Saturday, January 12, 2008

Folding Laundry

Originally, I thought I would have four children. That was in grade eleven – I even named them: Katie Bronwyn, Jordan Andrew, Joel ??, and Sarah Anne. (Poor Joel, the neglected middle child – I can’t even remember his middle name.) The names were selected to be compatible with the last name of my enduring high-school crush (as I recall, my friends found it appalling that I didn't give him input on the names, but I felt that my high-handedness was justified by the fact that I never actually interacted with him).

My four-child plan was challenged by a part-time job I took on that year as floor-mopper, grocery-shopper and general handyperson to one of the women from my church. After having her second child, this woman had been warned by her doctor not to have any more, but she hadn’t listened. Her third child was born, an impish cherub who resembled an infant Stefan Edberg, and her insides fell out. (That, at least, is how her health problems were explained to me. I assume that she had a prolapsed uterus.) Unable to do much heavy lifting around the house, she hired me as a baby-sitter/Molly Maid.

My favourite task was grocery shopping. I drove the family’s wide green sedan to the store (parking brake on all the way, until I found out where the release was located) and spent an enjoyable half hour cruising the aisles. Less pleasurable, I found, was the task of folding laundry. This woman washed her bedsheets a truly unreasonable number of times per week, but bedsheets were nothing compared to those interminable loads of tiny t-shirts and overalls. A basket of adult laundry might take ten minutes to fold, but the children’s clothes seemed to take hours. It was mind-numbing work, and I resolved many times as I did it that I would never have more than two children – after a third, there were simply too many clothes.

I thought of that tonight as I folded up striped leggings and Shrek underwear. I have always derived a certain pleasure from folding my children’s clothes and putting them away. With their wardrobes freshly replenished, my children will go to Sunday School tomorrow decked out in their handsomest garb - I put aside a navy-and-brown striped sweater for Bub, but decided to leave the choice of dress to Pie's best judgment (a decision born of experience). As I folded the Pie’s “I Love to Play” shirt I recalled with a smile how she has insisted on wearing nothing but green this week; as I put away Bub’s Curious George pyjamas I wondered why he so vehemently rejects his new Diego jammies, returning fondly each night to his old standbys of Curious George and Spiderman. As I worked, I could hear them playing downstairs (hubby was holding the fort): they were shouting in unison at the top of their lungs, “Five, four, three, two, one - blast off!” I couldn't help but think of how pure and sweet my love for them is when they’re a few rooms away, under someone else’s supervision.

I’m not ready to revise my “two is enough” policy (poor Joel ?? will remain nothing more than a twinkle in my sixteen-year-old eye). I am struck, though, by how different parenthood is from what I anticipated – how much harder, yes, but also how illuminated by these particular children of mine – the Bub who hides under the collar of his sweater when he’s shy, the Pie who so passionately insists on flowered green pants to match her green shirt.

50 comments:

Maddy said...

Everyone tells us, but it's not until we experience it first hand that it all begins to make sense.
Best wishes

Mad Hatter said...

I fold my daughter's underwear. It gives me great joy to see their tiny, folded shapes stacked neatly in the drawer. The rest of the house is in ruins but the panties are pristine.

Swistle said...

Oh! I totally agree! I have a STRICT policy about baby-naming. Fantasy future husbands get no input on the sexes, number, OR NAMES of our fantasy future children.

Swistle said...

Also: five children IS a lot of clothes. I still don't mind the colored loads, but the loads of whites take me all week to gear up for psychologically.

realitytesting said...

Laundry is what has encouraged me to hold the line in our house as well. I smiled reading this, thinking of how, each Sunday night, John and I used to grumble about the thousand "little socks" we needed to match. Funny how I miss pairing them now that their feet have grown.

kittenpie said...

I think after more than two, my BRAIN might fall out.

And green? Mine won't do green. She has specific favourite shirts, and right now pants ought to alwyas have pockets if possible, except if they match the shirt, and then they can do without. I actually enjoy folding her clothes more than ours, because I love seeing how happy she is when her favourite kittycat shirt is clean and she can choose it to wear.

Beck said...

I found that line about not ever actually interacting with your high school post SO funny that I did one of those rude blares of laughter and startled my kids.
Hey, we're actually considering a fourth child because life is just SO hard once you have three, why not keep going? We're already outnumbered.
And now you can come fold my laundry. I HATE folding laundry.

Marian said...

Yes, I suppose giving him a say would have involved talking to him. Probably more if you actually wanted to have the babies with him.

Folding laundry... Why,what a coincidence. I just so happen to be avoiding that, and ironing, right now. Baby laundry starts out as a fun, precious activity, but loses some of that luster after a while. I actually don't mind folding much, but I'll take a load of towels, jeans or adult clothes any day over a basket of whites for the six of us. That is tedious. Sorting out the 3 little boys' underwear (lest someone end up with whities that are way too tighty) and remembering whose clothes are whose when you hand them down and you have mental pictures of all of the boys wearing an item is mental exercise of the least stimulating sort.
I don't think the subtle pleasure of folding all of the pinks, purples and fun frillies for my little girl,will ever fade, however.

Mrs. Chicky said...

I really enjoy folding Chicky's clothes. There does seem to be a lot of memories in each piece of clothing. But with #2 on the way that enjoyment may be subject to change.

Kathryn said...

There is something about an empty laundry basket that fills me with enrelenting joy. Ahhhh.
Such a sweet post. The whole last paragraph slays me.

Kyla said...

I hate folding laundry. So much so that we have one community basket that we toss all clean socks and undies into once they've been washed and dried. They rarely see the insides of their designated drawers. Most clothes are hung up, and only jammies are really folded and tucked away properly.

I love this line, "I couldn't help but think of how pure and sweet my love for them is when they’re a few rooms away, under someone else’s supervision." Perfection.

Jennifer said...

"I couldn't help but think of how pure and sweet my love for them is when they’re a few rooms away, under someone else’s supervision."

Yes,... and when they are sleeping. What happens when the alarm clock goes off? Suddenly it's all too subjective for that pure and sweet love to surface very often.
Sometimes I wonder at the subjectivity of REALITY. What is more real? The moments when I feel that pure and sweet love? Or the day-to-day moments of practical life? Or maybe it's the mix of both... isn't that strange? Maybe we DO live in two realities...

flutter said...

This kind of made my heart hurt.

Teah said...

Oh laundry. Oh....laundry! How I hate to fold laundry. It's not so bad, folding my husband's laundry - he never seems to have any. BBJ, though...oh, goodness, the kid goes through more clothes items! Every sock, t-shirt and pair of pants that touches her requires a wash afterwards. There is almost always a dab of peanut butter on the collar, or a jam smear on the hem. There ought to be a helpline for folding toddler clothes - if you fold their shirts, they triple in size! Her closet looks like Children's Place exploded in there.

Your post reminded me of my first aspirations towards a career - in Kindergarten, I wanted to be a teacher...so I could grade papers! Live and Learn, right?

suburbancorrespondent said...

Go ahead and have more - they can start doing their own laundry by age 6 or so (elimates the sorting problems, also). And I put my 2 youngest girls' laundry together, but separate from mine - that way I'm not looking for their teeny-tiny stuff inside my stuff.

chickadee said...

wonderful post. i too wanted 4. four boys. a crazy idea, i realize now. i was actually disappointed when i found out my first was to be a girl. and then later, delighted that my second was another girl and disappointed when my 3rd was a boy. those original plans sort of stick with you a while clouding things for a little while.

nomotherearth said...

I'm overwhelmed with laundry for two right now - can't imagine four!

I'm with Kyla on the favourite line..

the dragonfly said...

With only one child it seems to me that the laundry is endless...but I actually don't mind. When I was getting ready for the Little Mister, washing his new clothes and organizing them in the new dresser/changing table...just the pile of tiny little clothes made me cry. He's seven months old now, and I still sometimes get a little teary when I fold his clothes. :)

cinnamon gurl said...

Oh I was all excited about an announcement for a minute there. I love folding Swee'pea's laundry but I never quite get to the putting away part. They sit in a basket in the kitchen, which is actually pretty convenient in the mornings because then we don't have to take him upstairs to get him dressed.

kyra said...

i've always loved folding fluffy's little clothes. i remember how HUGE a pair of 2 T pants looked when he was an infant. now dave sometimes mistakenly puts fluffy's T's in my drawer.

Jenifer said...

Laundry makes me wistful too. The satisfaction I get when I am all caught up is lovely...I want to wrap them all in plastic so just for one day we have no laundry.

I always dreamed I would have a large family too, with names I had gleaned from all my favourite novels. Now I have two and can't imagine more, but still can't say I am done yet.

Niksmom said...

Funny, I love doing Nik's laundry —okay except when he's wet the bed three times in a 24 hr period —it's the adult laundry I hate! There is something sort of sweet about his little (for now) socks that makes me smile. I love to see them in his drawer wtih his jammies.

Patois said...

The fondness I have for them when folding clothes. I see who they are. This was never more true than when my youngest, now 5.5 years old, went for more than a year wearing Spiderman shorts nearly everyday. They weren't even shorts. It was a bathing suit. From the time he was 3.5 until he was just about 5, that was what he wanted. At least it cut down on the laundry.

Poor Joel ?, never destined to meet you.

the end of motherhood said...

Ah, yes, I loved the way my boys would pick something to wear and then WEAR IT TO TATTERS. It takes all of us a long time to realize change can be good...

wheelsonthebus said...

I am still on the part where all of you fold their clothes. We just toss them in a drawer. But, then, I am pretty lazy.

Emily

Lisa b said...

There is something so satisfying about a freshly replenished wardrobe. Also something so adorable about my daughter picking her own outfits and matching the colours as Pie does.

I swore two was more than enough, I have had some second thoughts about that because of Julia, but I think I am done babymaking.

Redneck Mommy said...

After Bug I thought I our family was complete. How the hell would I manage more than three?

Now, I see families with five or six or seven kids and I covet.

Think of all the naming possibilities.

(This from a girl who in highschool wanted to name her sons Hank and Waylon after her daddy's favorite musicians...)

MAGIRK said...

A sweet, beautiful, eloquent post - once again. ;)

I am content with my three children. And having twins is an experience I hope to only have once. (LOL!)

Don Mills Diva said...

What a great post - parenthood IS way harder than I thought it would be too but way easier as well because it feels so natural (if that makes any sense). It's just impossible to really explain to someone who isn't a parent.

Janet said...

Only you could create such a lovely, evocactive post out of something so mundane as folding laundry!

Off to fold some of my own, now.

Janet said...

EvoCATive, I mean. Evocactive is almost the same thing, only pricklier. ;)

Gwen said...

I kept thinking, she's going to tell us she's pregnant! Then I was going have to counsel you against the name Joel .....

This was nice, too, though. :)

Luisa Perkins said...

How lovely!

I couldn't agree more. As the oldest of many children, and as a former nanny, I knew full well how much work children would be. I was totally unprepared for the joy.

Cyndi said...

I had baby names picked out when I was in highschool, too. I never took into account that their father would even have a preference as to what his children would be named. Even after my daughter was born I had a name picked out for a boy until I got pregnant with a boy, then I changed my mind about it.

My daughter used to match her clothes like that, too, with all of one color. That was pretty cute.

Sue said...

I love this. I always said no more than two, but the two were so wonderful, I wanted three. Now we have three and I wish I could have four. I can't, so I will be happy with the blessings I have - but I can see now, why my mom ended up with nine. Because even the boring, menial stuff - has meaning, because you know who you are doing it for.

Well, except for scrubbing toilets. That pretty much always sucks.

Pieces said...

Sweet. I used to love folding those tiny clothes too.

Magpie said...

Those moments - there are many of them - and they make the tantrums and the battles recede.

I do the laundry and I am ever astonished at how much she has, and how little my husband has (because he sends his shirts out).

DaniGirl said...

Okay, seriously? Get out of my head! I have half a post in my draft folder on exactly this - my thoughts on three children, thunk while I was folding that first basket of tiny socks and sleepers and blankets and washclothes in preparation for baby. I've always loved baby laundry, though, and still to this day enjoy folding up the boys' clothes. Mine and their father's, not so much!

Occidental Girl said...

"I couldn't help but think of how pure and sweet my love for them is when they’re a few rooms away, under someone else’s supervision."

I loved this. Reality does not precisely follow our carefully scripted fantasies. Say it again, sister!

The moments when everything clicks along nicely are so precious.

bren j. said...

There's just something about folding little clothes....and packing the first batch away in the closet for 'next time,' knowing that my Little Goat will never wear those little clothes again.

Laural Dawn said...

It's funny how you have grand plans until something shatters them.
For my part I decided that I would not have boys because I babysat a family of 3 boys (and after my time 1 girl) and I found the clothes too boring.
And yet I have a boy, and though the Transformers and Diego shirts do get boring, I still love dressing him :)
I also used to make lists of names ... I'm sure my children will thank me for not using them (Chloe Soleil???)

ewe are here said...

I rather enjoy folding and putting my boys' clothes away, too. I just find it soothing, snd I smile at the small sizes and the variety of colors worn during the prior few days...

Angela said...

When I was younger I wanted six kids. Right now I don't know if I want to have a second. It is amazing how time changes things.

Nora Bee said...

Oh, I love this. I love your writing. Perfect. I am a fourth child (of four) and now that I have a baby I think my mother may actually have been crazy. She wanted six!

JCK said...

I don't mind folding my kids clothes either. I think of them and am still in awe that I am a mother. Now my husband's laundry on the other hand...

"...my high-handedness was justified by the fact that I never actually interacted with him... Now THAT was funny!And so real. I remember those days.

b*babbler said...

I can't handle folding my own clothes - but oh, how I love folding Peanut's tiny clothing. Those little socks and onesies and pants all stacked neatly in her dresser. A wee bit of bliss...

Daisy said...

I have always worked with children, but having my own has been a whole different -- and much better -- world. Names? Daughter wanted to name her little brother when he was born; we didn't let her. She still teases us about it.

nikki said...

It's the giggles and smiles. It's the hugs and I love yous. It's experiencing this amazing creature figuring out just exactly who they are. It's what is making me want another one.

the new girl said...

The way you write about your kids gives me surges of love for my own daughter (who I currently love more intensely, it seems, for her peaceful deep-sleeping.)

That being said, I hate folding her tiny clothes. They never go *just right* and the piles are all awkward. I guess I'll have to wait until she's older to have any laundry satisfaction.

kittyhox said...

I planned to have twelve children. All daughters. Named Anastasia and Antoinette and other fancy things.

Now that I have one, I still want a big family.

And I love folding kid laundry! It's all so cute. It's the grown up things I hate dealing with. My husband insists on hanging all his things (even t-shirts and jeans), and I prefer to fold. So I hate the darks because I know I'm going to have to hang a ton.

Cute post!