WINTERS OF SICKNESS
We had a couple of really bad winters a number of years ago. It wasn’t the snow or the cold or the dreary grey, it was the lingering sniffles and congestion, heaviness in the chest accompanied by coughs that kept one, two, three or all four of us up at all hours of the night. In fact, it lingered so long that my oldest was out of school for 6 weeks. He was miserable in more ways than one: feeling lousy, missing his friends, and wishing that it was his teacher helping him with schoolwork instead of his mom. While my health was (mostly) intact, I was losing my mind, confined to the house, rescheduling clients, and caring for sick children around the clock.
We are alternatively, holistically minded as a family, so we were treating our boys with homeopathic remedies, tinctures, herbal decoctions. We eliminated dairy from their diets. The first year it happened, while the kids were still recovering from their bronchial challenges, we headed to Florida on our family vacation. Ten days of sun and salt water and a change of environment and they returned home cured. Were these illnesses just a “normal” response to the change in temperature and the lessened exposure to the sun and vitamin D?
When it happened a second year in a row, we started looking into potential underlying causes. We wondered, did we have a mold problem? Bathroom walls were torn down, a leak discovered. We performed home tests; called in an expert; treated with mold killers, bleach, and an ozone generator, and were declared mold-free. Despite these measures, lingering coughs, and congestion continued to plague our family.
It was these years of winter sickness that led to my belief in "Sheet Sunday." What does this have to do with sheets, you ask? My answer involves some airing of dirty laundry—literally. You see, with two entrepreneurs in the family, a plethora of volunteer work, two active boys, and a belief that we all need to feed our passions; some things get left in the dust, so to speak. While my husband and I organically take turns doing laundry, our sheets (in that particular moment in time) could easily go a month (or more) without being washed
One day amidst all of this sickness and turmoil, while changing the sheets (finally!), I had a moment of inspiration. I flashed on our homeopathist’s recommendations to separate the boys so they wouldn’t keep passing sickness back and forth. Then back 20 years to the beginning of my teaching career when a colleague advised opening the windows daily in the winter to clear out the germs. Then, to a more recent encounter with a friend who shared that she was the most healthy when she stopped making her bed in the morning so it could air out. Then, poof! Sheet Sunday was born.
On the surface, it was really quite a simple concept: a family commitment to strip the beds and wash the sheets every other Sunday. Weekly seemed like a big leap to take at the time. Every two weeks seemed to work for me in many other areas of my life—a regular, consistent interval, but not so much that it felt burdensome. Every other week, it was! The whole family would be involved—both of us parents, and both boys. Everyone had a vital job. And, because Sheet Sunday was my brainchild, I also included a caveat where everyone showered before sleeping on the newly changed sheets.
As a germ-destroying, immune system enhancing device, Sheet Sunday has served us well since its inception a year ago (along with all of the other actions we have taken individually and as a family). While our boys have been exposed to and caught some mid-winter bugs, none have lingered indefinitely. Improved health is gift to us all, but the true power of Sheet Sunday lies beneath the surface of the simple idea. What I love most about it is that Sheet Sunday encompasses and enacts many of my core beliefs. Like all good ideas, it was begotten as a culmination of the wisdom of others—I was simply the conduit for its inception and the inspiration for its enactment. I love and embrace the fact that there is nothing new or earth-shattering about Sheet Sunday—it stands on the shoulders of generations of people who have shared the workload to facilitate ease of family life.
Sheet Sunday is not another responsibility to add to my ever-growing list. It is NOT a day when I am responsible for changing the sheets. It is a cooperative, family affair. . .
By organizing this family hygiene tradition, I am acknowledging that I need help, that cleaning the laundry is a job everyone does—men, women & children. Sometimes it can be fun and sometimes it can be a drag, but we are all in it together, and we can choose to make it fun, if we wish. I love that we are getting the boys involved in the hands-on nature of the work, embracing and perpetuating a feminist cultural shift. I am making it a priority to teach my 10 year-old boy how to do laundry—so that he can feel independent and responsible and not have expectations that a mother or wife or partner should do it for him. His 4 year-old brother gleefully switches clothes from washer to dryer, eager for the day when he can carry the laundry down the basement steps, put the detergent in the washer and choose the cycles all by himself.
If I want to perpetuate the misogynistic system that is, I can continue to do everything all by myself, my own way. Oftentimes, it is easier to just do something myself—be it cleaning or washing laundry, or organizing a trip—rather than sharing the load (or even admitting that I might need help). Creating a family culture that brings us together for work and for pleasure is my privilege and responsibility. Sheet Sunday reminds me that when we work together as a family, we can accomplish great things—both in our now and for the future of our world.
And, though, perhaps not the most important, I do love the look of a cleanly made bed & the cool, crisp & welcoming feeling of slipping between freshly washed sheets . . .