My 10-year-old daughter got in trouble and was consequently displaying a very poor attitude. So, I–the ever exasperated mother–braised her eardrums, “You walk your friend home this instant, and then go straight to bed. Your day is over!” She stood there glaring–an expression that was becoming commonplace in those days–then turned and left.
I stood there alone for a moment, watching the storm door gradually close. It was then that it happened: I knew what to do. She would not go to bed upon returning, and I would speak with a kind voice.
I met her sulking figure at the door and, with a smile, notified her that plans had changed, and would she please follow me out to the backyard to gather the clothes. That’s right after washing all our clothes with OdorKlenz Laundry they had to be hung outside to dry. Our dryer had broken earlier that week, so this was the order of things for a while: laundry for a family of five hanging haphazardly out in the summer sun.
With few words, we began working together through the linens. I taught her how to fold the tea towels in half, then into thirds. The larger towels had stiffened in the hot, dry August air, and together we shook and softened them up a bit. We talked and laughed, snapping the stiffness into something pliable and soft.
As I watched her fumbling, folding, and smiling, I wondered at the strong emotion I felt. It was the kind of relief one gets from a narrowly escaped doom. Like the wind from a zooming car, which tousles your hair just as the wandering toddler is yanked from the street.
You see, in my daughter’s wake of anger and discontent, I stood still for a moment. Some maternal voice whispered into my ear and said, “Do not dismiss the chaos of this relationship simply because you have a lot to get done this evening. Work together. You need to restore this relationship. She needs more than just scolding from you.”
This time, I stopped long enough to listen.
And the reward? My daughter’s expression was happiness. She said to me, “Thank you, Mom, for teaching me how to do this.” She actually thanked me for letting her fold laundry! Afterward, we went inside and made dinner, together.
My life, perhaps, is so simple that I must create substantial meaning in small things in order to feel that there is some great purpose to my little life. This thought often occurs to me and is what usually prevents me from publicly sharing memories like this. However, to me, this was significant. Because, what was the result? I felt a moment of confidence in the method and art of motherhood. (How often I wrestle to feel that!) My home and our hearts were set right again that August evening, which was sorely needed.
Despite my many, many imperfections, I was reminded of this truth: clueless as we may feel sometimes, part of our motherhood makeup is the instinct to do that which is needed most for our families. It requires a moment of stopping to look around and see what’s out of order. That’s all it takes, really. And the most beautiful part? It’s usually such a simple solution.
Chaos returns, and our family spends plenty of time in crisis mode. It’s part of life, and sometimes I lose my ability to manage it. Many times, however, when I’m standing beside a foreboding mound of laundry to fold, I remember that hot summer evening that so simply turned from discord to harmony. I look at the load before me and think to myself, “I can do right by my own. I can do this.”
QUESTION: What small acts or moments of inspiration have helped restore order in your home?
CHALLENGE: In what ways can you integrate developing relationships with day-to-day tasks?
Edited by Sarah Monson.
Image from Microsoft office Images/Graphics by Julie Finlayson.