Wednesday, November 19, 2008

Delegate, Delegate, Let Them Do The Laundry At Eight!

Sounds like a campaign slogan, doesn't it? How long before we get that out of our system?! Anyway...

When your kids are little and you are used to doing every-blessed-living-thing for them and for the hubby and for the house, it's easy to feel like a hamster on a wheel. Although we find joy in making our house a home, it's hard, hard work and the fact is, a woman's work is never done. This isn't just some trite cliché...well, yes it is, but that doesn't make it any less true!

The sad fact is, we bring a lot of it on ourselves by continuing to insist on Doing It All long after the kids have reached an age and ability to help more. For those of us with slight OCD tendencies that like to have the dishwasher loaded just so, or the rugs always nice and neat on the floors, or the bathroom cleaned in a certain order... It's not easy turning these chores over to young, inexperienced and for-the-love-of-all-that's-holy lackadaisical children.

But part of parenting is training them up in the way they should go and that includes the proper way to load the dishwasher.

That's for another day, however. Today I want to encourage y'all to start small. With the laundry. And I'm not talking about just having them put up their clean laundry. I'm talking about having them DO THEIR OWN LAUNDRY. How young old do they have to be to be ready?

Mine were eight years old. Yes, EIGHT. It was a fluke that I discovered how capable my son was because I'd have never thought to let him do the wash at that age. But at the time I had gone back to college and life was a little crazy. The hubby was doing the bulk of cleaning and cooking and homeschooling, but I drew the line at the laundry. We could not afford to buy all new clothes. And that would be the end result if he did the laundry. Because that man would throw everything in together and use hot water every time.

So...I was still doing the laundry. And because of my class schedule (I took 40 credit hours in one year because I could and it would allow me to graduate) I didn't have much free time and so the laundry was a once-a-week occurrence at best.

And that's when the son decided he only wanted to wear sweat pants. No jeans for him, thankyouverymuch, even though he had like five or six pair. And only three pair of sweats. I wasn't a very indulgent parent and basically told him, "Get over it and wear the jeans." At which point he came back with "What if I wash my sweats?" And I responded with a laugh and a sneer "Yeah, right!" And he drew himself up to all his 3'11" height and said indignantly "Why not? I can do it!"

The battle lines were drawn.

We marched down to the laundry room and I gave him a brief tutorial on How To Properly Use The Washer & Dryer. And he totally aced the first run. I sat back on my heels and thought, "Hmmmm, he's eight years old and has quickly mastered the art of washing clothes. What else is he capable of doing?"

It was eye opening, folks. I never looked back and when his little sister (almost five years younger) reached the heady age of eight, she too was inducted into the wash-your-own-clothes-or-have-dirty-ones fraternity. I'm a little embarrassed to admit she couldn't quite reach the knobs on the machines so I made her use a chair. Hey! Being short doesn't mean you can't!

Yes there were a few Oops! episodes. The son washed and dried something wool once. It made a nice sweater for his sister's doll after that. And there's the inevitable pink underwear. But overall the son did just as good a job as I had done with his clothes. And I'm sure his wife now appreciates his crazy laundry skilz :-)

I'm hoping that What Worked For Me might work for you, too! And don't forget to check out all the other great ideas over at Shannon's.


Debbie said...

Not only am I going to do this, I'm going to make my kids read this post!

JonMagic said...

Well, I do still do my own laundry (thanks Mom) but I have to say, Natalie doesn't let me touch hers. I think I went the opposite of dad, instead of washing everything in hot, I put all my clothes in together and wash on cold :-)

Well, actually, once a month or so I wash my whites separately in bleach, but the rest of the time they go in with the rest...

Kim said...

You break my heart! All that training down the tubes :-( What is a mother to do?! (as I swoon to the floor)

riTa Koch said...

Great story and slogan!
I'll have my kids read it even if some of the grandkids are past eight. Better late than never.

Unknown said...

It's a great memory.... keep it up!

Cristina Elizabeth said...

Yup, started doing laundry when I was a wee lass. But then somehow in late high school and early college when I was at home you did all my laundry for me, crazy momma... taking care of her busy little girl. :)