I am friends on Facebook with two sisters, Anne and Beth (names have been changed to protect their identity). Anne posted a link on the wall of Beth entitled something like “13 Things a Mother Should Teach her Son Before he Goes to College”. Anne wrote “be sure to focus on number 3.” I’m about to send a son to college. Of course, I had to look at the list. Most of it was about good manners, throwing footballs, being kind, teaching him to respect women, reading to him, all good stuff. Things I felt like my husband and I have done. All except for number three. Number three was “Teach Him How to do Laundry”.
I have also been to a couple of social gatherings recently and when I mention my son will be going to college, someone invariably asks, “have you taught him how to do laundry yet?”
When my son’s birthday was approaching, he told us that he really couldn’t think of anything he wanted, so getting him things he could use at college would be great. I mentioned this to my friend and she lit up, “I have the best idea. Get him a laundry basket and a roll of quarters. He will definitely use that!” All I could think was, “do college laundry machines still take quarters? It seems like technology would have come farther than that.” And I didn’t want to hurt her feelings, but what boy wants a laundry basket and a roll of quarters?
Everyone is very concerned about whether or not my son can do laundry. Except me.
I’ve got news for y’all. I have absolutely no plans whatsoever to teach my son how to do laundry.
I hear you going into the spin cycle: “how could she?”, “who does that?”, “oh, the humanity!”
Hold the detergent, Soak on this:
1. He wants to be an engineer. He can figure it out. Isn’t that what being an engineer is all about? Discovery? It’s not rocket science. It’s okay to have to figure some things out on your own.
2. If he can’t figure it out, he can just ask someone. Asking someone may be the way he makes a new friend or even the way he meets to girl of his dreams. He can also text or call me, I am pretty sure I can explain it over the phone. Again, it’s not rocket science. And aren’t I doing the universe a favor by teaching a man to ask for directions? (Guys, to be fair, that is a totally sexist stereotype)
3. If he screws it up and his white shirts turn pink because there was a red sock in the wash, he’ll live. And he’ll be mad. And then he’ll laugh. And he’ll never do it again. Lesson learned.
4. The Facebook post list claims that if I teach him to do laundry, “his wife will thank me.” Wife? Wait, he is going to get MARRIED? Isn’t that getting ahead of the whole “going to college” thing?
5. I’ll confess, I’m throwing in the towel (yuk!yuk!) partly because, let’s be honest here…does this look like the room of a boy who will do a lot of laundry?
I have a limited amount of time to teach him all the stuff I am supposed to teach him. And it seems to me that there are some things that never make these lists that are actually way more important than whether someone knows how laundry.
I’m going to teach him some of the things that were not on that Facebook list. That list was great, but it left out a couple of things:
Managing money. I used to work in a bank near a college campus and we saw so many students who could not manage their own money. You think it is a joke, but we would get students who would say things like, “but I still have checks, how can there be NO money in my account?” or “I lost my credit card three months ago, what do you mean someone has been using it?” Schools, for the most part, do not teach personal financial management. So, this Spring we are focusing on banking. I’m getting him a checkbook and a credit card and we are going to start learning what they do, when to use them and how they work. How to write a check and balance a checkbook. How to use the ATM. Why a credit card is different than a debit card. Why you don’t want to run up more debt than you can handle.
Alcohol awareness. Alcohol is part of living on a college campus. We are having discussions on things like binge drinking, drugs, and personal safety. I plan to discuss different types of alcohol and why 12 ounces of beer is not the same as 12 ounces of vodka. And why he needs to get his own drink at a party and keep track of it. And why you don’t take someone else’s prescription drugs. And what to do if someone becomes so inebriated that they pass out. And when to call the rescue squad.
Safety. I want him to walk a girl home from a party or the library or a party instead of letting her walk home alone. I don’t want him to walk by himself late at night. I want him to not let his friends drive drunk and not drive drunk himself and not let his friends get into cars with people who have been drinking. I want him to call a cab–that’s a good use of money!
Health, both mental and physical. We have been over his health insurance card and now I let him check in when we go to the doctor’s office so he gets a sense of how that works. And we talk about when you should go to the doctor and when it is okay to call. Our school system did a great job of discussing mental health, but we have also discussed mental illness at home. And we have discussed our family medical history too. Of course, he can call and get that information, but it is still good to discuss health openly.
Exercise. If it’s a stressful time and you have a choice between doing laundry and getting outside and playing ultimate frisbee or basketball or football or whatever, go outside. It’s a no brainer. Exercise enhances our mental abilities, it reduces stress, it encourages social interaction. Laundry can wait.
If he asks, I will teach him how to do laundry, but if not, laundry is something he can figure out on his own and he will be just fine. And, for his birthday, I got him some LL Bean boots because if it’s rainy and cold, you still have to walk to class. And:
dry socks = less laundry.
And he loved the boots.
Just to be on the safe side though, I might buy him 50 pairs of underwear and 50 pairs of socks. That should hold him until he comes home for Thanksgiving. And Thanksgiving will probably be the exact moment I curse myself for, you guessed it… not teaching him to do laundry.