Recently the dishes have become a source of great discussion in my house. My son has been officially assigned “dish duty” for a while. He thought it was going well. I strongly disagreed. I have been able to walk into the kitchen at just about any time and find a sink full of dishes. And I found I was spending a lot of time doing the dishes myself, which kind of defeats the purpose of assigning someone else this chore. And I was getting more and more irritated about it.
Finally about a week ago, I finally decided I’d had it. Since I was doing the dishes most of the time anyway, it didn’t make any sense to have that count as his contribution to keeping the household clean. I told him to find another chore. It wasn’t one of our better mother-son chats. He was irritated at my insistence that it be done throughout the day. I was tired of constantly working around dirty dishes.
So for the last week, I’ve been officially doing the dishes. And honestly, it’s a relief to have the sinks empty of dirty dishes. My stress level has gone way down. And along the way I’ve occasionally pointed out to him the things that are easier now, such as meal preparation. I can just make dinner, not do dishes first since they are already done. Not to mention that it just looks better.
He has noticed that this has made my life easier, and I think he is feeling a little bad about not keeping it up earlier. But I’ve also heard him say several times “but Mom, I didn’t realize this was such a big thing to you- you never explained why this was so important.”
I think he might be right.
I think I had some expectations for the way the job was going to be done, but I’m not sure I did everything I could to explain that to him clearly. Looking at it now, I think he only saw his job in a limited sense- all dishes had to be washed once within a 24 hour period. I saw what I thought was a kid that was just not interested in helping me out. He saw a Mom that wouldn’t stop nagging. I think we might have both been wrong. And both might have been right.
So I’m not sure the next step in the “chore wars”. I’m not willing to give up my clean sinks- I’m really liking this! But realistically I can’t do it all myself, and I need help around the house. And he needs to learn to take care of the home he lives in. So whether it’s dishes again or something else, he won’t be off the hook for long. But I’ve also realized that I need to adjust the way I discuss this with him. He obviously needs to not only know what chore, but how to do it and why that’s important.
And I need to make sure I’m being clear in other areas of my life. I talk to people constantly- to my other kids, family, friends, and clients. Sometimes it seems so easy to understand for me, and yet I still seem to hit a roadblock and the other person and I are not on the same page. So the last week has been an opportunity to remember a very important skill for keeping relationships strong, especially as my kids hit the teen years. I need to verbalize not only the goal, but also my expectations for how we are getting there. And if I hit some confusion in communication, that maybe I don’t need to say it again. Maybe I need to say it differently.