Tuesday, March 05, 2013

Doing Chores; Teaching Chores

Everybody has to do chores. It's an inescapable fact of life. If we didn't do chores, the clothes wouldn't get washed, the dishes wouldn't get cleaned, the floors would never be vacuumed, and all that other stuff.

Necessary--but never fun, really.

Unless you have kids. In that case, you can try (and sometimes, depending on the day, the kid, the barometric pressure) to teach your kids how to do a chore and maybe have some fun with it at the same time.

A few weeks ago, I got Hannah to help me wash up after dinner. And it turned the tedium of washing to pots and pans into a fun conversation and some useful parenting opportunities.

I tried this approach tonight with the basket of laundry.

Now, to be fair, I'll point out that I loaded this basket of bed sheets, kitchen towels, and wearable whites this morning before I left the house with Hannah and Grace. I placed the basket in a prominent place, in the transition space between the front hallway and the TV room. By doing this, I guaranteed that both Sarah and Grace would have to pass by it when they got home from school. Secretly, I hoped that either one of them would see it, be so motivated by its presence that they would take up the task and when I got home from work, the folded basket would be waiting to get carried upstairs for bedroom distribution. (I knew that even if the barometric pressure was properly aligned to get the folding done, there was little to no chance that someone would take that extra Gandhi-like step to put it all away.)

When I got home, no one had taken the hint.


The fruits of our labors
So, after dinner, I got Hannah to work on her folding techniques with me. She jumped right in on the towels and showed some impressive dexterity. (Clearly she'd handled small kitchen towels and washcloths before.) Everything was properly squared off and neat. I handled the large bed sheets while she plowed through the washcloths.

Soon we entered into the clothing part of the basket and things got necessarily more challenging. The irregular shapes flummoxed her at first, but after I showed her the proper way* to get it done, she handled herself well.

Hannah wandered in and out, of course, which is the nature of five-year-olds. But if I prompted her, she'd get back into it and do a few more. The biggest problem I faced was that in order to facilitate her involvement, I was sitting on the floor to get this done. And that is NOT a comfortable position for my 41-year-old legs to be in for any length of time. Let's just say that getting back up again when it was over was . . . challenging.

Hannah was a bit confused with how to handle the socks. But I explained that you just put the sock over in their own growing pile to deal with at the end. Then you match up all the pairs and place the sock bundles on the tops of the divided clothing piles.I had thought that matching socks would be where she shined the brightest, but she had already moved off to another room at that point.

When it was all done, the folded piles were placed back into the basket, awaiting transportation upstairs. And, depending on other factors and levels of laziness, there it might stay for days.

* In case you are wondering, there is absolutely a right and a wrong way to fold clothes. (I am convinced that Lynda doesn't do it properly so that I will grow frustrated with her method, thereby ensuring that I handle the bulk of the laundry chores. (You know, kind of like I don't know how to clean the bathrooms effectively.)

Anyway, the proper method of folding a t-shirt is using the Mirror Symmetry method. You divide the shirt down its vertical axis and match up sleeve to sleeve and the fold the bottom hem of the shirt above or below the neck opening. If you are dealing with a knit shirt (like a polo shirt with a collar), you follow what I call the Gap Method: you fold the sleeves underneath the front of the shirt by tucking/retracting them behind the back panel (like you would tuck turkey wings into themselves). Then you lift up the more horizontally-shaped shirt bundle and crease the bottom half underneath the top. This presents a nice shirt, showing the collar and the button placket, like you are used to seeing at clothing displays.

(In case you are wondering, button-down dress shirts should be folded loosely and set aside, because you want to put them on hangers as quickly as possible to avoid creasing. If you suspect that there will be a substantial delay before the clothes are put away, follow the Gap Method and put these shirts on the top of the finished basket, to avoid the weight of other clothes generating creases and wrinkles. Because no one wants to iron anything.)

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