From Chicken Soup for the Working Mom's Soul

The Button

If either of my sons has the ambition or calling to become president of the United States, the American people can rest assured that they will not have to worry about him pushing the “button.” In fact, I fear that my sons’ future wives will be in for a hard time getting them to push any button, unless, of course, it is located on a television remote or a video game controller.

The other day, my husband, Larry, looked at me rather strangely when I asked the boys to check the wash and became rather specific in my instructions.

“Brent, did you start the laundry?”

“Yes, ma’am. The whites are done.”

“Good. Have you switched the loads?”

He nodded.

“Did you tell your brother to push the button?”

That is when I noticed Larry raise his eyebrow.

Brent disappeared with the wonderful chore of telling his younger brother what to do, and the extreme pleasure of being able to add, “Do it now! Mom said.”

A few months ago, whenever the boys cleaned their rooms, I found four loads of laundry and “dirty clothes” that were still attached to hangers deposited on the bath- room floor. Larry and I decided that the kids would be in charge of the laundry. Brent would be in charge of sorting and washing. Brad would dry and fold.

I had a brief moment when the clouds actually parted and a sparkling beam of heavenly light and angelic voices surrounded me. I thought in anticipation about coming home to the hum of the washer and dryer, clean clothes, towels, and blankets folded neatly and waiting to be used. Ahhhh, heaven. Every mother knows that laundry never stops, and the thought of not having to think about that particular chore was a wonderful fantasy.

Fantasy. That was the right word. I should have remembered that just because we had put the children in charge of something doesn’t necessarily mean we can forget about it.

I smiled at my husband even as we heard Brad’s voice rise in the hallway. “Okay, Brent, I’m doing it! Quit telling me to push the button. I’m pushing it!”

Larry’s raised eyebrow invited an explanation.

“Apparently,” I began, still smiling, “it is Brent’s job to transfer the wet clothes from the washer to the dryer, but not to push the button. Brad is supposed to push the button and then set the timer. If Brent forgets to tell Brad he has switched out the loads, or if Brad decides he’ll push the button “in a minute,” I come home from work to wet clothes in both the washer and dryer and no dry towels for morning.”

I sighed. “I am the coordinator. Apparently, it is my job to make sure they communicate and that the button gets pushed.”

Larry smiled at me and called the boys into the room.

“Brent, from now on, you are in charge of all the laundry. Brad, your job is now the dishes.”

Brad’s eyes became as big as the plates he was now in charge of washing. (Did I mention that we don’t have a dishwasher?)

“If you can’t work together, you’ll work alone and do more work.”

That sounded great to me. (I love my husband.) It was a victory for Mom and Dad—teaching our young men the responsibility of taking care of a home, while giving Mom a break from the two chores that never seem to be completed.

Now I can fantasize about coming home to a clean kitchen and fresh laundry. I am picturing my dishes stacked neatly in place in my cabinets, the laundry done and put away. No buttons, no arguing, no problems. Can’t you just hear those angels singing? No, don’t spoil it, I’m still dreaming.

I’ll find out soon enough what buttons I’ll have to push to keep those chores completed.

Vanessa Ann Cain

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