Name: margalit
Location: Massachusetts, United States Professional writer, educational advocate, opinionated ultra liberal mother of 18 year old twins, living life in the slow lane due to hypertrophic cardiomyopathy, congestive heart failure, and diabetes.

email: margalitc at yahoo dot com

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Friday, August 29, 2008

How dish washing has created WW3

The honest truth is that nobody likes to wash the dishes in our house. I hate it, my kids hate it, even the dishwasher hates it. But another truth is that the dishes have to be done daily. And that truth has created such tension in our house that I have to say it's pretty much the only argument we have daily. So let's take a peek into my world and you can see why it's such an issue.

The Girl is tasked with this chore. That sounds simple, right? Oh no, so so not right. See, she barely eats here and so she has decided that she should only wash the dishes that she wants to wash.

Conversely, the Boy eats constantly and leaves dishes all over the house. On a daily basis he might use 6 to 10 plates, 5 or more glasses, pots, pans, and even baking dishes. He cooks a lot, and he leaves a horrible mess. If he makes ramen, little pieces of noodles are always left on the stovetop to burn. If he makes pasta, little pieces of the dried pasta end up on the kitchen floor. Things boil over and he never wipes up the spills. He opens cans and jars, packages and wrappers and leaves them where he opened them. He is the consummate slob.

So, I don't blame the girl for being so pissed off about the dishes. I feel the same way. No matter how clean the kitchen gets, if he steps foot in it, it's filthy in minutes.

So lately I've decided that he needs to wash his own dishes.

Hah! I am delusional.

This is how he washes dishes. Just tonight I brought him downstairs about 4 different times to get the kitchen cleaned up. He hems and haws and has to sit down because his knee hurts, blah blah blah. I finally get so fed up I lost my temper and told them that nobody leaves the house until the kitchen is clean.

They start screaming at each other. She's pissed, he's put upon, the dishes aren't getting done. I raise the ante with another promise of punishment.

He goes into the kitchen, runs the water, puts on the dishwasher that is almost totally empty, spills water all over the floor, and runs up the back stairs. He claims he's going to sleep.

I get him downstairs and scream at him, and he relents and washes like 4 dishes. Up the back stairs he goes again.

The Girl is beside herself. Once again she's left washing his dishes. But it's her JOB. She's had this one particular chore for years. I don't ask much of my kids, but the dishes are sacrosanct. They MUST be done, and often he or she will wash half the sink and leave the rest. It drives me criminally insane. My eyes turn red, my veins pulse, I want to bang their heads together.

The Girl will do a half-assed job, refusing to do the utensils and knives at the bottom of the sink. She won't wash out the recycling jars and cans. She lines them up on the side of the sink. I think she believes the recycling fairy will drop in and rinse them all and put them in the bin. I believe she's delusional, too.

She hates the smell of bleach and because we have the crappiest old cheap laminate countertops, bleach is the ONLY product that cleans them well enough. Or at least Comet with Bleach. It's the only harsh chemical cleaner we use, but nothing else works. She won't use it. She will, if pressured (screamed at) wipe down the counters, but she will not clean them. Nor will the Boy. He figured out that if she won't do it with smell aversions, he can claim that bleach makes him want to vomit. Voila! Nobody does it. So I have to.

Now, you think that at some point I would ask for help in getting the dishes done. For 3 fucking years every family counselor we have seen has solely focussed on this issue. I mean for me it's a make or break thing. I can live with their abject slovenliness, but I CANNOT live with a dirty kitchen. We have had therapists with years of experience give up because we cannot solve this problem. It's that bad. I've got two stubborn kids, and I'm stubborn myself. They do not want to do it, and I require it.

Oh, and yes we have paper plates, paper bowls, paper cups, and plastic utensils. Guess who uses them? That would be me. They don't LIKE them.

I swear it, if I make it another year it's gonna be a miracle.

Teenagers are worse than toddlers. Yes, they are! And if you don't believe me, you can borrow mine for a week. Or trade. I'll take toddlers any day.

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Blogger bethany actually said...

I think the fact that you stand your ground on this issue because it's important to you is so admirable. Parents who never stand their ground end up with grown children who are selfish jerks. Someday your teenagers will be reasonable adults and will be the better for your part in making them understand that in life sometimes you have to do things you hate and don't want to do. Even if you never win this battle, the fact that you keep fighting it is enough.

29/8/08 1:51 AM  
Blogger Blog Antagonist said...

My issue is the boys' bathroom. It is DISGUSTING. A Biohazard. I told them a year ago that *I* was no longer cleaning their bathroom becuase *I* do not piss on the floor, and *I* do not leave globs of toothpaste in the sink to turn to cement, and *I* do not streak feces all over the toilet (I don't know, but it happens) and so therefore, *I* do not feel that *I* should have to clean that.

They will not clean it. And it is absolutely rank. I make them clean it weekly, but of course they do not clean it the way it needs to be cleaned. I send them back time and time again, and it makes me absolutely NUTSO that they can't GET that the decomposing PISS needs to be wiped off the walls (again, I don't know) and the floor, and the toilet seat and that swiping a dry paper towel over it is NOT going to cut it.

I inevitably end up ranting and raving about what pigs they are and how nobody with an ounce of self-respect would let their living environment get that filthy.

It's not productive. But I have no idea how to fix it. We've done everything...removed privileges, denied sleepovers (Can you believe they would have friends over and actually LET them use the bathroom in that condition...and think nothing of it???), grounding, you name it. Nothing works.

Yesterday, I found Pubescent One showering in MY bathroom. I asked him what he was doing in there and he informed me that his bathroom was too nasty. I made him get OUT of my shower, with soap in his hair and everything, and go finish his shower in HIS bathroom.

My bathroom is pristine, and I intend to keep it that way.

Stubborn kids. They'll give you gray hair.

29/8/08 7:10 AM  
Blogger liz said...


Can you padlock the dishes and pots and pans cupboard? Force THEM to use the paper plates they hate.

29/8/08 8:27 AM  
OpenID fivehusbands said...

I gave up on the making Son No. 2 aka "the Prince" ever doing the dishes (pr his bathroom). It is far less aggravating to do it myself.

I admire your tenacity on the issue.

29/8/08 12:03 PM  
OpenID chloefieri said...

It should not be the girl's job. Let her pick a different job, one of equal value to you. This is totally unfair to the girl that she has to clean up after her brother, and you're not doing the boy any favors either, by letting him get away with it. Sooner or later you hope he's living independently. Do you really want a daughter-in-law who is so subservient that she cleans up after him? From now on let all dishes be the boy's job.

29/8/08 12:40 PM  
Blogger Daisy said...

I can't advise you, and I don't think you need advice. I'm wondering how the Boy can make it up and down the stairs so many times with his sore knee! He must really, really hate dishes.

29/8/08 3:11 PM  
Blogger Shelby said...

If this has been a battle for years, then it is long past time to come up with new tactics.

Frankly, it sounds like a dirty kitchen bothers you most, so maybe washing dishes should be your job, and the other two should be given equally important jobs around the house. No reason that teenagers can't be responsible for general housecleaning. I had a rule with my teens -- I don't care what your rooms look like, but you will keep up your end of the care of the general living space.

Another battleground I've seen a lot is the parent who insists on chores being done a certain way and nags the person doing the chore. I found the moment the mom or dad quits dictating on how something should be done, the more willing the teen is to do the work.

29/8/08 3:38 PM  

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