Before my blankets leave the farm, I give them a bath. I love to hand wash them and make sure they smell fresh and clean. I usually use a gentle soap that smells amazing and baby fresh. Then I lay them flat to dry and carefully straighten them as best I can. Sometimes I see the extra stitch I decided to not go back and fix and the loose tension on one row but I’ve learned to let it go. I don’t worry so much that they aren’t perfect. I’ve learned to just stand back and marvel. I’m amazed I made something usable out of a ball of yarn and one hook.
Don’t get me wrong, I’m all for making beautiful blankets, but I’m also for never giving up, learning, growing, and doing your very best and letting the unrealistic quest for perfection go. I let it go, because I enjoyed making something, I enjoyed learning something new and getting better at creating different crochet stitches.
But I wasn’t always like that. I had to learn.
I remember when Annie our fifth and last child was born we lived in a small mountain town in Arizona. My house was busy, bordering on chaotic with five children aged eleven and under. It was most of the time loud, always in need of being picked-up, wiped up, or vacuumed.
And it was about that time that Hannah, our oldest was in sixth grade when she discovered her love for basketball and oh how that made her mommy and daddy happy! We were beyond thrilled that finally, a child of ours would be playing a sport that we both played in high school. I remember dropping her off at the school one cold evening, with great excitement. We couldn’t wait to be the proud parents in the bleachers someday, maybe watch her play for a state championship in the future! Ah my pride.
I traveled fifteen minutes through the woods, back to our home, unloaded the remaining four children that were with me, and headed inside to start dinner, feed baby Annie and hopefully finish the laundry that was sadly laying out on the floor in each bedroom, waiting for me to put away.
As I sat on the floor folding clothes I remember Annie, happy with a full stomach, cooing at me from her car seat. I had put her in the seat so I could easily load her back into the car when the time came to pick up Hannah. Tanner and Haley took turns, hanging on my neck, desperately trying to receive the extra attention that kids need when new babies enter the picture. Nicolina was in the kitchen working on homework and I was doing my best to multi-task the love, affection, laundry, dinner, shouted out answers to homework problems and keeping an eye on the clock so I wouldn’t be late to get Hannah.
Somewhere in all that multi-tasking however, I sadly did lose track of the time. The phone rang in the next room and Nicolina brought it to me. It was the Varsity High School Girls Basketball coach, informing me that Hannah was still at the gym, waiting for a ride. I apologized profusely and told him that I would be right there. However, knowing that “right there” meant at least fifteen minutes. I flew down the road, hoping I just didn’t ruin any chance Hannah had at playing basketball.
I pulled into the parking lot, humiliated that the coach and the assistant coach were waiting with Hannah. I apologized again. Hannah hung her head low with embarrassment and climbed into the minivan. I felt horrible. When I had kids, I promised myself I never wanted to be a mom that was disorganized, disheveled, and however many “dis” anything’s there were, and here I was— disappointingly late.
Something had to change. I realized that I no longer could do it all. But I wondered what it was that could help me the most? Did I really have to pull Hannah from basketball and crush our vision of cheering wildly for her at an important game? No, I reasoned, too big of a sacrifice.
The next morning, my friend Nancy, who was an older woman, probably the same age I am now, (ha! and I thought she was so old! Oh my youthfulness!) came over to help me with some house cleaning. As I rushed to get the rest of the laundry put away so she could get to the deep cleaning, she observed, out loud, “why are you doing all this laundry by yourself? Get those older girls of yours two laundry baskets, one for lights one for darks for their room, teach them how to run the washing machine and have them do their own laundry.”
Ahh, so that’s how I was going to be able to keep the basketball dream alive. That was my answer.
It was tricky at first to have my two oldest girls completely in charge of their clothes. I worried they wouldn’t do it right. I worried they would accidentally wash something red with something white. They did, but they learned from their mistakes and I taught them how to use bleach.
I worried that they would let the dirty clothes build and build. They did that too, but amazingly, what I found was that all the outfits in the closet were worn and when the least favorites were the last ones on the hangars, it prompted them to get the favorite ones washed.
I learned to swallow my pride at the moments when I saw they walked out the door wearing an item that wasn’t exactly ironed perfectly, and reminded myself, that it was a clean item, and they left with a smile knowing they had done their best job.
I learned that when I worried that they wouldn’t do the job, or do it when I thought they should, I sent them a message that I didn’t trust them and lacked confidence in their ability to complete a simple task.
I learned to let it go. Their efforts were good enough.
What happened as time went by though, was that the lost uniform was no longer lost, they knew where they had put it. And the socks always had a match, because they were never mixed into anyone else’s laundry. In teaching them this responsibility, the benefit was less chaos and more peace. They had the sense of accomplishment of hanging items neatly, and I had the opportunity to lavish praise.
When the older girls became much busier in high school, with both of them playing high school basketball, to our delight I might add, I marveled that they had their uniforms washed and ready for each game; despite my unspoken worry that they would wear them dirty and then be teased for being smelly. But then I would have to remind myself that the natural consequence of smell was created for the distinct purpose to motivate children to wash their clothes. Clever how that works out!
There were a few times when the girls were very busy, I was able to sneak into their room and do the laundry for them. As I would fold and hang and iron a few things, I truly loved serving them. This was the way I had hoped I could help my children. This was not doing a chore, I was relieving them of a burden. Often they would come home, see that their work was done for the week, come and find me and thank me.
That is when my heart would swell and tell me that I might have taught my children a thing or two about gratitude.
So, if you are curious as to what Nancy, my older friend taught me and then I taught my kids, here are the laundry rules.
1. Two laundry baskets in every room that are occupied by a person or persons. One for lights, one for darks. Seriously, why ever sort later when you can sort now? By the age of two or three, kids know what dark and light colors are and can put them in the right basket.
2. When the laundry baskets are full, the person or persons that occupy the room, take the baskets to the laundry room to wash, dry, and bring back the clothes to their room. Smart children, starting at the age of 8, are very capable of this task. They are thrilled with the opportunity to start a washing machine. Use this eagerness to get them trained!
(Side note: Do not be tempted to add clothes in from another room. This will cause you to go from room to room trying to sort it all out again. Yuck.)
3. Hang everything except pajamas, socks, and undies. Yes, hang up the t-shirts. Again, at about age 8, with your help, this task is very do-able and really only takes about 20 minutes. By age 10 however, this task can be completed solo. Just use the old “as soon as” trick if there is whining involved. (i.e. “as soon as your laundry is hung up, then you may play outside, eat dinner, take a nap, etc.) Also, get enough hangers to hang everything up. And, when your kids are little, hang up a whole outfit on one hanger. Save the hangers that pinch. They are great for pants.
That was it.
However, I will tell you when you have older kids, you will need to expand into three laundry baskets-whites, lights and darks.
I kept a laundry basket in the laundry room for kitchen dish towels and washed them once a week.
I did sheets separately.
Oh, and one more thing- socks.
This system worked for them. They liked it. They went into the wearer’s laundry basket together and came back to the wearer’s room. No being lost in a giant sock box without their mate and risk being mated with a stranger.
I even made socks happy by just letting go.
So that’s why I guess I like to launder my baby blankets now and lay them out and just marvel at them.
I’ve come a long way.