When people hear that we have three boys and no girls, they often assume that we deal with lots of blood and bruises but escape hormonal, emotional outbursts. While they are correct on the first count, on the second they are simply wrong.
Sunday was a rare day in the Glamore house. While I cooked, Bill folded everyone’s laundry and delivered it to the boys with simple instructions: Put up your clothes in the appropriate places and return your basket to the dining room so our laundering cycle can begin anew. (You can click the link if you are unfamiliar with our much-criticized laundry system).
Drew and Porter performed their duties admirably. Finn, however, was working on homework and “couldn’t get to the laundry” just then. I didn’t hound him about it– I felt a cold coming on and went to bed before I started sorting clothes.
Monday morning I woke up snotty and feverish. I got the boys off to school and went back to bed. I woke at noon and took my temperature. It was 102. For lunch I had a cup of tea mixed with Theraflu and two crackers. I left the boys a note on the door that said:
I am really sick and I need you to take care of yourselves this afternoon.
- Please check on me.
- Please put up your laundry if you have not already done so and return your basket to the dining room.
- You can have a snack but please clean up after yourselves, or better yet eat your snack outside because I feel too sick to face your crumbs.
- Do your math and spelling before you play outside.
I love you,
Your deathly ill mom
Monday night my fever broke and I tottered to the kitchen and swallowed some soup. The boys had pretty much obeyed my instructions as far as I could tell, except that Finn’s laundry basket was nowhere in sight. I wasn’t too concerned, because my immediate plans called for more Theraflu and a return to the sickbed. However, I reminded Finn again to put his clothes up as I headed back to my room. He acknowledged my comment and continued his reading.
Tuesday I woke feeling rejuvenated and ready to attack the clutter that had built up during my illness. I cleaned the house, unloaded the dishwasher, paid bills, and was still perky when the boys came home. Finn had been invited to a friend’s house to play so I dropped him off there before heading across town to take Porter to guitar and Drew to piano. During Porter’s guitar lesson I quizzed Drew on his spelling words, including “elephant” and “symbol.” Porter and I worked on adding three double-digit numbers while Drew was at piano. Then we picked up Finn, stopped at the grocery, went home and ate dinner.
After dinner I prepared to separate two big baskets of laundry into each family member’s
individual basket but I was hindered by the absence of Finn’s basket.
“Finn!” I yelled. “I need your laundry basket pronto!”
“Mmm-kay,” I heard from the kitchen. While I switched another load from the washer to the dryer, I heard Finn amble into the dining room, plop his basket on the floor, and wander back into the kitchen. I threw a dryer sheet into the dryer, slammed it shut, turned it on, and returned to the dining room.
When I got there I recoiled. Finn’s basket was in its place— with the clean clothes Bill had folded Sunday still in it.
I glanced in the kitchen and saw Finn nonchalantly eating a bowl of ice cream and watching a baseball game on television.
My face got red, the hairs on my neck stood up and I morphed into Maniacal Mom, Frenzied With Fury At Her Lazy-Ass Spawn.
I grabbed Finn’s basket and strode into the den, where my husband was stretched out on the couch, also watching a baseball game. I straddled Bill and shoved the laundry basket under his nose.
“Dammit Bill, I have had enough with that child of yours!” I hollered.
“Honey, isn’t the basket back?” Bill asked. “I saw him carry it back in here. And the World Series is on. This is such bad timing.”
I got off Bill as he saw the folded clothes in the basket, grimaced and turned off the TV. I stood with my hands on my hips while he got Finn.
“Your mom works hard to make us dinner and keep our clothes clean, but you have to do your part,” he lectured a sullen Finn. “Those clothes should have been put away days ago.”
“And I didn’t even fold the clothes!” I shouted. “Daddy did! They’ve been sitting in your room for three days without being put up!”
I turned the basket upside down and shook all the folded clothes onto the floor for emphasis, then I picked up an armload of them and hurled them in the air.
“Why do I bother?” I shrieked. I stomped on Finn’s new, and only, Abercrombie shirt. “I do laundry every damn day. Why? You can wear dirty clothes for all I care.”
I threw a pair of underwear at him. Finn began sobbing, either from my tirade, the cussing or the indignity of being zinged with a pair of Fruit of the Looms by his own mother.
“I’m leaving this with you,” I told Bill. “I’m too angry to be objective about what a rational punishment would be for a ten-year-old who cannot manage to put his clothes away at some point during three days, despite being asked four different times.”
“Okay,” Bill said. “I’ll handle it.”
“But I’ll tell you one thing,” I continued. “I sure as hell won’t be washing his clothes anytime soon. I’m so mad I might accidentally on purpose shrink or bleach something, so I think he better plan on doing his laundry for the foreseeable future.”
“That seems reasonable,” Bill said. Finn looked at him in disbelief.
“And another thing is that we have a rule that we don’t watch television during the week, and I understand that the World Series is some kind of major baseball deal, but I don’t think someone who doesn’t listen to his mother talk about laundry, which affects him directly, should be able to listen to these sports guys talk about a game going on up north somewhere involving people we don’t even know. Clearly it’s drawing his attention away from more important things.”
“I see your point,” Bill said. Finn folded his arms across his chest defiantly.
“Now, I’m not generally a fan of comparing siblings,” I said, “but I’d like to note for the record that Drew and Porter are two years younger than Finn, yet they put away their clothes the first time they were asked and returned their baskets promptly to the dining room.”
“Are you saying I’m dumber than my brothers?” Finn bawled.
“I didn’t draw any conclusions; I’m merely pointing out the evidence,” I answered. “I’ll be in my room.” I stomped off in a huff and slammed my door.
Thirty minutes later, I was deep into my New Yorker, reading an article about the possibility of a global water shortage, when Bill came into our bedroom and shut the door.
“How’s the monster?” I asked, turning a page.
“Well, I don’t think he’s ready to see the error of his ways yet,” Bill said, as he got in the bed. “I think it will do him some good to wash his own clothes for a few weeks, because he’s feeling mighty entitled at the moment.”
“So what did he say?” I asked, closing the magazine and putting my glasses on.
“Oh, he had plenty of things to say. He says we treat his brothers better than we treat him. Of course, I pointed out that he’s older, so we expect more of him, and that Drew and Porter had put away their clothes, so they hadn’t done anything wrong,” Bill said.
He was quiet a minute.
“Yeah, then Finn got on this tangent about feelings. He told me we don’t care about his feelings. I told him we do, but the issue is laundry, not feelings. I told him he needed to meet his mother halfway on the laundry, because you’re washing clothes for five people, and everyone has to do their part of the system for it to work.”
“Damn straight,” I cheered. “You go, honey. You tell it like it is.”
“Well, then Finn said he felt like he didn’t have a mother. He said, ‘I mean, she just threw my underwear at me like I was a stranger.'”
“Did you point out that it was clean underwear?” I asked eagerly.
“No, honey, at that point I decided to let him sleep on it and deal with it in the morning,” Bill said wearily.
He took off his glasses and put them on the table, then turned off his lamp. A minute later I heard him laughing to himself.
“What?” I demanded. “What’s so funny?”
“I never thought I’d be a part of such an emotional household,” Bill said. “This kind of shit never happened when I was growing up. I’m just lying on the couch, trying to watch the World Series, and the next thing I know my wife is throwing boxers at my son, and he’s telling me that it’s not about laundry, it’s about his feelings.”
“If it matters to you, my feelings are extremely hurt, too,” I said as I turned off my lamp. “I deserve a lot more appreciation.”
“No doubt about it,” Bill said. “I think throwing the skivvies made quite an impression.”
“I probably shouldn’t hurl stuff at the kids, but it sure felt good tonight,” I confessed, feeling a little guilty.
“Aw, getting beaned with underwear isn’t going to hurt him, and hopefully it will teach him a lesson,” Bill said consolingly.
He was quiet another minute, and then he added, “and you can throw your underwear at me anytime you want.”