Dirty Laundry

A good friend of mine – though maybe I shouldn’t so readily admit this – is convinced that the items in her laundry pile multiply on their own.  The intensity with which she shares this theory, voice hushed and wavering, eyes suspiciously narrowed, has me almost believing that the heap of items waiting to be laundered actually does inexplicably reproduce.

I can definitely sympathize, and join her in considering the existence of some sort of textile mutation.  In my house too, laundry is an unachievable task, an unattainable goal, a constant work in progress with no hope of completion.

Having two kids doesn’t help.  Of course, what it does is compound the situation, and not just because they generate laundry.  It’s often because of what else they do, or don’t do with their dirty clothes that works against my efforts.

My 13-year-old son rolls his socks down and then off, and until recently, would leave them wherever he happened to have been hit by the sudden urge to liberate his toes from their confining cotton clutch.  With my encouragement (always encouragement, never nagging), he has kicked the habit of leaving them in the TV room or under the dinner table, and sometimes, they even make it to the hamper.  But most often, his dirty socks lay rolled up like deformed little donuts scattered amoungst the crumpled clothing on his bedroom floor.

It’s not just about reminding my son where to put the laundry, which is a simple instruction, that at 13, I think he should be able to follow.  I also had to impress upon him that if he isn’t going to un-roll his socks, then I would no longer un-dirty them.

Eventually, I noticed that he had developed the good sense to be sheepish, rather than indignantly demanding when asking where he might find a clean pair of socks…when most of them lay rolled up on his floor.

I took this as a clear indication that he was ready to get more involved in the process.

I took a deep detergent-scented breath and set the mood with jovial conversation about how learning this would actually benefit him.  As we approached the washing machine, I looked over, expecting my upbeat demeanor and gregarious smile to be mirrored back, but was surprised instead to see that his expression was rather like a panicked deer in headlights.

Although mothers and 13-year-old boys are known to occasionally misunderstand one another, I was pretty sure I was reading him as clear as the writing on a dryer sheet box:  If he learns how to do laundry, will he be stuck doing it all the time?  What about road hockey?  What about playing Wii?

But then, like an agitating load of incorrectly sorted clothes, his expression brightened as he thought with relief, “I’ll make mistakes, then be excused from this task for another couple of years”…and darkened again, ”but then I’ll be in trouble for not listening.”

Definitely a conundrum for an active 13-year-old, fearing the demise of his free time.  (Of course, it’s nothing compared to an easily-exhausted over 40-year-old dealing with a mysteriously expanding laundry pile.)

My son now has a general idea of how to do laundry.  My 10-year-old daughter, however, still successfully avoids it.

If she has problems with her socks, she keeps them to herself – her socks and her problems with them – and has taken to wearing unmatched pairs.  Even when she has a matching pair available, she opts for two that are different.

…which has me considering the possibility of a covert operation with the objective to fly just below my radar, thereby steering clear of my “you complain, you do it” approach to laundry.