NEW YORK — Becky Blades wrote her oldest daughter a letter after she left home for college offering all the advice and words of wisdom she wished she had dispensed beforehand.
Her daughter had some advice of her own: Turn the letter into a book. Blades, who lives in Kansas City, Missouri, did just that and the result is a nifty, gifty little book titled, “Do Your Laundry or You’ll Die Alone,” out in April from Sourcebooks.
Blades knows her audience, keeping her pearls mostly text length — and funny.
“They’re in this short attention span stage of life,” she said in a recent interview. “Our best communications happen in text. It’s kind of that irritating motherly voice that we know and love, but at that stage in life they really don’t like to hear it.”
So how did it come to pass that kids leave home these days without the most basic survival skills: laundry, mending or the sense to know that good posture is slimming?
Yes, Millennial and Gen Z Virginia, SPEAK CLEARLY. Enunciate. Articulate. Spit out your gum.
“And we blame ourselves, or I did. I think it has to do with time and how much they have to do. The other piece is the things that they have to do to fill their time. When we were free range humans, we went looking for things to do and family was kind of that place, and things were just kind of absorbed. Your mom said, ‘Here, do the laundry, here’s how.’ My oldest was very ambitious and very driven and I gave her a laundry pass. She could hardly get her studies done. We help too much.”
Now, her youngest is a college sophomore and her older, driven one just graduated from Harvard. And mom just got around to writing the book.
Blades numbers her bits of advice and inspiration, with 271 in all. She includes seven ruled blank pages at the end for moms and dads to write in their own pearls before handing the book over to their kids.
It was her oldest daughter’s first day of senior year in high school when Blades realized exactly how much she had let slide.
“There was a whole litany of things. I thought have I ever had the birth control conversation, have I ever talked to her about this or this? What does the time get filled with? It either gets filled with all the social media and things like YouTube. We don’t sit around and tell grandma stories and pass down generational tidbits. We sit down and look at YouTube or say look at this or this on the computer,” Blades said.
Rather than data-driven bullet points or chapters of soliloquy like so many parenting books are crammed with, Blades offers humor and snark to connect. Consider her No. 8:
“Friends don’t let friends: drive drunk, text while driving, get discount body art.”
She wanted to cut to the chase and eliminate much of the noise in talking to teens. How much do they actually hear, anyway?
No. 202 is a good example: “Reinvent yourself as often as you want. Just keep the essence that makes you you.”
And this less funny but truly important tip in No. 233: “Check your paycheck. Make sure you know how much you are being paid and what is being taken out.”
Blades leaves no topic uncovered: Buy a sewing kit and learn to use it. Cotton always shrinks so buy big. Wool shrinks when you get it wet, and shrinks some more when you dry it. And, for heaven’s sake, do your laundry regularly. Try every week. Do it before you run out of clean underwear.
She takes on sex, bullying, common courtesy, etiquette and basic interpersonal skills such as: “Look people in the eye. You’ll discover this is hard to do while looking at your phone” and, “Listen. No, but really listen.”
So are her girls, slightly older now, doing just that? Most of the time, Blades said.
“I was talking a lot about the book before it was done, so they’re really sick of hearing about it,” she said. “Their dad will always say, ‘Hey guys, that’s in the book. For cryin’ out loud, it’s in the book.’”