3+ME: The secret and illegal art of Option B

I made the mistake of watching a few episodes of “Tidying Up with Marie Kondo.”

And I was inspired — not to organize my closets and get rid of things that don’t “spark joy” — but to teach my stepkids how to fold laundry.

Yep, I’m cool like that.

“Come on, you guys!” I called them into the family room, where the couch was drowning under a giant pile of clean clothes.

It wasn’t the first time they’d folded laundry. But watching Marie Kondo, I was reminded: If you fold clothes with the kids, instead of sequestering them away to do the chore in their rooms, they’ll learn how to do it better. And maybe, it’ll feel less like a chore.

But what I didn’t take into consideration was … The Shirts.

I never thought the folding pattern of a shirt could cause controversy that would go down in the annals of family lore (at least for a few weeks), but boy was I wrong.

Often, there’s more than one way to get a thing done. But I wanted the kids to learn Option A, so I tried to distract them from getting too curious about Option B.

Marie Kondo folds shirts into small squares; I grew up making a large rectangle with the neck at the top, the way you usually find shirts on store shelves.

I opted to teach the kids my way.

There were demonstrations, and practice folds, and weird looks from the kids that spelled out: “This is complicated.”

Particularly from my stepson. He deliberately did it wrong, trying to be funny.

Then he asked: “Why is this so important?”

It was a good question.

And I didn’t have a good answer.

Honestly, I wanted them to know how to fold this way, so if they ever take those folded shirts off a store shelf to see the designs on the front, they can fold them up again to neatly put them back the way they’d found them. I want them to have the ability and the knowledge to be respectful.

But that seemed kind of dumb.

“When you’re 20 and have your own place,” I grinned, “you can absolutely fold them however you want! But at least you’ll know how to fold them this way. It’s good knowledge to have.”

He didn’t seem to buy it, but he also didn’t argue.

The next weekend rolled around, and we tried again.

This time, my husband joined us — instantly making things more fun. At first.

Between folds, a snowball fight of fabric erupted, with my husband lobbing the kids’ clothes at them as he separated them from the pile, the kids giggling and throwing them back at him.

It became so much more entertaining — a family project, rather than a boring chore.

Until it was time to tackle the shirts.

“I’m gonna fold my pants first,” my stepson announced, “so when you show me how to fold the shirts again, I can do them all in one shot.”

I thought this was a great approach, and I was glad to hear he was accepting the process.

When he finished his pile of pants, I happily provided a refresher course on shirts.

And that’s when my husband offered a comment from the peanut gallery.

“Or there’s always Option B!” he declared innocently, holding up a shirt and preparing to give his own demo.

I panicked.

“No, no there isn’t!” I frantically waved my hands to shush him. “There is no Option B!”

He looked at me quizzically.

“I just managed to convince the kids this is the way to fold a shirt,” I laughed. “There is no Option B!”

But my stepson was already grinning mischievously. “I want to learn the secret and illegal art of Option B,” he declared.

We all burst out laughing.

“There is no Option B in this house!” I announced through my giggles. And we successfully redirected the kids back to Option A.

But the truth is, my husband and stepson are right. There’s almost always an Option B. There’s more than one way to do something — and they might be just as valid.

Sometimes, like in the case of The Shirts, we just have to settle on something and stick with it. And other times, it’s worth it to explore other options, too.

For now, we’ll continue with Option A.

But normally, not every Option B is a “secret and illegal art.” It might not be the worst thing in the world that the kids know that.

Originally published in The Herald News on March 10, 2019.

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