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Catherine has, for some time now, been following me out to the clothesline during my (almost) daily chore. Hanging the laundry is a peaceful, monotonous, repetitive chore that gives me a great excuse to get outside in the morning. Having a five year old nearby clamoring to help can make the experience decidedly less peaceful, I’ve discovered.
My first response to her offers to help were “okay! Please hand me a sock!” That suggestion, as well as “Please hand me a clothespin!”, were met with protests from the aspiring Mama at my hip. “I want to really help!” she’d say. That meant that she wanted me to pick her up and let her pin the clothes up on the line. Not such a problem the first time, but my back can only handle so many ups and downs lifting a fifty pound kid! Also, while I wasn’t exactly in a rush to finish the chore, getting done in a timely fashion pretty much went out the window with this kind of help.
My second response was (I’m ashamed to say) to shoo her away. “Go water the garden or swing on the swings or collect sticks or, or, or…” Read: “Go do anything else and let me be!” Obviously, this option went over like a hot rock, and didn’t make me proud of my parenting skills.
My third response, and the best of them all, was inspired by something I read online somewhere. The author mentioned how she starting hanging her clothes out on a small line that her mother had strung up. The (cfl) light bulb above my head went of and a couple of days later Catherine had her own little clothes line on which to hang some clothes.
This little line has stopped the tugging on my shirt and the begging to help. She now can take her own basket of socks and small shirts and hang them while I’m hanging the rest of our family’s laundry. While we’re out there we can talk about the weather or nature or the best way to hang a shirt. We also talk about plans for the day, upcoming events and whatever else tickles our fancy. What we’ve left behind is the power struggle of who would hang what and the impulse to shoo away a girl eager to learn the ways of her Mama.