As you know, there’s a new towel sheriff in town. To tell you the truth, I have been shocked at how well the whole plan has worked out. The boys seem downright pleased with their new color-coded towels. They strut happily around the house post-shower, their towels wrapped around their waists, in an endless hunt for something clean to wear. Surprisingly, I think there is actually a frisson of novelty involved with having their "own" towels. This pleases me. Because I so often think of them as (on a good day) wildly indulged and overly fortunate and (on a bad day) spoiled rotten, it warms my heart to think that the possession of their own towels might be a meaningful first for my giant teenagers.
Not that it has prevented them from leaving their new towels in crumpled and mold-inducing piles around the house.
But here’s the great thing.
I don’t care.
If they want to use wet and moldy towels to dry themselves off, they should just go ahead and knock themselves out.
We were four blissful days into our new routine when I came upon this:
One of Middle’s towels had found its way to the laundry hamper.
I reached in and picked it up and started for his room, where I imagined I would tell him in what even I could recognize as a self-righteous and nagging tone something to the effect of "which part of towels are only going to be washed on Tuesdays don’t you understand?" and without so much of a breath might continue along these lines "and while I’m at it has it ever occurred to you that if you would actually hang up your towels after you use them they might have a fighting chance of being dry the next time you need them?"
But as I walked toward his room, girding myself for battle, it suddenly occurred to me: Who needs that kind of aggravation? I always leave those encounters feeling lousy and am fairly certain – make that 100% positive – that the boys feel the same way.
I remembered my New Year’s Resolution and stopped. What, I wondered to myself, would be the least amount of mothering I could do in this moment?
Nothing. I could do nothing. I could not act.
Back when I was in Social Work school, I read a lot of books for beginning therapists and the only thing I remember from any of them is the following advice: when in doubt, do nothing.
What would happen if I spared us both the scene and the lecture? Nothing. All those words could go unsaid, the cutting remarks undelivered, the head unshaken, they eyes unrolled, and the only thing that would happen from their failure to exist is that we would both have a better day.
What would happen if I left the towel right where it was? Nothing. At least not until Tuesday.
I hate to admit it, but it took me a while to realize that just because the towel was in the hamper, I didn’t have to react to it. I didn’t need to move it or touch it, much less wash it. And for sure I didn’t need to carry it back to his room and make a big scene about it.
What would Middle learn from the fact that his towel went unwashed? Well, he would certainly learn that putting something in the hamper does not mean it will be washed. He would also learn that Tuesday really is towel washing day. He also might have the chance to learn that, hey, he actually prefers a fresh dry towel to a moldy wet one.
All that learning could happen – or not – and it could have nothing to do with me.
There are things that I am good at teaching and things worthy of my teaching. My hope is that I take care of those and let life handle the rest.