My seven-year-old was excited when I asked her to help me with the laundry. I never asked for help with chores because somewhere along the fast-moving line of motherhood, I concluded that it was easier and faster to do it myself.
I know, it’s not necessarily better.
I know, it’s good for kids to help and have chores of their own.
And mine do, but not the same household chores I tend to handle.
Make their beds? Yes.
Clean toys? Yes.
Feed animals? Yes.
Clean a bathroom? Possibly.
Although that’s not the right question. The question is: do I want a toilet-brush-wielding three-year-old to chase his sister around the house screaming, “Let me brush your hair! You never let me brush your hair!”
Maybe I never wanted help because it takes two of my kids no less than fifteen minutes to apply a single shoe. Then, ten more to find its partner and a bonus fifteen more to apply that one. Let’s not even get into the mathematics that is getting into a car and buckling up.
Maybe I never wanted help because when I do ask for it, it doesn’t get done at all.
Maybe I never wanted help because, until now, I haven’t had a child old enough to follow directions or have the mental capacity required to understand how to fold two socks together without trying to put it on the cat.
So, it has just been easier for me to do it myself rather then to invite a gaggle of young-ish kids to jump on my bed in a fresh pile of laundry, tossing socks and underpants all willy-nilly into the air like it was confetti. I don’t need more reasons for my kids to act like groupies twisting their heads and hair to Ratt’s “Round and Round”— a fine childhood theme song, because who doesn’t like every version of “The Wheels on the Bus”?
Mom’s good time is silence and having the clothes folded and put away before anyone can climb them.
I’m not sure why I’ve never utilized this handy helper feature that was hidden in my child these past few months. Not only did she fold the massive pile of socks — which I hate doing and is the reason my light-colored laundry is only every washed as frequently as Mercury goes into retrograde — but she seemed to enjoy doing it.
So, when she was finished, I casually pushed over the pile of underwear in her direction.
She folded those too.
Not wanting to push my luck, I handed her some clothes and asked her to put them in the dressers.
She did it.
I looked around my house for a hidden camera. What was this listening and following directions thing my child was doing?
The next day she asked to help clean up after breakfast. She hand-washed all the dishes, then wiped down the table. Then she vacuumed up the crumbs off the floor around the table before cleaning up after the cat. I stood by the counter hiding my curiosity behind a cup of coffee that was still hot, pretending not to be fazed by her actions.
I checked outside to see if a pig might fly by.
She picked up her toys.
I pinched myself.
She helped her three-year-old brother get dressed.
I asked him to pinch me — which he gladly did. Four times, and intermittently throughout the day.
What was happening?
She didn’t want money.
She didn’t want toys.
After the weekend was over and I tucked her into bed, I thanked her for her help. She smiled and said, “It was fun doing your house stuff with you, Mom.”
And there it was.
That was it.
She just wanted to be with me.
My days are full of things that need to be done around the house. I don’t always take the time to sit down and visit or play with my kids like I need to. So, she found a way to make that time with me.
I thought back to when she was a baby and unable even to have a conversation with me. Those days were long and lonely when I was by myself a lot. Now, she was chatting away about all kinds of things relevant and irrelevant and cacpable of understanding and answering. Honestly, it was a breath of fresh air. For the first time, we were becoming friends. She found her way to me through the things that I do every day.
I never saw my housework as an opportunity to spend time with my children.
I thanked her for her help and told her she did a great job and how I appreciated every little thing she did and every big thing she did. She beamed with pride. Her eyes full of love. I tucked her in and turned out the lights.
I went downstairs to put away the last of the clothes on my bed and walked into my room just in time to see clothes falling from the ceiling like glittering sparkle lights from a disco ball and my son jumping on the bed headbanging to his own version of “The Wheels on The Bus.”