Before I became Hands Free I loathed folding clean laundry. The unsightly mile-high heap created a persistent bother (similar to a wart) whenever I caught sight of it passing by the laundry room. Eventually, I couldn’t stand the eyesore any longer and would force myself to fold it, which typically meant putting off playing or interacting with my daughters while doing so.
“Not right now, sweetie, I have to fold laundry.”
I hated the words as they came out of my mouth. I don’t even want to guess how many times I said them.
But now things are different.
Don’t get me wrong, a laundry fairy did not magically appear. We still have dirty clothes that transform into a heaping pile of “Downy fresh” mess.
But I don’t loathe the thought of folding clothes anymore because the way I fold clothes is different now.
I stopped worrying about how quickly I could get it done once I started.
I stopped worrying if the folds would be “just right.”
I stopped worrying if the proper items would go in their designated piles.
I stopped focusing on the end result and instead focused on the process.
You see, now I have a helper. My four-year-old daughter actually gets excited when I come out of the laundry room and all she can see are my legs beneath a mountain of clean towels barely contained in a way too small laundry basket.
The first time I folded laundry with my daughter, my patience was sorely tested. It required breathing techniques that I didn’t know I could perform.
I let her start out by folding washrags. I carefully showed her how to position the square-shaped material and bring the corners to meet. Once in a little square, I demonstrated how to place it neatly in the official “wash rag stack” next to the towels.
Then with high hopes I said, “OK, it’s your turn.”
My four-year-old made a nice little round ball out of her washrag. She disregarded my organized stacks and made her own haphazard piles of washrags about the room and under the couch. She wrapped her Barbie dolls in them. She laid them on the floor and skated on them. She became sidetracked and many towels were left unfolded.
But we laughed. And I had never laughed while folding laundry before.
So we folded laundry together again. And again. And again. And again.
I am grateful she did not give up on me.
Over time, she began folding washrags so beautifully that she graduated to regular sized towels. Her corners lined up. Her piles resembled stacks. She even raced to the kitchen to place them in the proper drawer.
Now she can even fold her daddy’s workout t-shirts while giving an on-going commentary: “Why does Daddy need two red t-shirts? Oh, wait a minute, this one isn’t red; it is orange. Daddy has an orange work out shirt and a red one. I like the red one best. Which one do you like best, Mama?”
But my favorite part of Folding Time is when she unexpectedly busts out in song and dance. Generally, this occurs when she delightfully pulls a pair of boxer shorts from the basket.
She stands up and holds them against her hips and declares, “Time to do the Chicka Wa-Wa Dance!” Then she stands up and sings a made-up song (that actually has a catchy tune) about clean underwear.
As I sit in awe of her neat stacks and entertaining musical routines, I can’t help but envision when my four-year-old is twenty-four and she is folding laundry.
I can imagine her smiling to herself as she recalls our beloved Folding Time. Maybe it will be the whiff of familiar laundry detergent or a pink washrag that triggers a cherished memory of her and I sitting side by side among our sturdy stacks, shared conversation, and laughter…lots and lots of laughter.
I almost missed out on this special bonding time because I wanted it done now and I wanted it done quickly.
I was this close to missing out on what really matters because letting my child fold laundry would “take too long.”
And to think I almost missed out on making this beautiful memory because of being solely focused on the end result.
Folding laundry with my daughter. Who would have thought something so simple could make such an impact?
The beauty inside the fold is what I would have missed.
Just the thought of living my entire life without ever seeing her do the “Chicka Wa-Wa Underwear Dance” is enough to make me weep.
But thank God, I don’t have to….because things have changed, and I am just getting started.
Do you have any household tasks that you do with your child or teenager? If so, please leave a comment or email me using the “contact me” button. And if you don’t, there is always today. Instead of grumbling in misery while you cook dinner, clean the house, or shovel snow, why not grab a little friend and make a memory.