Quinlan, age 11, is on the couch, playing a game on her new Nintendo. I’ve just asked Cian, newly age 9, to start a load of his laundry.
“What?!” he says. “How do I do that??”
Me, calm: “Cian. You do laundry all the time. Just grab a couple armfuls of the dirty clothes in your hamper and put them in.”
There’s a sigh. A mutter. A mumbled “Why do I hafta do the laundry? I don’t know how to do the laundry! Ugh I don’t want to do the laundry.” (Same, kid. Same.) But he goes upstairs, gets the clothes, comes down with them, and goes into the laundry room, which is in the hallway on the other side of the kitchen from where Quinlan and I sit. I hear the rustle of clothing being shoved into the washing machine.
“Mom! What do I do now!” It’s called at top volume from the other side of the house.
Me, calm: “You put in one of the laundry pods.”
“But where are they?!”
Me, sighing, but calm. “In the glass jar right in front of you, buddy.”
“Oh. Now how much of these bead things?”
Me, still calm, but struggling: “Just put a tiny amount in the scoop that’s right there, then dump them in.”
“HOW MUCH IS A TINY?”
Me: “As much as you want, bud.”
“Up to the 1-slash-4 in the scoop?” His tone has changed. It’s calm now, too. But the questions keep coming.
“What do I do with the spinny thing?”
“Do I press the button for cold?”
“What do I do with the arrow thing?”
All through this, I stay put because I know Cian can do this on his own. Too often we jump in and do things for him, because, you know. Third kid. I continue answering the questions, even though the last couple make me take a deep breath before responding.
“Made sure the door is closed, Cian.”
“Yes, just press the circle button to start it.”
“Yes, it’s the one with the arrow.”
Quinlan, who hasn’t looked up from her game during any of this, says something now that makes me laugh out loud:
“You’re doing great, Mom.”
I’m still smiling when Cian comes out of the laundry room, satisfied with his work and going back to play. He thinks I’m happy with him. He’s not wrong. But Quinn’s world-weary cheerleading always comes like a surprise, and tonight I particularly appreciate it.
Because I still have to tell Cian he’s got to fold all that stuff when it comes out of the dryer.