Deciding to buy this house meant deciding not to have that room. So, as always, we pile the dirty laundry in an exposed place, and then pile the clean laundry in a slightly different exposed place. Most of the time it’s thrown in a sloppy heap onto my bed. Then, because there are plenty of other things to do during the day, that clean heap of laundry isn’t attended to, and gets moved to the floor, where it inevitably mingles with dirty clothing and wet towels and it all ends up smelling the same, and is piled into an exposed area to be washed again.
Sometimes I’m able to keep up with it. It takes careful monitoring, even daily monitoring. But on the days that I’m aware of it and attentive, neat piles of folded laundry get into bedrooms and into drawers, never mingling with the dirty stuff.
Last Saturday Rick and I got into a fight. It was immature and loud, and happened while we were all in the minivan on the way to the gym. The next day, we got into another fight, again all of us in the minivan. If possible, it was even more immature and even louder. Stubbornly, and after several hours had passed, we both made our apologies.
A couple months ago, I mentioned that I think it’s okay to fight in front of the kids. I need to elaborate.
Being the daughter of two psychologists, I grew up talking about why this or that made me upset. It forced me to examine the “why” of my feelings, and developed into a very frank “Mom, I don’t like that because...” sort of relationship. When Rick and I were first dating, he often thought that my mom and I were fighting because of the frankness of our speech. Mom and I both assured him repeatedly that we weren’t fighting.
Because of this kind of openness, I have always just thought that fighting was a thing that didn’t need to be hidden. That it’s okay if people know when I’m having an argument with someone, because everyone argues. And as a parent, I have thought that my kids should see their parents fight so that they know that even though we have disagreements, Rick and I still love each other, and that love trumps everything. But this week has changed my view.
After having two big fights in a row, Rick and I each felt ashamed and embarrassed that we’d fought so disrespectfully, and in front of the kids. We were still kind of mad at each other, but Monday morning, we independently talked to Liv and Ike. Turns out we both told each kid pretty much the same things: we love each other very much, we love you very much, we’re very sorry, and we’re not getting divorced or anything, so you don’t need to worry about that. Imagine my heartbreak when Ike audibly sighed as relief washed over his face. He had had a nightmare that we did divorce. It’s a horrible feeling to know I caused my dear son such worry.
The family is the most important unit on earth. It’s within the family that we learn of love and service, of hard work and endurance. It’s where we learn how to communicate and treat other people. What a poor example I set when I degrade the father of my children, and right in front of their stunned faces.
Because the family holds such high importance in the grand scheme of things, Satan is always trying to get his fingers wrapped tightly around those delicate ties. Elder H. Burke Peterson said:
Satan knows that he can cause unhappiness in our homes if he can bring about disunity, discontent, disharmony... he knows that if he can cause parents to quarrel with each other, their children may well follow the example.
He knows that if parents show little respect for each other, so will their children. He knows that children mirror the actions of their parents.
It appears as though my clean laundry has mingled with my dirty laundry, making everything stink. And it looks like it’s time for daily monitoring.
When Rick and I were married, we made many promises to each other. Among these were to love and support each other with utmost care and respect. I’m reminded of the woman and her silver. She kept it in a special box, wrapped in special cloth, and shined it with special polishing paste, only using it for very special occasions. Her husband thought it was all a bit excessive until he understood what she knew all along:
If you want something to last forever, you treat it differently. You shield it and protect it. You never abuse it. You don’t expose it to the elements. You don’t make it common or ordinary. If it ever becomes tarnished, you lovingly polish it until it gleams like new. It becomes special because you have made it so, and it grows more beautiful and precious as time goes by.
With my flippant attitude about fighting in front of the kids, have I done lasting damage? Have I exposed my relationship to my One True Love to the elements? Will my kids mimic my bad behavior, creating a constant cycle of dirty laundry?
This week was tough. That’s the truth. It had its share of miscommunication, apathy, and sadness. But it ended with realization and repentance. And with all this talk about laundry, I’m grateful for the cleansing power of the Atonement and that though my “sins be as scarlet, they shall be as white as snow; though they be red like crimson, they shall be as wool.”