Today I am annoyed with one of my children for a pretty small reason. I think that often we are annoyed with people that are ultimately small fry and this is a prime example. This child switched a load of laundry and I know, I know, he just grabbed the whole wad and tossed it into the dryer. I would separate each piece, shake it, and place it in the dryer and never forget to check for stain removal and be sure to hang or lay out all the appropriate items. Because laundry. He should have noticed the line dry only items.
If you know me, you know that I have two things about which I am super, super, embarrassingly neurotic about: 1) Food, 2) Laundry. If you don’t know me, well, now you know one of my salient characteristics. I will cry over food and laundry. I am stubbornly prideful about these things. The former is obvious and the latter, less so. Food is a great joy of mine. I love shopping for food, planning menus, cooking food, feeding other people, talking about food, eating food…food and food and more food. I sure you are not surprised by this. I write about food. The laundry thing might surprise you.
I care a great deal about properly done laundry. I want it sorted very specifically by color and washing temperature. I care about soaking and hand-washing and line drying or drying flat so the clothes last longer and wear well. Having an unfolded basket of laundry puts me on edge and I will get snappy and overwhelmed and drop everything to fold it. I am not like this about all things. For instance, I rarely mop. I sweep, I spot clean, and I ignore. Whatever. More time for laundry. My kids know that I will correct them if they don’t do it correctly and often I would rather do it myself than have it done badly. This means that I am more often than not struggling to keep up because I don’t let them do it. I make the perfect the enemy of the good. I have all kinds of good reasons for it. We don’t have a lot of money. We need these clothes to last. It won’t take me long. They could do other things. All these things sound rational but really they are a cover for pride.
Because I am prideful.
I have right now an opportunity to work on that pride. For Eastern Christians, Great Lent started yesterday. Clean Monday is usually quiet. We do okay. We do small little things with ease, like swap out half-and-half and instead choice almond milk. No big deal. The rubber meets the road when we have to do it again the next day, and the next, and the one after that. Then we start to get anxious and we start to complain. This is not going to be a post about how God is patient with us even when we struggle. He is, but that’s not what I am going to talk about. I am going to talk about our own patience.
I need to be more patient.
I didn’t yell at my son who switched the laundry but I was inwardly annoyed that he can never switch the laundry. He forgets to start one machine or the other or add soap or even do it at all but doesn’t remember that he didn’t. There is an enormous amount of babysitting when that kid is doing laundry. He means well and he is never intentionally disobedient. He just can’t do it. Sometimes I think he will never do it and this reminds me of something my mother-in-law said years ago when my husband and I were engaged.
She warned me he was passive aggressive and he had been so bad as an early teen, she had him stop washing dishes because he always broke at least one every single night. She took it personally. I hadn't seen anything like that so I asked him. He was so surprised. He had never intended to be so destructive; he was just a really clumsy child. It was never intentional. He did outgrow it and now a broken dish is a rare thing and I jokingly tease him that his mother warned me about him but it is a non-event. It’s small fry. Just like my laundry thing. My mother-in-law likes clean dishes and a clean sink and bleaches hers each night. Nothing else worries her as long as the dishes are done and her sink is sanitized, everything else fits in at the edges. She saw offense where there was none and to her credit she never let her son know it, she was very kind about it. I also see offense where there is none. It is just laundry. He will outgrow this but will I?
This Lent I will have lots of opportunities to do hard things (being vegan for seven weeks is freaking hard, guys) and I will have lots of opportunities to lose my cool. I need to practice patience. Patience with my children. Patience will people I meet. Patience with my laundry. Patience with myself. One of the things that I tell mothers is to practice patience and not perfection. When we make mistakes, start over. When we are upset with our kids, step back and cool off before getting back in the game. When someone is sharp with us, take a deep breath and realize that we might see offense where there is none, and give them the benefit of the doubt. Practice patience because nothing will ever be perfect. If I eat all the cheese in the deli case but I am patient, this Lent will be a success. I have no intention of doing that but really, that is what this season is about. I am going to start today with my laundry. Deep breath, people. I am going to have him start the next load.