Posted by: molly | October 3, 2012

The Laundry Fairy

When I was in high school my house was equipped with a laundry fairy. It was amazing–if I threw a load of laundry into the washing machine in the morning, my clothing would be dried, folded, and waiting on my bed when I returned home. Dishes left to dry by the sink also found their way into the kitchen cabinets. When I was first married the realization that no such fairies live in my house came as quite a shocker when my laundry remained sopping wet eternally and the dishes by the sink mocked me until I put them away.

The laundry fairy in my house was actually not a mythical creature but my sweet granny who lived with us. Growing up there was a tension between my granny (who felt it was her position in life to make her granddaughters happy by requiring next to nothing from us) and my mom (who felt a need to teach her daughters to work hard since life requires things of us).

These days when life seems overwhelming I want to slip into my grandmother’s role as laundry fairy and complete all housework on my own. My granny, though perhaps misguided at times, was motivated by the spoiling type of love that seems to come naturally to all grandparents. My motivation is not so sterling: doing it myself is much easier than teaching my children to do it. As I pull the red t-shirt out of the pile of whites in the laundry room I wonder if they will ever learn (well at least before a totally pink load of laundry…). Sometimes I can’t comprehend how black goes into the “lights” pile in anyone’s mind. It seems so much easier to just pick through the kids laundry on my own instead of redistributing the piles afterwards. And yet, all people should learn the difference between lights and darks–preferably before they destroy all of their clothing when they get out on their own. My kids don’t need a laundry fairy; they need a mom who is willing to patiently teach them how to separate their laundry accurately.

My wonderful husband has been encouraging me to teach the kids to do chores instead of doing them all for myself. And then I had a baby and couldn’t do the chores for a few weeks, during which time my husband seized the opportunity to teach the kids how to do the dishes for me. The amazing thing about children–they think doing the dishes is a privilege (long may it last)! There is still a very strong need for supervision at this point (since my view of a clean plate is quite different than my son’s view) but they are learning slowly but surely. They may not be ready to wash antique sherry glasses anytime soon, but a shattered 59 cent Ikea glass is easy enough to clean up and most of my dinner plates are chipped already.

It is an uphill battle for me–the more life seems overwhelming the less I want to teach my children and just do it myself. And yet, that is not the way to lovingly help them grow. Hopefully my daughter will never be shocked when her laundry does not do itself and my sons won’t die of dirty dishes and unwashed socks if they ever live on their own. And if my children ever do have a laundry fairy, I will be sure to leave that role to my mom.



  1. So glad you are teaching them to work and be responsible. The rewards are great……eventually for you. The rewards are happening for them right now. Love reading your blog. Looking forward to the next one.

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