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Hello, This is Me Lowering My Standards

I am not a meticulous housekeeper, by any stretch of the imagination. When it comes to cleaning and cooking and other domestic pursuits, good enough is…well, good enough. It’s a busy life we’re living, and I have better things to do than worry over whether the window cleaner left streaks on the back door. (Do you like how I just made it sound like I’ve been cleaning my windows? Honesty alert: it was the only example I could think of. I haven’t cleaned my back-door window in ages. See? Not meticulous.)

But there is one area where I’m picky: laundry. I don’t like people messing with my laundry. I have a very particular little system for sorting and bleaching and folding and such. I know which shirts should be hung to dry, and which can go through the dryer. I know the best way to fold jeans so they fit in our drawers. I know this stuff, and I’m territorial about it. I’m kind of like the momma lion on National Geographic who jealously guards her territory. Except instead of baring large, snarly teeth at my enemies, I’m wielding a bottle of stain treater. Same idea.

I have had a nagging notion for a couple of months that it was time to teach my oldest son (he’s 11) how to do his own laundry. It’s an important skill, one he would ideally master before he leaves home someday. As the mother of boys, I know that I should expect a significantly long learning curve with anything involving soap.

And honestly, I even knew this might ultimately be some productive delegating — it’s one less chore I’d have to handle myself. I slowly and gently pried my fingers off the bottle of Spray ‘N Wash, and a couple of months ago, we began Adam’s quest for laundry independence.

Let me tell you something: you might be thinking of laundry as a fairly simple (if time-consuming) household chore. But you would be wrong. Until you have tried to communicate the intricacies of it to an 11 year old, you have no idea what a delicate proposition the whole thing is. Some sorting is intuitive, but what about a white shirt with red stripes? Or jeans — are they darks or lights? Then there’s the whole don’t-forget-to-check-the-pockets issue and the don’t-waste-this-detergent-it’s-expensive thing.

To help me avoid standing over his shoulder, micro-managing his every move, I did this to our washing machine:

Thankfully, my boy is a good smart and a quick learner. He seems to understand his mother’s tendencies for making things more complicated than they have to be, and he has already managed to master the basics. Despite some questionable sorting (which I observed but did NOT — thankyouverymuch — correct), not a single item of clothing has been damaged. No iPods have been washed, no jeans have been shrunk. Some socks have been mismatched, but I’m pushing through it.

As this boy of mine is learning, so am I. He’s my firstborn, the first one I have to learn to let go of, gradually but surely. Watching his victories — big and small — reminds me to trust that he’s on track to run this race well.

And if his socks don’t match, well, his race has that much more character.

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