By Diane Ako
Olivia and I have shared some surprisingly deep conversations over folding clothes. One time when I asked for help, she said she didn't want to do it, preferring to watch TV.
"What if I want time off to watch TV, too? Come here and fold your clothes," I scolded.
She came whining. "But why? I don't feel like it."
"I'm not your maid, I'm your mother. That means it's not my job to clean up after you, it's my job to teach you to clean up after yourself," I said. "You need to know how to do these things. Do you know that one day, you're going to grow up and be the mommy and have to do this for your kids?"
This was a shocking revelation. She sat there looking at me like I just told her there was no Santa.
"Will I still live here?" she asked.
"If I'm lucky, you'll be very close to me," I answered.
That seemed to work. She started folding.
Second episode: she came happily to the folding station, and was quite good about selecting all her clothes, folding them nicely, and putting them away properly. I check her work.
We had not one but TWO baskets of clean clothes. Olivia balked when I dumped out the second basket. "TWO? So much!" she commented.
"Yes, but you're my good little helper," I assured.
"I know... you wanted to have a baby because you wanted a helper!" Olivia declared.
She got me. Cat's out of the bag. Yes, I wanted free child labor. Partially and poorly done simple tasks that require nagging and constant supervision: That's totally worth no free time for myself and some sleepless nights.
"Um, no," I laughed.
"Well, aren't I helpful?" she insisted.
"Mostly. But babies aren't helpful. They take a lot of work and they don't do anything except look cute in return," I smiled.
She looked crestfallen, so I saved it with, "But you're not a baby anymore, so yes, you are very helpful. You still require a lot of work, though."
"I do?" she said. It's funny to hear how they think. Like folding five shirts and feeding the pets in the morning is really going to carry the day.
"Mommy and Daddy do a lot to take care of you every day. But we love having you complete our family," I said. "You are a lot of work, but in return, you give us joy and happiness, and we're glad you're here."
"And love," Olivia reminded.
Yes. And love.