End of an era
I am not a naturally routine or habitual person. I am quite possibly the opposite of compulsive or obsessive. I go with the flow; am spontaneous and reactive – I clean things when they need cleaning, I don’t have change-the-beds-Tuesday or clean-the-kitchen-Monday or anything like that. I would like to, it’s just not part of my make-up. When my twin boys were new babies however, routine became part of my survival startegy. Time efficient techniques helped maintain a sense of control in my day. I started hanging washing on the line in the order I was going to take it in again, and folded it as I brought it in. Boys’ clothes, daughter’s clothes, number two daughter’s clothes, my clothes, his clothes, towels; each item had its place on the line, and piles in the basket. It was put away immediately. It took a little longer to hang out and bring in but avoided piles of unfolded washing in the lounge or spare room. I cringed when another person kindly hung out or took my washing in, without using my system, and most of the time I politely declined offers, happier to do it my way than to undo my earlier hard work. I congratulated myself on being so very organised. I found quiet comfort in the rigid habit and I have continue to arrange the washing in this almost obsessive, compulsive fashion for years since, long after I let go of other routines.
Today, I hung the washing out. Randomly. Unordered. Mid-basket I realised I had stopped my compulsive arranging of the washing line. At some point over the summer, washing had returned to a leisurely, non time pressured activity. Like Forrest Gump, I had stopped running. I paused in quiet reflection of the end of an era. My eldest is in her last year of secondary education and sat her driver’s license test this week. My next daughter is now at college. Both girls manage their own timetable. My boys are ten. One son announced he was going for a run at 7.30 this morning. He can do that. I trust him, I trust our neighbourhood. He likes running. He has a girl friend, who he organised a valentines gift for. As he made his own school lunch, the other little boy was contemplating feline cremation and whether or not they did the process respectfully or just threw the animal in the fire. Time with twin babies and young children is a distant and even nostalgic memory. Time marches on and one day you realise you’ve stopped hanging the washing out in order.
My baby boys are mid-way to adulthood. They are branching out, growing up, taking responsibility and risks and venturing away from the safety, protection and decision making of mum. They are now young people forging their own paths and making choices, that will affect their futures. We don’t wake up one day, suddenly able to make good choices. Each choice is a step towards mature decision making where we can handle the consequences of our own actions. We all need healthy boundaries as we grow. We also need plenty of opportunities to make age-appropriate decisions to practise handling the consequences of our choices – good and bad. Putting my daughter behind the wheel of a car is a terrifyingly adult thing to do. I am sure she can learn to drive, and drive well. Is she or any of us able to handle the consequences of an accident?
I could scramble for control in fear of letting go and pull my children back into the safety of me being in charge. Or I can bravely recognise the opportunties for decision making, the necessary give and take of the journey to adulthood. I can embrace it, gently giving extra responsibility and gentle nudges out of the nest. I can trust each of them to make their own decisions, and step back when they need to also handle the outcomes of their decisions. Sometimes love involves allowing someone to feel the force of a bad decision.
As I sit at my computer, watching the world go by, cup of tea in hand, I am admiring my unorganised towells flapping in the breeze. I’m two thirds through parenting a young family. It feels good. Maybe it’s time to allow others to hang out the washing. Well. Lets take that one slowly. I might have to allow washing to be hung out in ways that are not my ways. I may have to allow it to be brought in and left in a pile somewhere in the lounge or spare room. Shiver. It could be anarchy.