He was barely twice the height of the tub, when I asked him to help me that day. “Go in
the bathroom and take care of the towel you used this morning. Don’t leave it lying on the floor.”
A couple of minutes later he returned and announced proudly,
“I put all the towels away.”
He had, too. I went into the bathroom later. There were absolutely no towels in sight. Not on the racks. Not in the dirty clothes basket. No where.
I opened the linen door. All the towels, damp or dry, were folded or stuffed back on the shelf.
“Come here a moment,” I called.
He came.

I bent down to his level. “If you put wet towels in the cupboard, they get moldy and smell bad. Lay them over the edge of the tub to dry out, so they won’t mildew before can I wash them.”
I left to fix lunch.
I was adding salt to the soup, when he came to the door and solemnly asked, “How do you know that they will stink if you put them in the closet? Have you ever tried it?”
“Yes,” I sighed. “I have tried it. Not on purpose, but I have had some pretty bad smelling towels.”

He disappeared back to the bathroom. Later, I checked on his work. He had taken every towel, clean or dirty out of the linen closet, unfolded each one and carefully laid them over the edge of the tub.

I didn’t say a word to him. I simply picked up the clean ones and put them back in the closet. He had made sure we would have clean, fresh smelling towels. He had also asked a great scientific question.

Many fears and myths have been exploded by asking, “How do you know?”
Like the spring I said it was time for my most non-athletic 8-year old, to learn how to ride a bike without training wheels. He grouched and growled at me.
He did not want the training wheels taken off: He was afraid of falling.
But, I know the freedom and fun of cycling, so I assured him, “Try it, you will like it.”
He did not believe one word I said, but he tried because I insisted.

After that first tentative ride down the street, he returned face flushed and announced, “that is FUN!” The rest of that spring he explored the freedom of coasting down hills and across flat stretches in the road.

I wish it were as easy to tell them what experience and observation have taught me. But since they went off to college, married and have jobs, it isn’t.
I am constantly being challenged to prove my point in harder and harder situations: “How do you know that? Have you ever tried it?”
They want to be social scientists with their lives.

Each has asked the questions in his own way. I have listened to and debated with my budding social scientists.
“Come on. Mom, this book says …. This professor
says …. I see other people my age ….”
I argue, bore them with my experiences and bite my tongue when my budding adult finally says, “It’s my life, Mom.”
More often than I care to admit, I discover that their new ways of “taking care of the towels” do not leave a bad smell.