Parenting woes hit hard when an unassuming mother or father becomes privy to information they’d just as soon not know. I think we’ve all worn blinders when discovering a hidden handwritten note or overhearing sordid details of a phone conversation. But how blind can one pretend to be when making a discovery such as the one I made a few weeks ago?
In our house and probably yours, too, the laundry is overwhelming. Doing at least two loads a day, every day of the week, is about enough to keep the smelly articles from jumping from the hamper and staging their own production of Riverdance. We have teens that change their outfits in twenty-minute intervals, and smaller children who still spill frequently and attract more dirt than a construction site. Sometimes I feel as if I’ve grown a laundry basket. No longer a receptacle, it has become a permanent extension of my torso! It is within the briny depths of that torso that I unearthed one of the first traumas of mothering teens.
Have you ever taken stock of exactly what lies in the bottom of those laundry baskets? Think about it. When the laundry is folded, is the basket ever really empty? Of course it’s not. If it’s at all like my torso it still contains a few things. A large collection of used dryer sheets tends to accumulate before they are trashed. Single socks, lonely and forever abandoned by their mates, live there, soon to be relegated to some sort of disposal. I’ve found balls of lint, wadded up pieces of paper, an occasional pen, and oodles of ponytail holders and bobby pins. But on this particular day as I retrieved the last pair of size 6 Rugrats briefs I was stopped in my tracks by a foreign object. There in the bottom of my torso was a thoroughly washed and dried condom. I don’t mean a condom housed in its neat little foil wrapper. No, I’m talking apparently used, although currently laundered.
As initial shock made me gasp, maternal instinct temporarily numbed my senses allowing for small doses of reason to enter my thoughts.
“He’s eighteen,” I told myself. I vaguely recalled eighteen. I remembered being eighteen in the early seventies.
“But you’ve preached abstinence!” my churched soul exclaimed.
Reason jumped in, “At least there are precautions being taken.”
Reason did have a good point.
My mind’s conversation continued until I decided I’d better take control of the situation or request counseling and meds for Multiple Personality Disorder. I poured a cup of coffee and devised my plan of action.
Recognizing the need to make my discovery known, I decided to leave a message on the washing machine.
It read, “To whom it may concern. Condoms are disposable. They are not to be washed and dried as this may cause shrinkage or breakdown of the protective latex. Signed, The Laundry Management”.
I taped the note and offending, but very clean item to the washer’s lid, and waited for a reaction. I never got one. The next time I entered the laundry room both the message and accompaniment were gone.
I do believe, however, that my point was well taken. By not accusing, shaming, or reprimanding my son I relayed to him that I was well aware of his dalliances, and although I did not condone them, I respected that responsibility was being assumed.
I’ve tried to maintain a sense of humor regarding the eye-openers teens can throw our way. It’s definitely been a learning experience. It keeps me on my toes. The benefit? Strong toes. And strong toes are very advantageous when the need arises to search the tops of teenagers closets. Just imagine the kinds of things you’ll find in there…