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February 4, 2012

I just don't know if I can turn over control of the washer quite yet

I'm starting to think that the Diva should be taking care of her own laundry. My reasons are many.

First: I keep inadvertently washing items that aren't laundry, like hangers and lip balm and hair elastics. Also, the hamper has become the place where she puts the clean clothes that she doesn't want to bother hanging up, working under the assumption that I will then wash them and hang them. Which is how it usually works out because I can barely keep track of what I've worn during any given week, much less what she has. Still, I'm noticing a trend of suspiciously clean garments in the obviously dirty bin.

Second: to get to her hamper, which lives in her closet, I have to cross her bedroom.

Actually, getting to the closet is a breeze because you can see all of the dolls, CDs and jewelry you are about to step on. It's the walking from the closet with the hamper that's tricky because you are effectively blinded. I shouldn't have to wear steel-toed boots to run a load of wash, for Pete's sake.

Third: because of the above point, putting clean clothes away is epic. Homer would have written an ode or two about the journey from door to dresser to closet.

Fourth: and this is the Diva's opinion, because I am mean and I hate freedom.

Lately, I will enter the octagon that is her room long enough to grab the dirty stuff, then leave the newly cleansed garments in a pile outside the door for her to put where they belong. So far, she has done as required and, miracle of miracles, hung stuff up without being nagged.

For the record, I kind of like doing laundry. It is my favorite household task, if only because my required input in the process is minimal and the reward is great.

If the modern washer hadn't been invented (and didn't have the cool door on the front where you can watch the soap suds spin), I'm certain I'd feel less happy about this chore. For now, however, it's not one I've been looking to hand off. Unlike, say, scrubbing the downstairs bathroom. That one I'm thrilled to be rid of.

The other factor that keeps me from handing the chore off is my own doubt. I'm not certain she can be trusted to do her own laundry.

This would be an easier call to make, mind, if I had some kind of guide book to how old a kid needs to be to do certain chores. Asking my own parents how old I was when I started to do various things has been no help, mostly because they can't remember anymore. I understand completely. Kids destroyed my memory, too.

The Diva is an easily distracted nine, which renders me certain that she should not be trusted with any job that involves anything sharp, like mowing the lawn. Ditto any chore that requires any level of accuracy, also like mowing the lawn.

Vacuuming and dusting are well within her wheelhouse, even if the grime higher up that five feet tends to be missed.

But I'm just not sure about laundry. There are a lot of stairs between her room and the basement, especially when you are carrying a heavy hamper. I can almost guarantee that she'd add too much soap, no matter how many times it was explained that doubling the recommended amount of detergent won't make them any cleaner for any longer.

Also, the temptation to lure her brother into the dryer might be too great.

It must be said that part of my hesitation stems from my love of my high efficiency front loading washer. While I'm well aware that attachment to tangible objects is the route to all suffering in Eastern religions, my well-being is contingent on my washer's well-being. If it were injured, I would feel its pain.

Yes, this is very sad. That doesn't make it any less true.

My husband and I spent many, many years in a washerless wasteland, where were wandered the streets in search of a washeteria or schlepped heaps of garments down to communal coin-op machines in basements.

The arrival of our first washing machine was a day of great rejoicing. And I swore, like Scarlett O'Hara, that I would never go washerless again.

It's a First World issue, admittedly. But I really like my washing machine.

Which is why I hesitate to turn the Diva loose with it, no matter how much I loathe her personal laundry situation.

I should let this go. I know that. Kids need to be able to wash their own underpants before they leave my house. Sooner, preferably. The problem, like so many that crop up during parenting, is mine.

Adrienne Martini is a freelance writer, instructor at the State University College at Oneonta, mom to Maddy and Cory, wife to Scott, and author of "Sweater Quest." Her columns can be found at

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