Lessons from the laundry room
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“I need you to do the dishes.” I say to the able-bodied 9-year-old making his way across the kitchen for a snack.


“Uh… Yes… Dishes. And that means putting them away and filling the dishwasher with the dirty ones.”

“WHAT?!!! WHY ME???”

Again. What’s up with that? It’s must be the Battle Cry of the Over-served Kid. Even though mine are not as pampered as they once were, they can’t seem to lose the reaction. I don’t get it. … I also find it interesting that they have yet to learn that a positive reaction goes so much further. If the kid had responded with a “sure, Mom”… maybe even gone so far as to add an “is there anything else I can do?” – Whoa would they ever warm my heart. Such a reaction would be getting some major overflow of love reward. Unfortunately, that would not be the case for today.

He had to go even further. “WHY DO I ALWAYS HAVE TO WORK AROUND HERE?!!!” he moan yells. “I’ve had to do the dishes EVERY day.” Could be true. I’m not very organized or good at keeping track. “It’s someone ELSE’S turn.”

Alright. I can be reasonable. “Okay, it’s your choice. You can either do the dishes or laundry.”

“WHAT?!!” he again protests, having assumed that his “every day” argument would get him off the hook. When you have a “mean” mom… not so much. He then succumbs to the pending chore and opts for laundry.

Next I hear intermittent thuds coming from the hall. I walk over to see what in the world is happening. Since the basket of clean clothes had yet to be unloaded and put away, there was nothing to put the dirty clothes in so they could be easily carried downstairs. So, the kid decided to drop them from the top of the stairs rather than carry them down. Then he piled them all together, got on top of the pile and slid them to the laundry room like he was riding a sled. Hilarious.

Once in the laundry room, he began to separate the clothes into whites and darks,putting the whites in the washer, moaning with each article of clothing, “It’s not fair … Speed Police isn’t doing anything. No one has to work but me.” Then he yells so I can hear, “What is Sister doing for her job??!!”

The kid has stepped up. He’s doing the work. But he’s complaining the entire time, making sure that everyone else is required to work too. Wondering aloud what others are doing and how they will be rewarded for doing their work, or punished for not.

As I listen, I can’t help but wonder myself. His complaining is a bit convicting. How much time do I spend concerned about fairness. Maybe not out loud, but in my mind I wonder if my workload is — well, so many things: at my skill level, being noticed, commensurate with people around me, … the list goes on. And I find myself, like my child, making sure I’m not forgotten as I tend to a less than glamorous job.

I can’t escape mentally traveling to a story that happened hundreds of years ago. One where an amazing man asked the same question. It’s at the end of the Book of John:

Jesus said, “Feed my sheep. 18 I tell you the truth, when you were younger you dressed yourself and went where you wanted; but when you are old you will stretch out your hands, and someone else will dress you and lead you where you do not want to go.” Jesus said this to indicate the kind of death by which Peter would glorify God. Then he said to him, “Follow me!”

Peter turned and saw that the disciple whom Jesus loved was following them. (This was the one who had leaned back against Jesus at the supper and had said, “Lord, who is going to betray you?”) 21 When Peter saw him, he asked, “Lord, what about him?”

Jesus answered, “If I want him to remain alive until I return, what is that to you? You must follow me.”

The answer? It’s not really any of your business what the other guy is doing or going to do. Pay attention the your job and do it well … because you’re doing it for an audience of one.

The laundry gave me a great chance to remind that kid and remind me that even the most tedious and thankless jobs are far from nothing. They are something and should be treated that way without worrying what everyone else is doing.

Thanks for walking the road with me.


Kay Wills Wyma, mother to five terrific kids and wife to one patient husband, writes themoatblog.com. Her new book, Cleaning House—A Mom’s 12-Month Experiment to Rid Her Home of Youth Entitlement (published by Waterbrook Multnomah/Random House), walks readers through the good, the bad, the ugly and the frequent hilarity of their sometimes-inspiring journey.

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