Saturday, January 1, 2011

In the balance

Envision, if you will, folding laundry. You might carry a fresh basket to your neatly made bed. You overturn it onto the quilt and fresh rain linen sky breeze scent wafts out, and little lint frinkles. You pull a frinkle from the air and deftly crumple it to the side. Efficiently, you fold shirts with shirts, stacking neatly. Sweaters with sweaters, and a few socks. You pair them quickly. Maybe you're humming a fragment of that song on the radio yesterday. Maybe you're watching a show about cat hoarding medically undiagnosable seafaring polygamists on television. You grab your pile of sweaters and place them quietly on the shelf in the closet. Shirts in the drawer, pants over hangers. Socks in the sock place. You pull the quilt tightly again against the laundry's rumple, and you're done.
This is how I folded laundry today:

I drew my attention the the pile of laundry on the couch. It's been there for several days, and it would fill several baskets. I sat on the floor at the base of the couch, leaning against it. I reached over my head behind me and grabbed for fabric, and I flung. I flung into one of five person-clothes piles, or into the sheets/towels/tablecloths pile, or into the hats/jackets/mittens/bags/(things for the front closet) pile, or into the too-small-giveaway pile. I flung like Angry Birds, but these were just monkey underpants.

On my right knee was a certain girl who wanted me to color with her. She held an open coloring book against my belly button. She colored in purple and my job was to color with my right hand in blue crayon. (I am not right handed.).

By my left knee was a certain girl who has decided she wants to fold all her own clothes. Her perfectionist tendencies can be adorable, or they can make a shirt-and-pants outfit-folding project take eight minutes.

By my feet is a boy who is trying to lead his sixth tooth through the gum wall. He's trying to use my big toe as a chewing post. I wiggle gently and pull my foot away. He crawls closer, and buries his (snotty drooly wet kinda gross) face in the short stack of shirts the big girl has folded. I pull the top shirt off and fling it to the dining room. We've started an ninth pile, the newest dirty.

The eldest wants to learn how to fold her crinoliney fancy skirts while the second child would like me to trade my blue crayon in for orange and the baby, he's still looking for something to chew, and he's liking the knot and the end of the drawstring of my pink squirrel flannel pajama pants. This is what laundry looks like.


If I could have my way, I'd live in a black-and-white kind of world. Right would be right and wrong would be wrong and play time would be play time and laundry time would mean I dump a load on the bed and get it put away before the next load is run. New Year's Eve would be New Year's Eve and we'd be at a party, and there'd be champagne and infectious laughter and high heels and a slinky dress and red lipstick, because New Year's Eve means an elegant party, and champagne goes so well with bright lipstick.

For the past few years, New Year's Eve has felt like we're doing it wrong. We're not very much little dress and big party people right now; we have little people who don't want to change out of their big dress-up dresses, and it's our job to get them to bed. Yesterday E asked if they could stay up until midnight and blow noisemakers and it was such a specific request. Somehow she knows about New Year's Eve, now, and the girls were intent on having noisemakers. So we had a lovely dinner and took our time in getting the baby to sleep and the girls were playing so nicely in the basement and at about 9:12pm we said, "girls? are you ready? It's about one minute until midnight!" We gathered around the basement coffee table and I filled four plastic birdie cups with sparkling apple juice and E said, tell me when it's time! We have to count to ten! and we thought she'd count down, but she didn't, she counted up: One! Two! and on. At about 9:14pm we yelled "Happy New Year!" and they blew their noisemakers and we all kissed each other and toasted each other and the girls, who receive carbonated beverages so rarely they forget what it feels like, clinked their plastic birdie cups and exclaimed elegantly, ooh! Fancy! Then we put our girls to bed, and having already toasted the nascent 2011, went to sleep ourselves a little before 11.

Sometimes the unglamorous part of parenting is the pull. The whisper. I should be elsewhere. I could be doing something else. I didn't hear it last night for New Year's Eve, but I often hear it when I'm trying to fold laundry and find myself instead coloring and teaching folding and playing teething toy and enjoying my children, as I generally do, but not getting through the laundry. If I was left alone, I could get the laundry done and because I never get it done, that challenge seems always so urgent.

But do I really want to get the laundry done if it means getting left alone?

I guess in the zeitgeist the thing to do this year is not to make resolutions, but to choose a theme word, and I'm going with Balance. If I wait until I can do the laundry, I'll never get it done. So instead of feeling always torn, when I'm playing I should be housekeeping and when I'm housekeeping I should spend more time playing, I'm going to try to embrace the mashups that always occur organically. Of course if I disappear to fold laundry they'll find me within minutes. So instead of shooing them away or thinking I have to do it all after they sleep, this year I'm going to try to live not in the black-and-white, but in the miniscus where the two touch. There are five person-piles of laundry and now there are four. I got one person's put away. I also colored four pages and tickled my baby and it's much harder this way, but I'm going to try to be deliberate about it.

And in case you were wondering, there is no tedium to laundry when you're being chewed on, colored on and cheered on with noise makers. Pin It


Lenae said...

Mm, I love the idea of embracing balance. It's the neverending crusade, isn't it, of us parents: to find that place between the things we must do and things we should do and things we'd like to do.

And I really need to start a list of "My Favorite Lines from Robin's Posts." Today's: "Maybe you're watching a show about cat hoarding medically undiagnosable seafaring polygamists on television." :)

a li'l bit squishy said...

These are the spaces where our children learn to be grown up too, we really should embrace them.

Happy New Year to you and your crew!