I know. I know. But,…

“PUT YOUR LAUNDRY AWAY, OR I’LL PUNCH YOU IN THE FACE” ~ LOVE, MOM

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Before saying anything else, I’ll begin by saying “I get it.” I GET IT!

I’ve been wanting to start a blog for sometime. I would have never pegged this as my likely Blog Post #1 topic, though.

In recent weeks, I started seeing folks post pictures here and there of a sign reading “Put your laundry away, or I’ll punch you in the face. Love, Mom.” I must be late to the game, because it seems these signs are quite popular, and I’ve only now realized their existence.

Please allow me to reiterate: I get it.

Living in a household of 7 (and often 8), laundry is an unyielding juggernaut; a literal or metaphorical force regarded as mercilessly destructive and unstoppable (“Juggernaut,” 2016). No sooner is all the laundry clean, folded, and put away before a mountain of dirty clothes is made manifest again. It is, without exception, a never ending process. As a side note: the good Shanoans of the famed Star Ranch experience this challenge to a much lesser degree. Maybe they’ve uncovered1 something?

I understand that the spirit of the language in this sign is aimed at the soul-sucking reality of life that is laundry, and that it is not, in fact, meant to imply any ill will towards one’s child/ren, nor to promote the actual physical abuse of one’s child/ren. All the same…

Working in the field of complex developmental trauma, it has become hard for my stomach not to turn when I see things like this. I’ve worked with kids who have been punched in the face, and it isn’t something to joke about.

To offer an anecdote:

I recently returned from a trip to Eastern Europe where I worked with several children, all of whom had endured considerable abuse and/or neglect. One child comes to mind when I see this sign. We’ll call him John.

John is 7-years-old. John’s mother and step-father were both IV drug users. Before using, presumably because dealing with a 7-year-old can be bad for one’s high, John’s parents would first shoot him up so as to not have to deal with him (i.e., they’d knock him out). John’s parents would also physically abuse him, including hitting him in the face.

The latter injustice, while well documented, also became apparent one morning when I was trying to engage John in a silly game of patty-cake. You might ask, “Patty-cake?” Yes, patty-cake. Activities that involve using one’s limbs and crossing the center of one’s body happen to be not only very good for the brain, but also crucial for proper development. I won’t delve into the neurobiology behind this, but readers interested in knowing more can Google bilateral integration and/or crossing the midline.

In John’s case, patty-cake proved very difficult. This wasn’t because he didn’t possess the motor skills required to play patty-cake. But, when we’d attempt patty-cake at a tempo thought customary, John would flinch in such manner that we couldn’t play the game. It was disheartening to see the toll being hit in the face had taken on John the 7-year-old.

My best knowledgeable guess is that social services in John’s country will terminate the parental rights of his mother. What remains to be seen is whether John will spend the next 9-10 years of his life in an institution or will eventually find a home within another family. Could you imagine John entering a new home for the first time only to find this sign hanging in the laundry room? Yes, that question is asked rhetorically. Most of us get the point.

And for readers raising children in a loving, healthy, nurturing, and abuse-free home, can you imagine for a moment your children even mentally entertaining the sort of abuse John has endured? Would you ever want them to think that someone might literally hit them in the face? And while we have good reason to believe they enjoy every bit of confidence that you would never do such a thing, do we even want to joke about it?

I am not preaching (or at least not meaning to). I understand the laundry sign is squarely a joke. I am not calling anyone that finds humor in it a bad person. And I am not calling anyone that hangs it in their home a bad parent. For those up in arms about this post, the words of  Jeffrey Dude Lebowski may serve you well: “just take it easy, man.” My only aim in this blog post is to use this sign as an opportunity to visit a bigger issue.

ABOUT THE AUTHOR:
Jason is a LPC-Intern working towards full licensure under the supervision of Suzette Lamb, LPC-S. His work is undertaken at Elements Wellness, an affiliate of the Central Texas Attachment & Trauma Center.


RESOURCES:

Juggernaut. (August, 2016). Retrieved from https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Juggernaut

Van der Kolk, B.A. (2016). Developmental trauma disorder: towards a rational diagnosis for children with complex trauma histories. Manuscript in preparation.

FOOTNOTES:

1. Yes. That is intended as a pun. I hope you chuckled.