The art of motherhood requires many skills and talents most grown adults wouldn't willingly admit they have. Homework help? No matter how long it's been since you were a student, this one is big. Who really wants to relive improper fractions or study for a spelling test? Many a brave mom has been seen rocking in a corner after bedtime, repeating over and over, "The train left Cleveland at EIGHT O'CLOCK." Cleaning toilets? Especially sketchy when gummy bear consumption has been unusually high or someone licked her hands repeatedly during the grocery store run. Carpool duty? Experiences range from a lively Beyoncé karaoke session to extreme, angsty middle school feuds that turn your SUV into the most awkward group therapy session ever.
Some parenting tasks are temporary, forging a path for your children that leads them to eventually fend for themselves. Slipping tiny socks on chubby baby feet – multiple times each day -- or tying shoes for a squirmy 2-year old. Spooning tiny dribbles of rice cereal off her chin and into her mouth or cutting grapes in half (OK, maybe quarters). Holding his hand as he wobbles unsteadily, practicing one-foot-in-front-of-the-other so he can eventually leave you for college – and beyond. Grasping the back of the two-wheeler as you run alongside or taking a seat on the passenger side and white-knuckling it while he learns to drive. I find these to be some of the tasks of mothering I miss the most as I peer back from the other side.
But there is one mainstay of motherhood that many moms would happily trade.
Laundry. That never-ending task that begins the first day home with a newborn and lasts until you teach them a "life lesson" and hand over the soap bottle. It's hard to imagine a chore that feels more pointless than the continuous washing, drying and folding of clothing that will just become stained, wrinkled, outgrown, riddled with holes or lost.
I must admit that I do NOT miss the laundry now that mine have flown the coop. The inside-out skinny jeans piled high in the corner; balled up, sweaty socks stuffed back into shoes; filthy-beyond-hope clothes from summer camp; musty swim trunks left in the duffle bag too long.
Years of boy laundry, then girl laundry.
Nope, not missing it.
But what’s different about laundry now is that once in a while, it brings my 23-year-old son home for a Sunday afternoon visit, from his big boy apartment 30 miles away. "Can I do some laundry this weekend?" has become one of my favorite things to hear. He still does it himself – but between the loads we have TIME. Something I felt like we ran out of when he left for college in 2011, then forged out on his own after graduation last spring.
I try to contain my giddiness when he walks through the front door with a huge laundry bag slung over his shoulder. Sure, his apartment building has a laundry room. But I imagine the lure of a cold drink, a cookie and the no-quarters-needed washing machine is what draws him back home every once in a while. We pass the time listening to stories about his job, his new hobbies, what his childhood friends are up to. And as I watch him talking and laughing I can’t help but see the little boy I miss so very much. The boy that created mounds of laundry with grass stains and holey knees; who balled up his socks despite my pleas and left damp swim trunks in the duffle bag long after camp was over.
And suddenly, laundry doesn’t seem so bad.
Laundry, I love you.