I was truly unprepared for this one.
I don’t remember discussing it beforehand—he simply announced it out-of-the blue:
“Your mother will be not doing the dinner dishes tonight.”
I don’t know who was more shocked – them or me?
We all stared at their daddy and tried to figure out what he could possibly mean.
So he explained, “Your mom spends hours in the kitchen every day, cooking and cleaning, and now she is going to be done with that the moment our dinner is finished.”
Just what is that supposed to mean??
“. . . . and that means you kids are going to clean up the dishes while your mother sits down and spends some time with me.”
Our four oldest children were ages 8, 7, 5, and 4. And our kitchen was a BIG mess.
Maybe you think I should have been ecstatic with this announcement.
But instead, I only quietly panicked.
- They’re too young.
- The kitchen is a terrible disaster.
- I don’t know if they can handle it.
- Maybe it’s asking too much.
- And . . . what if they don’t do it right?
I was wrong, however, because they weren’t too young and, even though the kitchen was a big mess, they managed it just fine. And while it’s true that they don’t always do it exactly right, the benefit of the break for me and the job-training for them far outweighed all of my concerns. It turned out to be a win-win deal!
In the Kitchen: 12 Years Later
So now here we are, 12 years later, and I’ve helped with the dinner dishes only a few times in all these years.
Our basic nightly routine is that after dinner, my husband and I go and snuggle on the couch and catch up together. . . and our children all pitch-in and get the kitchen knocked out.
Now don’t misunderstand: it’s not a quiet or calm event.
The kitchen is noisy, clanking, and somewhat chaotic. Dishes get broken and they sometimes argue. They often sing at the top of their lungs or turn up the music. (For instance, last night they all came marching in, prisoner-style, singing loudly Look Down from Les Miserables: “Look down, look down. You’ll always be a slave….” 😉 Very funny, kids. Very funny.)
But you know something? It’s one of the best announcements my husband has ever made.
The dishes get done (maybe not as perfectly as I’d like, but they do get done).
Our children learn to work together.
I am basically “off work” for the rest of the evening.
And I get to spend those sweet moments connecting with my husband and hearing about his day, and he mine.
Because sometimes as moms we can try to do everything (or most everything!) ourselves. We forget that it’s not only a blessing to us to have the extra help, but it’s also a blessing to our children to get to serve us too.
Some Questions Answered
* What if your children complain about the work?
First of all, we do encourage them to have fun while they work. Sometimes they’ll play a game like, “Guess My Animal” or they’ll take turns telling a story. On some nights they play upbeat music and sing along.
If a child is determined to complain, however, then we figure that child probably needs more opportunity to practice working (without complaining) and so we add jobs to their chore list OR have them clean the kitchen alone, without the help of siblings. We do this until the child decides to get happy about having a job. 🙂
* What about the other meals such as breakfast and lunch?
Right now the younger boys – ages 8, 10, and 12 – clean up the breakfast dishes (we homeschool) and our 16-year-old daughter (bless her heart!) takes care of the lunch dishes.
* Do your children ever resent you for not helping out in the kitchen?
Good question. Nooo….I don’t think so. For one, they respect and appreciate that my husband and I want to spend time together. Also, I take care of many other areas around the house (e.g. laundry, housecleaning, and cooking) and so the children know I’m willing to work hard myself. I make a point of expressing appreciation for their help too.
* What if your children are too young to help out with dishes?
Hmm….Well, we do encourage our kids to help out from a very young age—even if it’s only carrying their plate into the kitchen or putting away the silverware. It’s a natural training opportunity from the time they start walking!
So this is the story behind why you’ll find me snuggling with my husband after dinner . . . instead of cleaning the kitchen. And I’m not saying that this should be everyone’s story because each of you have your own unique situation.
. . . . Oh, and my kids, of course! 🙂
**Your thoughts? Further questions? I’d enjoy chatting with you, if you want to comment below!
In His grace,
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