Dear Kids: Do Your Own Damn Dishes

by Lisa Sadikman
Originally Published: 
krutar / Shutterstock

Dear Kids,

Here’s the deal: I’m done doing the dishes day in and day out. It’s an endless, manicure-ruining job that I’m no longer willing to tackle meal after meal after snack after slime-making after snack after meal. I’m like Sisyphus with his forever rolling rock — as soon as I finish one sinkful, another one magically appears, and that’s if I’m lucky.

Usually you leave me a gaggle of dirty dishes scattered across the kitchen table, silently calcifying on the counter or balancing on the windowsill behind the couch in the TV room where you left the bowl after stuffing your faces with that fake-buttered popcorn while watching Guardians of the Galaxy. And now we have ants, damn it.

I know I’m a top-notch washer of dishes, pots, pans, knives of all shapes and sizes, crystal glasses, colorful plastic cups, and those delightful handmade mugs decorated with your precious little handprints you’ve each graced me with several times over the last decade. I know you’re probably in awe of my skills, the way I know how to handle a sponge, expertly flipping it from the soft side to the scratchy one depending on the level of crud crusting the pan. I know just how much soap to squirt and when to re-squirt for maximum cleaning power. I use only the amount of water I need. No careless running of the tap for this drought-conscious California girl.

I know what goes in the dishwasher and what must be hand-washed due to delicacy, size, or design. I load a dishwasher with the speed and efficiency of a world-class Rubik’s Cube solver: every cup, glass, ladle, Thermos, saucer, and cutting board falls into place if you just turn and twist things a bit. No space is wasted and I will never, not ever, run the dishwasher unless it’s completely and utterly full. That’s just not cool.

Scary Mommy via Giphy

Yes, I’m particular about how (thoroughly) and when (immediately) the dishes get done, and I can see how that might be intimidating (annoying) to you. My standards are high and precise. If dishwashing were an Olympic sport, I’d be a surefire gold medal winner. I’m a hard act to follow, and yes, I’m damn proud of my dishwashing prowess, but that doesn’t get you off the hook, people.

In fact, I’m willing to overlook your novice attempts if you’d just effing do the dishes on a regular basis and without the eye-rolling, whining, and half-assed excuses I usually get when I ask you to do it.

Listen, I’m not doing you any favors by constantly cleaning up after you, especially now that all three of you are perfectly capable of doing it yourselves. I mean, one of you just turned 15 and is learning the kind of math necessary to explain the orbital variations of exoplanets. I’m pretty sure you can muster the intellectual power to clear the dinner plates and figure out what to hand wash, what needs extra soaking, and what to load into the dishwasher.

And you, my darling middle school daughter, I know keeping track of who asked who to the dance and whether or not so-and-so invited such-and-such to the pool party is exhausting, but don’t tell me you’re “too tired” to help with the dishes. You don’t know tired until you hit perimenopause and wake up seven times in the middle of the night sweating only to fall back asleep and dream about running a three-year-long marathon in unbearable heat. If anyone needs a rest, it’s me, mkay?

Even you, my little 5-year-old, can carry your dinner plate to the sink, rinse it off, and put it in the washer. What’s that you say, you’re not tall enough to reach the faucet? See that battered Mickey Mouse step stool over there? That’s for you, my sweet. You know how you drag it into the pantry so you can reach Mommy’s chocolate stash? Now drag it over to the sink and get scrubbing, dear.

I know part of the problem is that I’m a neat freak. I can’t stand it when the dishes stand around too long. To make it worse, you all seem t0 have a different definition than I do of the word “now.” To you, my three lovelies, when I say “do the dishes now,” “now” means some combination of “right after I deal with my Snapchat streaks, fill my Urban Outfitters cart with ridiculously short crop tops, make more slime I don’t need, and watch this episode of My Little Pony for the 29th time.” To me, it means, as we live and breathe in this moment, go do the damn dishes, not at some foggy time in the future which typically translates into never.

You love to wait me out, watch me sit restlessly on my hands for as long as possible before finally caving in and collecting the stray cups, a buttery knife thrown carelessly on the counter, and the oily pan from the stove and adding them to the unwashed pile in the sink. I have news for you, kiddos: That was the old me. This new mama is ready to sacrifice her neurotic tendencies just so you can all experience the pride and accomplishment of doing your own damn dishes.

Never say I didn’t do anything for you. Oh, and here’s my wine glass. You’ll need to use a little extra soap. That lip gloss can be a bitch to get off.

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