Today is a “hang out the laundry” type of day.
I’m sure you have had these days. They are hard days, but important. Necessary to realign the emotions in a woman’s heart. Put another load in the machine, grab a drink and come process with me. After all, this parenting of teens and young adult thing is not for women who can’t face hard things.
We just put Mr. 17 and Mr. 19 on an airplane a few hours ago. 6,366 miles will mess with any Mommy heart. 10 miles can mess with a mother, never mind 6,366. The reality is, it’s not about the number. It’s about the process. The highs, the lows. The holiday cheer, the memories made, the New Year celebrating, the boredom despite the parents’ best efforts, the reminder that Lego’s and story books are not needed anymore. And sometimes it is tempting to think, we are not needed anymore either. Adventures, independence, friends, tearing the apron strings completely off, learning, and testing are what they need now. I get it. I understand. But it still feels like someone is doing open heart surgery before getting pre-op permits signed and most certainly before anesthesia. Sheets going into the washing machine.
Don’t get me wrong, I would not trade the last 2.5 weeks for anything. They were precious, they were needed, and a few moments were hard. We flew those boys to Egypt to give them the gift of experiencing a new place. In our “wisdom” we thought they would remember and treasure that far longer than any gift under the tree. The Valley of the Kings, the vast temples, the Nile River, the pyramids and desert and camels, the ethnic food, the hot air balloon ride, the dust and traffic, and the friends on Christmas eve …. were all priceless and etched images in all our minds. AND we were together. How could we be so blessed and privileged with such an opportunity as this? Sheets on the clothesline. Blankets in the machine.
Side note: While we were in Egypt, I had another laundry experience. All throughout our region, people live in apartments and dry their laundry dangling off their porches….no matter the height. I have spent many an hour observing clothes hanging high and have always rejoiced that this is not my world. But my opportunity came to enter this experience. I needed to wash the sheets and towels in the apartment we were staying in, because friends were arriving the night we were leaving. 5 flights up. Many laundry lines below. I purchased pegs so the towels and sheets would not drop below. I shook as I leaned over the balcony to hang laundry on the furthest line. I felt so “uncomfortable”. Even hanging clothes on the line can push us out of our comfort zone, especially in Egypt. So, I get it, doing “laundry” and “hanging things on the line” does not fix everything.
After Egypt, we had a week at home. Of course, they don’t feel like it is there home anymore. It was 2.5 years since Mr. 19 had come “home”. They now feel like their dorm rooms are “home”. I remember that feeling. It is an important feeling. That reality pushes them from dependency to independence. However, it was at “home” that something was sorted out in my own mind. A discovery you could say. That expat children need a time and space to process with their parents and if we are always in other people’s homes and with other people, that is a hard place for them to truly “be” authentic and open. So, even though Lebanon wasn’t thrilling, it was needed. Blankets on the line. Another set of towels in the machine.
It’s a lovely sunny spring like day. Perfect for drying laundry outside. A balm to my heart as I putter in the garden and smell the fragrance of freshly washed sheets dried on the line. A balm as I clean up 3 days of flu from the 6’4” “baby” and air out the home. At least he was home for his mommy to care for him. Now he is messaging me from Turkey, as they layover before their 12-hour flight. So independent, so grown. Clean sheets back on a bed.
This morning after their early morning drop-off at the airport- and as I began to process their departure- I questioned if I and their father had done enough? Not in terms of experiences, I think we get an A+ for that. But in terms of conversations had, challenges and shaping done, listening enough? Sigh. It was a great dose of feeling like imperfect parents, parenting imperfect children, in an imperfect world. I am so grateful for the ultimate laundry master who somehow gets stains out of garments and makes them white, whiter than anything I have ever washed. Blankets tossed in the drier, to finish off what the laundry line and sun could not do.
I will always remember my mentor, Cherie, saying something from over 25+ years ago. I wanted to clean my guest room before leaving her house. She wisely stated, “Ruth, I need to clean when you go. It is the way that I process your visit and what we shared together. It is therapy to me.” I think about her words, every time a guest leaves my house. It is even more true when my boys leave.
So here is to laundry. The hum of the machine. The cleansing of sweat, dried skin cells, and lingering scents of grown boys. And somewhere in the process my heart begins to realize it will be ok. Even though, I think it wasn’t meant to be so hard when humanity was first created. Tomorrow, I’ll wash the towels. I’m sure there is more processing to be done. Why rush it all for today and the sinking sun?
If you have any thoughts about parenting teen and or/young adult children and “letting them, go”, feel free to respond in the comments or write me a note. I would love to do some laundry with you. We can scrub, hang-out, fold, and iron together. I am sure there is much more wisdom to be learned and gathered, washed and hung out to dry.
8 thoughts on “Hanging things on the line”
Great blog Ruth…the art of letting go and trusting God to parent your boys. (and as a enthusiast of hanging out the laundry…you know and I know how therapeutic it can be! 😊)
I’m pretty sure I learned my love of laundry from you, MOM. AND you have modeled so well the letting go and trusting God, as I am SURE you are STILL having to practice with your daughter living 6,000+ miles away. Love you much!
Your blog surely helped me in the process of “doing laundry.” Time with teens stuying abroad is so short that I also find it difficult to find balance between making fun memories and creating moments for deep conversations. However, I feel that sometimes what we want to give them is not what they need. We have “talked” many years already, maybe now they just need bonding and to simply know we are there for them. Hopefully, the trust and bonds created through fun times together will make them seek our advice when they need it.
I love the line, “sometimes what we want to give them is not what they need”. And you are right, we have “talked” for years. They know. Yet, I feel in the teen years there is a little room for some fine tuning of what they “heard”. haha….maybe not… still washing that one.
The laundry analogy I’ve used came to inception when my 30+-year-old daughter found herself living with us while she had melanoma surgery & recovery, ultimately extending for 3 years. I customarily don’t allow my laundry to sit in the machine very long after a cycle has finished, be it a washing machine’s cycle or a dryer’s. So when I frequently found myself stymied by her dryer load of dried clothing tumbled together in the dryer’s drum and felt I couldn’t proceed with my task without first removing her items from the dryer and folding them neatly, I had to tell myself, “Karen, step away from the dryer!” to not become annoyed by my judgment of my perceived feeling of her lack of respect and responsibility while living in my home. She was an adult and could make her own decisions about her laundry – it was no longer my “motherly” responsibility to remove and fold her laundry for her. I shared my laundry frustrations with a long-time friend who also has grown children who visit and stay for protracted periods at her home. She identified with my frustrations while acknowledging that we are both very grateful when our adult children opt to stay/live with us (this was way before COVID!) Ever since our chat about our frustrations, we will connect with each other on occasion and share our “Step away from the dryer” moments; these moments are all part and parcel with reaching the point(s) in our parenthood when we know we have raised our precious little ones to be grown adults where many workable options about behavior exist in a world where “because I said so” and “because that’s how I do it” are no longer justified in being the only “right” way to meet ends. These are moments for we parents to be reminded that we can exercise greater patience and respect for the choices our adult children make even though these choices are not necessarily ones we would make under the same circumstances. The laundry is eventually completed, one way or another!
Karen, Thank you so much for sharing this thought. I love it. “Step away from the dryer” is going in my “ponder file”. Many deep thoughts here.
Love reading your “thoughts” on different topics. Though I don’t know from personal experience, it must be very hard to let the boys go, especially so far from “home”. Love how you relate to God through all of your stories, it’s a gift. Love you. Keep the stories coming when you can.
I love finding you here. Thanks Bobbi for your encouragement.