I was expecting some "atta girls" when I stopped by the neighbor's house to tell him about training my three sons to be more independent this summer.
Instead, he laughed. "It'll be entertaining watching you dismantle the Mommy Monster you have created over 14 years," he said.
It's not like my boys were shorter versions of Shavlik Randolph, the Duke basketball player whose mother was still cutting up his meat at dinner while he was being scouted by the NBA.
I wasn't going to have children who needed to take remedial laundry, a real class offered at a private college in the state.
Years - OK, months - ago, I had joyfully given up folding my sons' clothing, leaving each of them a pile to put away. But then, recently, my oldest son had the temerity to complain to the Mommy Monster about how well the stains had been removed from one of his shirts.
We had a tutorial in our cramped laundry room that evening.
For brilliant young men who instinctively know how to change the settings on Facebook, swap out photos and ring tones on my cell, and do elaborate maneuvers with an XBox controller, the simple dial on our very basic washer was a mystery.
I thought I had explained the process thoroughly. Apparently, I had not.
When the buzzer sounded on the washer, we tromped back to the laundry room for Laundry Lesson No. 2: the dryer. I opened the washer and gasped.
They could not have fit another pair of basketball shorts into that washer with a crowbar.
After 22 years in journalism, teaching my sons to do the laundry was finally teaching me precision in language. I'm a slow learner too, it turns out. When I heard the washer going again two nights later, I found my teenager had washed exactly one pair of shorts and his jersey.
They were really, really clean.
We've had a similar parsing with other chores. Garbage needs to go in the can, not just next to it. Dishes go in the cupboard, not just on the counter.
Gradually, reluctantly, they are catching on.
But it's funny, there are some chores that apparently can only be done when I am not at home.
They can cook a frozen pizza, make elaborate sandwiches and perfectly turned quesadillas - when I'm at work.
They cannot, however, seem to boil a package of ramen noodles when I'm in the house.
I guess this is the Mommy Monster my buddy was talking about.
The dismantling continues.
My goal for a busy fall is for those boys to be more independent. When I'm away from home. Better yet, even when I'm not.
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