Laundry ~ it’s the never-ending chore that is always staring us in the face as parents. The dirty clothes pile up, we tackle the mountain waiting to be attended to in the laundry room, get every article of clothing folded nicely and put away in its proper place. And then… the cycle starts all over again.
Most times, when I am doing laundry for myself and my family, I feel the annoyance festering inside of me and I notice myself thinking the same thing: that I just cannot fathom how so many dirty clothes multiply so quickly. And that I am tired of doing laundry.
Today, however, I actually slowed down with my actions and thoughts as I was folding a load of laundry that consisted of my two daughter’s clothing. My first thought was that it was cool how my older, 7-year-old daughter’s clothing all reflects her own personality and style now. This single thought led me to ponder childhood ~ our own children’s childhoods ~ and how quickly they grow up and become new versions of themselves over and over again.
I know that this is a commonly expressed notion ~ that children grow up too fast and we must stop to appreciate them for who they are now, in this moment, in this current version of themselves. But… sometimes it is good to remind ourselves of these basic but profound realities of life.
As human beings, our time in these forms and experiencing these specific lives is so brief and fleeting in the grand scheme of the universe and evolution. We must not get so caught up in the day to day business of routines, activities and obligations that we forget to slow down and focus on what truly matters to us in our lives.
As I continued to fold my children’s clothing, it also occurred to me that these garments are the physical material that cover, protect and envelope my children as they interact with the world and experience their own lives. Their precious bodies are held in these articles of clothing, and I wash, dry and fold them as an act of love, care and reverence. This laundry that I do is an extension of my own physical form that wants to hold on to my growing children and preserve the versions of them that I can no longer experience firsthand.
This profound experience I had while folding laundry helped me to reconnect to the practice of engaging in meditative work. Tasks such as doing the laundry, washing the dishes, sweeping the floor ~ they all provide an outlet for rhythmic, repetitive motions, which aids the human being in coming to a restful place within. I relished in this moment.
My mentality regarding laundry has also helped me to shift my own perspective on what it means to provide my toddler with the opportunity to participate in household work. She is around a lot of the time when I am folding and putting laundry away. She is drawn to the activity and clearly wants to contribute to the process. Rather than discouraging her or trying to distract her with a different activity, I allow her to “help” me. It is so much easier in the long run to just let her take clothes out of the basket (even if they are clean), drag them around the house, or pass them to me to fold. She even mimics my motion of shaking out an article of clothing prior to folding it. It is so inspiring and touching to take notice of these developmental, human aspects of her drive to integrate into her environment.
As parents and educators of young children, we must do our best to create ways for our children to be active members of any household activity that goes on in the home on a regular basis. These small beings are doing what they are biologically “programmed” to do: explore, engage and do what they observe other human beings doing as a way to adapt to their world. Let us not discourage this naturally unfolding process but rather, provide outlets for our children to be and do what is essential to a holistic development and harmonious integration into this experience known as human life.