Wednesday, March 23, 2011

Mommyhood Rant

Ok, first of all, I love my kids. All of them. There is no "but..." I just love them.
Beyond loving them as fiercely as I do, I want them to grow up and be responsible and educated young ladies. I want them to be proud and strong and self-sufficient and capable. BUT, if they don't get the kitchen clean, I have serious doubts about letting them live long enough to move out.

I know that, as a kid, their main job is to go to school and get good grades. As a Mom, my main job is to make sure they are given the best chance possible to go to school and get good grades. It is also to make sure they are able to (God willing) live on their own someday and understand that laundry doesn't magically appear clean and folded in their dressers and that sandwich they left in the living room will not walk itself into the trashcan.

I do, truly, understand that my role as Head of the House(cleaning) is to make sure that all the chores get done and the bills get paid. DH goes to work and wants to spend his free time teaching and volunteering. I have no problem with this whatsoever. The kids have school, and show choir, and youth group. Again, I think it is awesome that they are all in gifted classes and that they all have hobbies to keep their minds busy. It only makes sense for the household chores to fall to me. However, if I spent all my days cleaning up the messes they made on top of cooking and paying bills and grocery shopping two separate results would become of this. First, I would be a raging psycho all the time because I really hate housework and I hate - even more - being tired and sore from house work. Second, my Little Darlings would not be prepared to take on the world on their own. I have no intention of sending my kids to college - let alone to live on their own - without understanding the basics of keeping a house running.

I don't insist that they all become little Martha Stewarts or anything. It's just that some skills must be learned by doing. Laundry is not a spectator sport. Leaving your stuff lying around will cause a mess (as well as your stuff to be lost, ruined, or both.) Shopping for groceries should be more than just milk, bread, and a few frozen pizzas. Food needs to be prepared and cooked if you want to eat anything other than said frozen pizza for the rest of your life. After eating, there will, inevitably, be dirty dishes that need to be washed, dried, and put away.

I didn't have a good handle on all of this growing up. There were some things that I just didn't learn very well. (Probably most if them were taught to me, I just never grasped them until I had my own rug rats to worry about.)  These days I am much better at being a grown-up than I used to be, although, not completely. (I think that's part of my charm) Everyone is a child for a short time, true, and everyone should have a childhood blessed with fun and safety and unbridled joy. Unfortunately, people who grow up with ONLY fun and safety and unbridled joy end up being spoiled brats. To be a well rounded and balanced adult it is absolutely vital that along with all the daydreams kids have, they need to be able to understand that not everything that exists is as happy as they would like it to be.

Things in real life are actually dirty and smelly and hard. Things like dirty dishes.

There are very few things in this house that will cause as much pain and strife as the kitchen sink will. This little Country House has no disposal and no dishwasher (unless you count the three Little Darlings) and this makes dishes a very, very big deal. In fact, listening to my girls, you would think this routine is some sort of daily torture I created just to make their lives miserable. Scrape every plate into the trash so that the food won't clog the sink. Wash every dish, fork, pot, and pan by hand to get the food off. Rinse it well because we have soft water and soap doesn't like to rinse off. Dry the glasses before putting them in the cabinet. Put everything away in the right place. These instructions must sound to them like the insane bellowing of a monster the way they carry on each and every night.

I have done everything I can to try and make this easier on everyone. I have gone as far as to buy paper plates label cups for each person. I tried assigning separate parts of the job to each girl. I let them choose which part they wanted. When that failed I made a rotating chart so that one kid doesn't have to do the same job two nights in a row. If they do it every night there is no more than five or six plates or bowls and two pots or pans to clean. Much to my embarrassment, it doesn't get done every night. At least half the time I will wake up to at least one full day's worth of dishes still at the sink. Usually this is because they started to clean up directly once we were done with dinner and an hour later I am tired of the screaming and yelling and finger pointing and I send them all to bed before I lose my temper and I start throwing things that don't bounce.

When we visit my dad for dinner, the entire kitchen is done - by them! - in less than 20 minutes. At home, we can have a scream-fest for an hour or more and STILL nothing is even moved.

Why is this such a big deal? Seriously! I really don't understand. All I want is a clean sink before I go to bed. It isn't that big a deal, is it? The other chores that they are assigned get done easily, and sometimes without even a reminder. The kitchen? If I didn't stand over them like the slave driver I obviously am, we would be eating take out pizza on paper plates every night (not that I have ever resorted to that simply because the kitchen was a me...)

I know it would be easier on everyone if I just took that chore over myself. There would be much less cursing and tears and throwing things if I just spent my own time at the sink. Things would be cleaner and frankly everyone would be happier - except for me. There are a few little problems with that. First, it hurts me to do it. A lot. Honestly, if it only hurt a tiny bit and I was able to get over it, I would gladly do it just to be able to send the kids to bed 30 minutes earlier. I can't though, at least not right now. In a family sometimes you just have to pitch in and help out when someone else can't and I want my girls to know that - even if they don't like it very much.

Also, I want them to be able to embrace the fear and loathing that IS dirty dishes. No one WANTS to do dishes. No one LOVES cleaning and scrubbing dirty pots (if someone does, please send them to my house ASAP.) What I want them to learn, though, is that everyone has to do it whether they want to or not. Maybe they will grow up and become rich and famous and they can hire someone to wash their dishes and they will never have to. Until that day, though, I want them to be able to do it on their own, just in case the cleaning lady calls in sick. 

So, whether they like it or not, or whether I like it or not, they will still have to do the dishes every night. Someday, maybe someday soon, I will have a fabulous new kitchen with a garbage disposal and a dishwasher (the electric kind) and my kids will THANK me to let them load the dishwasher simply because I'm not making them do it by hand anymore.

Yeah, I don't really believe that, either.

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