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do it like dish winning the battle over doing the dishes by Yee-Fan Sun | 1 2 3
continued from page 2

The root of the problem was actually pretty simple, and something I should have realized all along: I wanted the boy to do a chore that I had absolutely zippo desire to do either. Dividing the cooking and washing up into two equal chores only works if, let's face it, both tasks actually feel like chores to both members of the household. I did the cooking because I liked the cooking; fussing around the stove at the end of a long workday was my crazy idea of fun. I was getting to enjoy one of my favorite pastimes, and getting pissed-off about him not wanting to do a boring chore in return. All this time I'd been fuming about how he wasn't doing his fair share, but when I really thought about it, there was nothing fair about expecting him to do the tedious work when I wasn't willing to do any myself.

So a few months ago, I made a little change to the post-dinner ritual. I stopped whining about how the dishes needed to be done, and started announcing that I was going to do the dishes -- now -- and that he was welcome to help. No tiresome nagging, no I-always-you-never guilt trips, no endless arguing back and forth. When he complained that I was doing his job, I'd reply that I was doing what needed to be done. When he said he'd do it later, I said I'd do it now. The surprising part was, as soon as I started heading off to the kitchen, he'd follow. And when I tried to step in front of the sink, he'd slide me out of the way. And soon, he'd be doing the dishes. Meanwhile, I'd pick up the nearest dishcloth and assume drying duties, a happy smile on my face, never mind that drying and putting dishes away are activities that rank just slightly higher than going to the dentist on my list of fun things to do. 

A week passed, then another, and another, but the new system, go figure, seemed to work. Each night, he washed; each night, I dried. As we both got used to the rhythm of that routine, it began to seem less like a chore, more like a habit. And one that wasn't nearly so bad with the two of us taking care of those pesky dishes together, working side by side as we chatted about our days.

The other night, after dinner, I saw him sneaking off to the computer. Where are you going? I asked, a mild panic seeping in as I wondered whether I'd be doing the dishes solo that evening. But as Kanye West suddenly burst out of the speakers, the boy walked back towards me, picked up our dirty plates, shuffled over to the kitchen. He turned on the water, rolled up his sleeves, and started rinsing and scrubbing. And though Kanye wouldn't have been my first choice for a dishwashing soundtrack, I was so impressed. I followed the boy into the kitchen and realized that, forget chocolate and roses and jewelry, this is all it takes: the boy in front of the sink, washing our dishes without me having to tell him to do so, and swoon… I'm hooked for life.


check out these related articles: 
cleaning house | fight the chaos | the packrat's guide to a happy home | cull baby cull
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