Our youngest son is preparing to leave the nest in a month, and some of the skills I am making certain he has securely in his arsenal are basic life skills. We were sitting next to each other in church last Sunday and he leaned into me and whispered, Look. He was pointing at the sleeve of his suit jacket, where clearly the third of the four buttons on the cuff was broken. It was the same on the other sleeve. How he managed to break the third button on each of the cuffs isn't clear, but, I wanted to make sure he didn't think I was going to be fixing it for him.
I whispered back that he could just remove each of the broken buttons and either replace them or simply move each fourth button into the third buttons place and leave it at that. So now he is faced with a dilemma. How does he find matching buttons for his jacket? Ah, a new skill to teach him, a bit of lesser known information to pass along.
I whispered that he could check the inside of the jacket, usually located near the bottom hem or by the inner pocket, for replacement matching buttons. If he could not find them there, he could check at a local store that sells buttons, such as a fabric or craft store, or even a local super market, for a set of matching buttons, but, he would need to have one of the buttons on hand to match it with.
This all might seem just practical common sense type stuff, but, this generation has not been raised to really face the day to day challenges we just took for granted. Such as, wearing, much less repairing shirts with buttons. We live in a disposable society, and most teenagers live in t shirts and jeans, so who cares about learning how to sew on a button? He has yet to make this repair, probably trying to avoid it, hoping Mom will just step in and do it for him. I have to admit , it is tempting, especially since this is a suit jacket, and the buttons are decorative, so, a shabby job will ruin an otherwise nice jacket. What would be better in the long run is what matters more to me as I prepare him to venture out on his own. So, this week I will take him to shop for matching buttons, and will demonstrate on a piece of fabric the proper technique for sewing on a replacement button, matching the stitching that exists on the other buttons. Then I will show him that a tiny, repeat tiny, drop of super glue will make the repair last so much longer, and can be duplicated on the remaining buttons to prevent them from pulling off too easily.
And that leads me into other clothing care, such as basic laundry knowledge. Most moms have somewhere in their early days created a beautiful array of pink clothing. We've had crayons go through the wash which ultimately end up in the dryer, leaving a lovely color pattern on whatever it touches. We've combined cold wash items with warm wash items, and paid no attention to the washing instructions, end result, shrunken sweaters for a start, and over time our clothes probably wanted to rebel, which explains the number of missing socks, they simply ran away.
Clothes today are so expensive, and either poorly or delicately made, that ruining them because you never learned how to properly do laundry is easy to do and replacement is not an inexpensive option. So, I take each child by the hand when they are old enough to reach the washer comfortably, and teach them the ins and outs of laundry. I start with the functions of the washing machine, and explain that each machine may be different, but, there are some similarities they all share. I explain the temperatures first, because this is the biggest issue faced by a novice. It's not all about cold for darks and hot for whites. Then I move onto load sizing, and clarify that it is not a time or money saver to cram the washer full, because it actually wastes water, soap, electricity, and your time, to wash so many clothes at once that nothing really gets clean, and then you are faced with washing them again, or walking around in clothes that don't look or smell very clean. So, explain how the washer works, that clothes must be able to move around in order to create that rubbing action that the old style wash boards were once used for. They have to be able to move, or it's nothing more than sitting in water. Also explain about heavy items needing a counter balance to prevent the washer tub from becoming unbalanced, making that awful bashing sound when going into a spin cycle. The gentle cycle really does have a purpose, as does the permanent press cycle. I save that for when I discuss washing instructions on clothing.
Time to move onto the dryer. Again, I explain the way it works, and the need for air flow. I also express firmly that lint is the product of fabrics rubbing against one another, it is the by product of the washer action that comes off in the dryer, and that it is flammable. I teach them to empty the lint trap before starting another load, and if a single load isn't getting dry in one cycle the trap will need cleaning again before starting it over.
Now that I have covered the tools, it's time to cover the valuables, that being their clothes. This is where the labels are carefully read, and I have them sort clothes into piles of warm water, cold water, hot water, delicates, and permanent press. We read the instructions for both washing and drying, and then separate the piles into more specific piles based on the washing and drying instructions . Then, they do the laundry, right through to folding or hanging the clean clothes. One of the biggest time savers I teach them is to immediately remove dry clothes from the dryer before they cool off, and fold them directly into a basket, or hang them on hangars, whichever is appropriate. This usually eliminates wrinkling, so they may not have to iron anything except perhaps dress shirts and pants, and if they are cared for properly, perhaps not even them.
The last thing I like to teach my kids about laundry is how to fold shirts to create the maximum use of their dresser space and easily find what they are looking for at a glance. It's a trick I learned from an organizer, Linda KooperSmith, when she was on the show Clean House. The technique is demonstrated here
I have a quicker way to do it, while standing, I take the shirt by both shoulder seams, give it a shake to smooth it out. Then I bring the shoulders to the back center, the way she does, but, while holding the shirt up. I then hold the shirt against my chest, and bring the bottom up to the top of the back, basically folding it in half. Then I fold it in half again, from the back. And there ya have it. Just as she said, the shirts all tucked neatly into the drawer lined up in rows, and displaying enough of the front of the shirt to identify each one easily, makes it so easy to see what you want without having to move other shirts or dig in the drawers.
So, now we will move onto another Life Skill, basic housekeeping.
I'm a mother of eleven children, wife of 32 years, Latter Day Saint, and 911 Dispatcher and a budding homesteader. Come along with me as I journey toward self sufficiency, one baby step at a time.
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