finished and put away and for at least a few hours considered a completed task. I can't wait until my kids can do their own. I was doing my own around age 12 or so I think and will not hesitate to have mine do their own. If only I can make it through the next 4-6 years. I'm lucky though, Husband does his own laundry.