The balance of power

This morning, as the entire family gathered together in the kitchen to get in each others way while eating breakfast and packing lunches, Joe chastised me for stacking dirty dishes on the cutting board.

I was stunned. Completely stunned. I put down the shawl (the alpaca dental floss shawl is almost done, 20 rows and a cast off. I know it looks like crap, I assure you blocking is magic.)


and stared at him. Think for a moment about what had just transpired. My husband, who has many, many charms – not one of them having anything at all to do with cleaning anything at all, had just spoken to *me* (aka – the only person in this house who has ever spoken to another family member about cleaning anything) about the appropriate use and cleanliness of the cutting board.

Seriously, what happened here while I was gone? Joe cares about the cutting board? I would have sworn to you on a stack of laceweight merino up until this morning that Joe thought our cutting board was self cleaning. While I was gone he trained the children (with admittedly limited success, but let’s not focus on that) to put their dishes in the dishwasher, not on it. I’ve been trying to do that for years. YEARS. Other sparkling successes include:

-each member of this family enjoyed the company of Mr. Washie, with clean laundry resulting.

-only half the house is sticky.

-there is toilet paper.

-Joe cleaned the laundry area. The stack of memorial lint that I’ve been tossing on the top of the dryer for months? Gone. (Also gone are the 12 empty containers of laundry soap that I couldn’t quite manage to get to the recycle bin.)

-Amanda did an awesome job at the violin solo.


Ken recorded it for me…I haven’t heard it yet, but look at how she looks. Just look at it. I’m sweating and worrying and scared out of my wits about talking to knitters, and my daughter laughs her way through a solo? There is no pleasure greater to a mother (at least this one) than watching her children surpass her, despite dodgy parenting.

I am beyond proud and all the way to awestruck by this girl.

I leave for 10 days and the whole thing comes together?

(We will overlook, for the purposes of this argument, that there was a fire. It was a small fire, it was contained in the oven area and was put out by Joe and Ken – Not the Toronto fire department. Really, as Joe puts it, it is worth noting that there was “only one fire”, since for guys like Joe fires are not all that out of the ordinary.)

Suddenly Joe and the girls have inside jokes. They have a system. They have a dimension to the parent child relationship that wasn’t here before I left. It is worth wondering (because I am the type that thinks everything is worth wondering about) if I shouldn’t have left more often? Perhaps there is something to be said about stepping back a little.

69 thoughts on “The balance of power

  1. Congrats Steph, sounds like a slick moving operation. I am glad to hear that you are home, we have missed you at the SnB

  2. I think Joe should get the MSF mittens. Or you could spin today. He should definitely get something knitting related.

  3. It’s amazing what a family can do when the slave….er mom is not available. I found out what they were capable of when I was doing a very demanding college year while also working part time. Nothing like you being unavailable to make them realize what they CAN do for themselves.
    I think their survival instincts kick in.

  4. Amanda looks amazing up there. I agree about your kids surpassing you. It’s an amazing thing, and it means that you’re doing a good job, no matter what you think of it yourself! We are our own worst critics. Witness calling making a shawl/sweater/hat/socks etc from yarn and calling it “just knitting”. Have faith in yourself. You’ve done a great job!

  5. Oh, what you have learned grasshopper! Wanna help me gain perspective on first daughter living away from home “likely for forever Mom” and third off to university in 110 days (who’s counting)! Sob.

  6. Jenn, dude… (May I call you, “Dude”?) You ROCK!! I’d almost forgotten that Tuesdays are for spinning. G’wan everyone, giverhell.
    It’s been so long, I wonder if she even remembers how to spin….

  7. i know for certain that when you step back a little you can see the pattern and color more clearly.

  8. You know the same thing happened to me. Last month my 3 month old was in the hospital for 8 days. Of course I stayed by his side the whole time. My wonderful husband, Greg, stayed home with our other 2 children. They are 3 and 2. When I got homw the house was spotless, and the kids were all in one piece. Kind of made me sad. I thought that the house would fall apart if I were gone, but they were fine. Greg did a great job.
    Of course they missed me but it was nice to know that they were OK….so I only had to worry about getting James well πŸ™‚
    By the way, my Mother works a HUGE yarn shop in Rocklin, Ca. I went dow to visit my parents last week and guess what was on her cofee table? Yup, your book. And no she doesn’t blog, no matter how many time I have told her about blogging, she just doesn’t “get it” πŸ™‚

  9. I can’t wait to see the shawl after it is blocked! I love lace so much.
    Oh- and this is not meant to be weird but I found another skein of that Lana Grossa sock yarn you admired and I just bought it. So let me know if you want it, kay?

  10. Speaking entirely as a kid and not as a mom, even though mom’s leaving may require us to do things for ourselves, it just isn’t the same or as good when mom does it. There’s nothing quite like your mom leaving for a few days to make you really appreciate her and all she does for you. When I moved away to college I had a rude awakening on that front! My mom got a whole lot smarter in about 24 hours. I’m glad your hubby and kids survived without you, but I’ll bet you’re super glad to home with them. I can’t wait to see your shawl after it’s blocked. I’ll bet it’ll be fabulous!

  11. My 11 year old violinist would like to know, pretty please, what Amanda played. I’m sure Mr Washie is comforted by your return.

  12. OMG…the comment about the lint and empty laundry bottles memorial is killing me. My hubby does most of the laundry and it looks like that. Some how I’ve been managing to load the laundry and let it stay there.

  13. Only one fire. Not too bad.
    Yup, I think you’ve convinced me – I *have* to go to that feltmaking course in Denmark.
    (the cutting board was actually self-cleaning – it was perceiveda as part of YOUR self…)

  14. Yes, it is amazing what can happen when Mom isn’t home. I do know for a fact that if my husband and I were to switch places (if He was the work at home spouse, and I worked outside the house), our house would be spotless. That is just his thing, but not mine. If I could find a job that paid as much as his, we’d do it in a heartbeat. But then again, I’d miss all the fun things that I get to see our kids do because I am home. That would be too much to miss.
    It was nice meeting you at NHS&W. Thank you for stopping by the booth. πŸ™‚

  15. Welllll . . . since Tuesdays are for spinning it might be appropriate to reward Joe for all his good deeds by spinning up some of the gorgeous yarn for his sweater. Just saying.

  16. It is truly amazing how well they do without you. I had the same experience when I went to California for a week in November 2003.
    When I came home, my husband complained to me that our son had chastised him for not zipping up his jeans before they were laundered, to prevent wear & tear on the zipper. (Something I rant about regularly because I hate inserting new zippers in jeans.)
    The next time I did laundry, neither my husband nor my son had zipped up their jeans. When confronted with this, my son simply replied that they only zipped up their jeans because I had “forced” them to be self-sufficient for a week.
    So, believe me, old habits will resurface. They won’t be able to help themselves.

  17. Your family does sound terrific (and your daughter looks so happy and relaxed in that pic — how wonderful!).
    I’m very impressed with how they pulled together. My kids are younger than yours, but on the rare occasions when I go away for business, I usually come home to what looks like an explosion of dishes, dirty clothes, papers, etc. in the middle of the house, and the explantion that “there was just too much to do, so I left this stuff. i hope you don’t mind.” Not to be sexist, but I am in awe of women, who are champion multi-taskers and somehow usually manage to get it all done. You must be very glad to be home.

  18. Nothing will make a man paranoid about a cutting board faster than food poisoning. Maybe you better check?

  19. I think they wanted to prove to you that yes you can leave them, yes the house will still be standing and wash some wash will be done.
    Luckily they also can prove that they still need you. πŸ˜‰

  20. I’ve always believed that you can only judge how well your children have turned out by their behavior when you are not around. My logic being that they should be relaxed around their parents and therefore at their worst.
    Obviously you have done a wonderful job.

  21. The shawl is intimidatingly large, given how recently it was cast on and how many many socks have been knitted in the meantime.
    So Mr. Washie played around the minute you turned your back … may his promiscuity continue! (It could happen. I started doing my laundry at summer camp one year and just never stopped.) All the more time for you to enjoy a proper Toronto spring, now that you’ve sampled spring in so many other places.

  22. This is all just a sign that you are supposed to spend more time with odd knitters from another country πŸ˜‰

  23. I hope this kind of strange behavior happens in our household someday! We’re still in the sticky stage.

  24. MANY years ago, when microwaves were so new they came with free cooking lessons, the man teaching the class I attended assured us that microwaves were self cleaning, in that “You clean ’em yourself!”

  25. Its amazing what they can figure out when left to their own devices. My mother used to marvel at the food my sister and I could cook for ourselves when she and Dad would leave us for the weekend. Not that we would cook or bake when she was around. πŸ™‚

  26. My girlfriend had 4 children, born back in the days when you spent 5 days in the hospital after delivery. She called it her “vacation” and when she came home after each birth with husband having had to manage the house and children, she found a new appliance…washer & dryer, stove, etc. Funny what a man learns when he has to do the housewifing!

  27. Having myself set a dishtowl on fire in the last 24 hours, Joe will hear no cracks from me. I have, however, Express Mailed you a tithe of the dryer-lint I’ve been accumulating, neatly nested in one of the many detergent boxes brooding under the set tubs. It’s mostly grey — I bet a GOOD spinner could spin it, treating it like a down fiber… (or you could use it to decoy the squirrel. While you’re spinning. Today.)

  28. Amanda is positively sparkling. I know you get nervous, but I think I have a guess where she gets her stage presence.
    My family’s much smaller-scale switcheroo has been good for all of us too.
    Only one fire, huh? So did they wait for your return to tell you about it?

  29. I, too, identified heavily with the archival lint. What is it about dryer lint that makes one unable to tote it to the garbage can? Ditto the (nearly) empty laundry detergent bottles? Ah well.
    Welcome back from your whirlwind tour, anyway. Glad to see the small fire didn’t occur in any stash-laden area. Although, you could pack a lot of yarn into an oven, if you weren’t too into baking….

  30. So, basically, you should have written the bookbookbook five years ago (and gone on a massive tour, natch)?
    It’s good to know, and accept, when to let go.

  31. While you were gone, you have learned much, much more-about yourself, fellow knitters, and geography in general (just to name a few). So it only makes sense that they, too, have grown in their own ways as well. Good for them, good for you. Congrats to Amanda-I never doubted her for a minute-I met her mother, and she is one hell of a woman. How could her daughters not be fearless, brave, and graceful under pressure?
    But there is one thing I HAVE to know-how were the coffee cups placed back in the cupboard? Right side up or upside down?

  32. Indeed. The appropriate answer to the question, “Can Stephanie come out and play”. asked by one of your little knitfriends is HELL YES.

  33. I’m glad to hear that I’m not the only one with the lint pile. It’s like my own personal dryer “stash”…all different colors and textures. Dryer roving. Yeah, that’s it.

  34. It’s great when, for whatever reason, kids and the Dad create that special magic circle. Happened with my boys and Dad when he finally quit working up North, and I stepped back to let them get to know one another again. It’s a circle that lasts too, 8 years later it’s still there, and it’s still magic.
    Barb B.

  35. spin laundry lint? what about dust bunnies? I bet you could spin that too lol.
    I don’t know about the stepping back part.That would mean they would have the power and control.nnneeevvver!

  36. It’s amazing what people are capable of when you give them a chance….
    Including you!
    A year ago you hadn’t been away in what 17 years? Now look at you!

  37. I continue to worship at your feet! hugs karola
    i’m am also in awe of my daughter who can do a multitude of things i can and never was able to accomplish.. yup even getting up in front of a bunch a folks! k

  38. So, you have something for me to think about here. Maybe all it takes is me leaving for more than 2 days (my business trips) for hubby to fold laundry or actually put dishes IN the dishwasher.

  39. Hmm, Stephanie, maybe you really are “finishing” Joe! The training seems to be working well at any rate. πŸ˜‰ And brava, Amanda! See, we told you she’d rock.

  40. I remember when my mom would go on quilting retreats….my sister and I got pancakes-for-dinner, and creamed chipped-beef-on-toast…no vegetables in sight! Had to love my dad’s bachelor culinary repetoire.

  41. I’m too lazy to sift through comments to see if anyone had mentioned “cheaper by the dozen” movie. I just saw the remake, with Steve Martin. He’s left alone with his 12 kids. Yes. a dozen. And their last name in the movie is Baker. ha ha. (i guess the dog completes the baker’s dozen). Though- thinking back, i don’t think the movie would’ve helped you feel calmer about leaving the kids alone with the hubby.
    Muy impressed with him cleaning up Mr Washie’s living space. He’s a keeper alright!

  42. Welcome home, Steph! Enjoy your stay at Hotel Harlot. At least that’s what it seems like to me ~ a home where *other people* know how to use the washing machine and give a crap where the dirty dishes are stacked. Luxury!!
    Where ya goin’ next? πŸ˜‰

  43. There is something to be said about stepping back.
    There is also something to be said about announcing where you’ll be reading in Portland, OR. Might I suggest Yarn Garden? In any case, I’m trying to organize my Stitch & Bitch group into making a field trip up there.

  44. That’s awesome that your “babies” are growing up and learning to take care of themselves! (haha!) But awesome that Joe stepped up to the plate and handled everything and even got the kids to do some things they didn’t before. Sometimes stepping back to let others step up is a good thing.
    Any chance on the West Coast tour that you’ll be stopping in Denver?

  45. Hooray Amanda! Okay, so Joe got the kids to do something while you were gone. It just proves to me that you weren’t gone long enough. It’s still new, they’ll listen for a little while. It is only inevitable that the system will fall apart with familiarity. I for one just might be willing to go away long enough to see that happen.

  46. I’m amazed for you! Just make sure they don’t revert to their old ways. Congrats to Amanda, aparently she didn’t get your stage fright πŸ™‚

  47. It’s wonderful that your family has pulled together to support you in your bookbookbook and tourtourtour. I think that means they might be just a little bit proud of you.

  48. Maybe you are at the point where some of those long-term parenting goals you planted in them are finally coming to fruition. 10 days away from you helped them pull on their own reserves to give back what you have given all this time. Growing up happens! Good work, Ma.

  49. Kudos to Joe and the Girls! Yay Amanda on the solo! Right on Joe with the system!
    Sounds like they missed you so much they had to start acting like you to get through the day πŸ˜‰

  50. Thats it then, I have to leave home for a while so my boys all “get” the cutting board thing.
    Its great they missed you just a little and coped without you,
    Amanda looks like she is enjoying being centre stage, well done.
    My copy of bookbookbook arrived today, am off to read in peace, (thats a joke, in this house on a Wednesday everyone is home, but I am planning on ignoring them all).

  51. Ok, this lint archiving thing is freaking me RIGHT out, I have to tell you. What IS it with us??? (“Us” of course being the knitters/spinners/fibery people who just can’t throw something that SOFT into the garbage bin.)
    WHAT could you re-use it for I wonder?
    It begs it’s own button: “Lint Lover” or “Lust for Lint” or something. (Need more caffiene to make it more catchy…and to incorporate it into another “Llama” lyric.)

  52. Way to go Amanda! I used to have an 11 year old violinist. Now I have an 18 year old violinist! Watch out – you may find yourself on the road to college auditions! By the way – my daughter says she’s always nervous when she performs but that it’s good!
    Enjoy the family journey!

  53. Yay!! My copy of the book (bought from Kaleidoscope yarns) has your signature! I didn’t notice that the first few times I opened it, so it was a big surprise. Now I have to go order another one for my friend in California…

  54. I travel all the time for work and was amazed by how competent my family became in the household arts. However what I realized was it wasn’t the maid service that they ‘needed’ from Mom, it was the expressions of unconditional love, being available to listen and support them emotionally, giving them hugs (even tho they act like its a bother sometimes,) etc… Although they may run the household without you, they will always need their mommy.

  55. I might have to force my guys to read this entry, see if they learn anything. I know for a fact that when they drop me off at the train station in three weeks, the first stop will be to buy a large supply of paper plates and plastic utensils. The dishwasher will remain purely ornamental. The washing machine will have it’s first holiday since ever… yeah. I am so looking forward to going away.

  56. What a long journey it is to bring our children into a world where they will be self-sufficient! Some will never lose that thing about the laundry and the dishes. But they will survive and it cuts like a knife to think that they can do it without their mother.Welcome home and keep up the good work. k1, p1.

  57. see…like i told you many months ago…you have the perfect family! not everything is perfect..but then who wants that? …but it’s perfect as a’re a lucky group up there…congrats on it all!

  58. I wanna hear about the cast off method. I have issues with casting off. I wanna hear about how you do it. The way that I’m doing it is obviously broken because it generally results in an overly tight, unflexible edge.

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