Sunday, February 1, 2009

Laundry: An Inner Battle

Published February 1, 2009
St. George Spectrum & Daily News

A few years ago, I wrote a column about my inner struggle over letting my kids take over the task of doing their own laundry. Hearing from an instructor in the parenting class I was attending that kids can be responsible for their own laundry at the tender age of 7, I entered in to an epic battle between Rationality, the part of me that wants my kids to learn and grow, and Emotion, the much larger part of me that wants them to stay young forever.

As battles go, it was pretty exciting. My rational brain, swords at the ready, charged with a cry of, “They have to learn sometime!” My emotional brain responded with a deadly volley of flaming arrows and a barely intelligible shriek of, “But they’re just BABIES! And I’m the MOM! It’s my job because I’m the MOM!” Suffering heavy casualties, Rationality retreated to some remote portion of my left brain and the laundry continued as it had in years previous.

Last week, my kids started doing the laundry on their own.

You’re hoping that over the course of three years Rationality regrouped, recruited Sense and Pragmatism, and made an alliance with True Parental Love to defeat Emotion in the rematch of the century, aren’t you? I’m sorry to say it wasn’t like that at all. Apparently, Emotion was no match for post knee surgery Desperation. Flaming arrows are to Emotion as nuclear warheads are to Desperation. It wasn’t a very long fight.

It’s interesting to me to realize that it took a complete inability for me to walk to finally let go and allow (force) my kids to have the opportunity (drudgery) of doing their own laundry. When you think about it, it’s not really that hard a job. You put the laundry into a machine and push some buttons. You move it into another and push more buttons. You fold it and you put it away. (Or you fold it and it sits in baskets until the next laundry day…What? That’s not what you do?)

Of course, after some initial resistance, the kids did a great job and their second round of laundry this week was even better. Watching my eight year old skip out of the laundry room after pulling her load from the dryer, a smile of triumph and confidence on her face, has done wonders for Rationality, which gets stronger every day. It seems that even when the need for Desperation has passed, the laundry will continue as a full family effort.

This is not to say Emotion is completely gone. It’s nursing its wounds in some right brain dive, muttering things like, “But I just want to feel needed,” while its new buddy, Control Freak, cut down by surprise in the crossfire, mutters, “I just wanted to make sure it was done right.” Every now and then, they’re joined by Inner Child, crying a timid little, “I had to do my laundry as a kid and it still hurts.”

They’re all much more bitter than their counterpart, Hero Complex, which is happily washing the dishes.