Since I didn't move Oldest's laundry out of the garage, this is how it looked the next day:
The only change in the 24 hours was the wet laundry getting dry. You might guess that I am less than thrilled with the results of my non-interventionist approach.
But nacho wrote in his very helpful comment that "these things are simple ones that will give him the sense of control he wants and needs in life (that is, such a sense comes from being able to manage the small things in life, taking them step by step)."
That got me thinking, the end result of which was the suppression of my natural urge to gather up all the laundry and heave it onto the floor of his room.
Because the truth is, Oldest has been in a state of psychic disarray for the last six to eight weeks. He is worried, deeply worried, about college. Not just getting into college but where he is going to go, what he is going to do and what it is going to be like when he gets there. His ambivalence is paralyzing. In this way, the state of his laundry is the perfect metaphor for the state of his life. He wants to grow up and take on adult responsibilities, and he doesn't. Both he and his laundry are in state of in-between.
nacho's comment reminded me of Albert Bandura's ideas about the power of self-efficacy. In a nutshell, doing things well increases one's sense of self-efficacy. The more efficacious we feel, the more we perceive ourselves as people who are capable of succeeding when we face challenges, the more successful we are apt to be. People with high (and warranted) perceptions of their self-efficacy are not self-defeating.
If I look at the task of doing laundry as a chance for my children to increase their sense of self-efficacy, which in turn will help them develop into adults who believe in their own capabilities, the thought that begins running relentlessly through my head is... WHY DID I DO ALL THE LAUNDRY ALL THESE YEARS?
As for Oldest, he and I will visit the notion of laundry-as-metaphor tonight. Because if he really wants to move through this nasty psychogical waystation, there is probably no better place to start than with his laundry.