The Playroom: Down the laundry chute

Author: Maraya Steadman '89, '90MBA


Today is Tuesday. My son isn’t wearing underwear.

“So, why aren’t you wearing underwear?”

“Mom, it’s Tuesday.”

Right. Once again forcing me to recognize that there is no way any woman I can respect is ever going to marry my son.

When I was a project manager in my prior life, our firm had us do this leadership thing where our managers and staff filled out something called an upwards evaluation. One day, sitting at my desk reading the results of this survey, I realized my managers thought I was micromanager. I was shocked.

I immediately got on my high horse and rode over to my managers’ cubicles and asked them, “Do you think I micromanage?” At this point Zach started laughing so hard he spit Starbucks all over his work papers and Mike just about fell out of his chair.

So with the knowledge of my control-freak management style, when I became a mother I made a conscious effort not to micromanage. I didn’t want to be an overbearing parent whose kids go bonkers with new-found freedom as soon as they go to college.

I want to be a parent who exerts just the right amount of control to provide structure and discipline but allows for freedom of expression and respect for the individual. I quickly found it’s not that easy to do.

My 3-year old routinely shows up to dinner without pants on. Now, before we say grace I ask, “Is everyone wearing pants?” If the answer is yes, then we ask for God’s blessings on these thy gifts. If not, then I do demand that she go upstairs and put underwear on, and there I am crushing her expressions of freedom. I’m not respecting the individual who prefers to eat dinner without wearing pants.

But here’s the thing. I think my children should wear underwear at the dinner table and also on Tuesdays. That’s my rule. And all that stuff about exercising just the right amount of control is going right down the laundry chute with the rest of the dirty laundry.

Except with underwear, our family seems to have a problem getting it to go down the laundry chute.

“William, why are your dirty underwear in the middle of the stairs?”

“Because you told me to take them off my head.”

Now, when I tell my son to take his underwear off his head because it’s not safe to walk down the stairs when you can’t see, I find myself back on my high horse micromanaging as I tell him,

“Take the underwear off your head, walk five steps up the stairs, turn left, open the bathroom closet door, open the laundry chute, put the dirty underwear in the laundry chute, close the chute gently, do not let it slam hard enough to set off the burglar alarm, turn around, exit the bathroom without singing any songs about the potty or your recently composed ‘I’ve Got Underwear on My Head’ song, because I don’t want to hear it.”

Unless it’s Tuesday. On Tuesdays you take your underwear and put it on your body.

Maraya Steadman, who lives in a Chicago suburb, is a stay-at-home mother of three children. She can be reached at