What Comes Out in the Wash

On Sunday, I opened my dryer up and started to pull out the warm, freshly cleaned clothes, but as I did so, I noticed specks of color. A closer inspection of one of the specks revealed a waxy substance, and suddenly, I knew exactly the disaster I was facing: melted crayons. I Googled and tried several different “recipes” for removing crayons from clothes, but ultimately, I knew I was dealing with off-brand crayons, not washable Crayola Crayons, so I wasn’t surprised when these efforts were fruitless. In the end, several items of clothing, including a weeks-worth of nearly new underwear, ended up in the trash. Other items were only saved because they were pajamas, and a few confetti stains didn’t make them unwearable. My daughter’s school sweatshirt was also saved, but only because it already had art stains on it anyway.

Ordinarily, this is a situation that would have left me frustrated and, in my mom’s words, “defeated.” I work hard to do my best for my family, but it often feels like I am putting in significantly more effort than anyone else is. I buy drawers and bins to make it easy for my kids to clean up their toys by just tossing them in, but they still act like asking them to pick up is a form of torture. I try to keep my house orderly, but I seem to be the only one who takes to time to put things away correctly, which means simply trying to grab a Tupperware container almost always turns into me restacking them because my daughter just tosses them into the drawer when emptying the dishwasher. I ask what foods and cosmetics they need replenished before I buy groceries every weekend, but if they run out in the middle of the week, they expect me to have just known that they needed more. I tell my children often that I get tired of having to think for everyone else and that I am not a maid, but sometimes it seems that the only way to get them to do things that they KNOW they should be doing is to repeat, beg, and/or yell until things get done. In this particular case, however, the crayons were actually a sign that my children HAD been thinking for themselves.

On Saturday morning, I had sorted and started washing laundry. I got through several loads but did not finish before we headed out for dinner that night. That choice was a risky one, as my kids always find something to complain about or fight over any time we go to a restaurant, but that night they were both extremely well-behaved, and their cuteness even had the couple next to us chuckling. As we left the restaurant, my youngest asked to keep the crayons, and I told her to stick them in the pockets of her sweatshirt, intending for her to put them in the crayon bin at home. Since it was getting late, we told the girls to get ready for bed as soon as we got home, and they did. The hampers were still in my room from sorting laundry, so I would have expected them to leave their dirty clothes on the floor of their bedrooms, but my youngest actually added her clothes to one of the piles that had already been sorted – a load I promptly tossed in the wash the next morning, thinking all the pockets had already been checked.

While I hate that it cost me a load of clothes, the incident taught me a valuable lesson. Sometimes I get so caught up in what my kids aren’t doing, that I don’t notice what they are doing. I get so overwhelmed by the toys I’m tripping over, by the hastily done chores, by the water that is never cleaned up from the counters, that I don’t always notice when they start taking initiative or finally complete tasks with a little more care. Without being asked, my daughter had sought out her hamper to put her dirty clothes in, and I couldn’t be mad that the end result was crayon-infused clothes. The only real great loss in the whole incident was the sweatshirt at the epicenter of the crayon disaster – a well-worn and well-loved hand-me-down sweatshirt, and that was another reminder for me to stop and notice. Both of my daughters wore that sweatshirt so often that it was practically threadbare, but I wasn’t going to toss it until my youngest outgrew it, and suddenly, I couldn’t hold onto it any longer.

While I can’t say I’ll suddenly stop being frustrated that I have to repeat myself to get my daughters to do what I’ve asked them to do or that I have to follow behind them to make sure those things are done with care, I am going to make a more effort to acknowledge the growth when I see it, and even to revel in the things they still need my help with, because soon enough, they won’t need help anymore. And I guess I’ll take a few more laundry disasters because sooner than I’d like, I’ll only be doing laundry when they’re visiting from college.

Kelly Vollmer
Kelly first moved to New Orleans to attend Tulane University, from which she earned a B.S. in Psychology and English and an M.A. in English. She quickly discovered New Orleans was the place where she had always belonged, and her high school sweetheart, Jeff, soon followed her here. They have now been married for 16 years and have two beautiful girls, Emma Jane (11) and Hannah (6), and 4 year-old pup named Ember. Kelly is a lover of all things nerdy, a proud fangirl, and she is a passionate high school English teacher.


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