I am preparing for a short trip to the Chicago area. It is not for the pure thrill of early March weather on the cusp of Canadian breezes; it is for professional training. Part of my preparation involves folding some of the clothes I have just washed. As I spread, smooth and fold my tee shirts, I remember Mom’s early laundry lessons several decades ago.
I was probably twelve or thirteen before I started doing my own washing but the lessons on folding started back when I was in the early primary grades. Socks would have been the first stage, I believe. They were very simple: tuck the top of one into the top of the other and invert so that they were then tucked together. I think underwear comprised the sophomore stage of my progression, shorts and then tee shirts. Those simple lessons and constant practice gave me a sense of contributing and a feeling of independence as I got older.
By college, I was handling all of my own laundry needs, from washing and drying to folding and ironing. It helped make me a better spouse, too. I’ve never quite figured out why a man who can repair a car, build a house and buy his own fishing boat needed someone else to do his laundry. I suppose some women really enjoy that role and want to do every piece of fabric in the house and that’s fine with me. But it seems to me that with all the cooking and cleaning and furnace upkeep, a woman has plenty to do without having to do stuff for me that any middle school kid ought to be able to do.
Parents, in the laundry room and in the kitchen, either teach their children to contribute or to be dependent and exploit others. I don’t think first-graders ought to be responsible for preparing their own meals. Neither do I think that high school students should be yelling for Mom to find them a pair of socks. People who do everything for their kids are not only teaching the children to make life harder for their parents, they’re teaching them to make life harder for everyone who will ever know them.
Our heavenly Father who provides for the birds of the air doesn’t throw seeds into the nest. Even the flowers of the field have to soak up water and sunshine. A basketful of clothes that need folding might be the very gift your kid or grandchild really needs. It’s one of those gifts that truly keeps on giving.