Tuesday, August 18, 2020

How to Fold A Fitted Sheet: A Parenting Lesson

It started with the fitted sheet (XL twin, to be exact).

The whole room was tossed with bags and clothes and towels and miscellaneous pre-college stuff that clearly has to fit into the blue Ikea bags in order to get squeezed into the fun-size dorm room.

And there were two fitted sheets (one to use, one to wash, of course). 

"How do I fold this thing?"

And so we started - each of us with a sheet in hand, as I tried to walk him through the process of folding a fitted sheet. I could see his frustration growing. I could feel my own frustration growing too.

And then he started to panic. "I can't do it!" 

And then I started to panic: If he can't fold a fitted sheet, what else doesn't he know? What else isn't he ready for? If I haven't taught him to fold a fitted sheet, have I also failed to teach him all the Important Skills that he will need for his life? Is this evidence of a Disaster of Parenting? What other things doesn't he know? The thoughts tumbled, pell-mell, as I felt the tears rising. I tried, unsuccessfully, to teach him again. Tempers rose...

And then I took a breath.

Wait, I thought. Wait. This isn't the Everything. This is One Thing. Just ONE THING.

I took the sheet from him. I said, "don't worry - it's just a sheet." I could see the relief in his eyes. Perhaps his thoughts had taken the same path as mine? I folded the sheet. I'm his mom -- I can still do things for him. He watched intently and then took the sheet and shoved it unceremoniously into the already-full duffel bag. 

We've taught him to be brave and kind. We've taught him to be thoughtful and inquisitive. We've taught him to be careful and daring. We've taught him to have fun and to laugh. We've taught him how to cook and how to do (most) laundry. We've taught him how to make phone calls and how to fill out forms. He knows so much. And he knows how to ask for help when he needs it.

I may not feel ready to send him away in these uncertain times. But it's not because HE isn't ready. It's not because he hasn't learned so many important lessons. And when I remember that, when I look at the good human that he is, I know that he is ready...and so am I. 

Perhaps someday he'll even learn how to fold a fitted sheet.


Debbie Berkowitz Rabishaw said...

Needed this tonight... thanks Phyllis xo

Barb B. said...

Will you please teach me how to fold a fitted sheet -- it's impossible! Sommer family, I've been thinking about you much this week -- this is a big step not just for David, but all of you (I bet you know that).

Audrey said...

Oh, how I know that feeling! My daughter is a junior in college now, but I felt that way as we moved her in to her dorm room and then left. Would she be ok? How would she cope on her own? I fretted and felt over-the-top anxiety. She did fine, of course. My anxious kid, who had had such difficulty with transitions, waved goodbye to us and walked off with two friends. Now is a new stage - an apartment off-campus, with a lot more responsibilities and a new set of concerns. She's doing great. We gave her skills and love, she has tremendous resilience, and even as we are hundreds of miles apart, I know she will continue to thrive.

Rachel A Powers said...

Tears. Beautifully written. Todah.
And I needed it today!