Why my son does dishes

… or How to do the dishes (with a dishwasher)

I originally started writing this, not as a blog post but as an actual list of instructions to hand to my 11 year old who can’t seem to remember how to do the dishes properly. Despite the fact that I require him to do it 3 nights a week.  Despite the fact that he is constantly getting told how to do it.  Despite the fact that doing the dishes is not that flippin complicated!  Well once I started writing (babbling on and on) about each step I started thinking ok, well, maybe doing dishes is a little bit complicated and I should give the kid a break.  Not that I’m going to stop making him do it…not that I’m going to stop yelling at him and making him do it over when it isn’t right but maybe I should stop (in my own head) being annoyed when half the dishes get put away still encrusted with last nights noodle glop.  I even (just for a second) entertained the thought that maybe I was expecting too much of the kid.  He is only 11.  Perhaps taking out the trash once a week, cleaning his room, and doing the dishes three nights a week is a lot to ask of an 11 year old. And on top of it I expect him to do these things to my specifications. Then I read this fabulous thing from Renegade Mama and I snapped back to reality.

A while back I read a completely moronic blog post from a woman who decided that she will never ask her child to do chores because the child can’t do them right or fast enough or some such idiocy.  It scares me that, for a minute, I was falling into the he might not be ready/ it’s easier to do it myself trap.  NO NO NO NO NO!  It is our job as parents to teach our kids…. EVERYTHING! Not just how to walk and talk and use the toilet.  We have to teach them how to do a job and do it right and to take pride in doing it right.  Some crap doesn’t matter.  I don’t put the dishes away immediately after they have been washed, I let them drip dry and put them away later.  Some people want the kitchen spotless before they go to bed.  We all have to decide what our personal acceptable levels of filth are.  Much like finding your level of bullshit with or without a partner.  But whatever you decide is your acceptable level of filth you have an obligation to teach your children how to do it.  Whatever it is, washing dishes, cleaning the bathroom, sweeping the floor, growing vegetables, grocery shopping….etc, you have to teach your children how to be grown ups.  That’s your job!  So that one day we don’t end up old and helpless in a world run by people who don’t know how to take care of themselves and are pretty sure someone else should be doing it for them anyway! So here you have it.

How to do the dishes (with a dishwasher):

1.  Don’t do anything until you have music going.  Pick the tunes and the medium so that you won’t feel the need to mess with it for at least an hour (it probably won’t take you that long to do the dishes but you might as well be prepared) If you are a person who can’t stand to sit through a commercial on the radio that is not the medium for you.  Remember once you’ve set it up, no messing with the tunes until you are done.  Get a positive atmosphere going but don’t let yourself get distracted.  Dishes suck but if you focus and stay on task you will get it done quickly.

2.  Put away any and all clean dishes that happen to have gotten left in the drying rack or dishwasher.  Some people prefer to dry and put away at the end of the process, personally I’m a let it air dry sort of gal. But if you feel the need to do it right away fine, just move this step to the end of the process.

2a. When you are putting away clean dishes make sure they are CLEAN nobody likes taking out a plate for their lovingly created, gourmet PB&J only to come face to face with a rock hard chunk of yesterdays oatmeal.  Dirty dishes go back in the sink for a redo, no worries just scrape off the chunk, soak it in some water and back in the dishwasher it goes. (If you can scrape the chunk so that the dish looks clean put it away….who’s gonna know?)

2b.Stack things neatly in the cupboards so that they use the least amount of space.  Small things fit inside big things.  Precariously stacked piles of pans are an angry mom waiting to happen.

2c. If you don’t know where it goes ASK.

2d. LEARN where everything goes.

3. Clear the table.  Take everything into the kitchen and wipe the table off.  Isn’t it nice to know one thing is done already.

4. Put away left over food  Whatever is left in serving bowls or pans that is more than a 1/4 cup of food can be someones lunch or midnight snack.  If it made it’s way onto a plate but didn’t get eaten it’s either dog food or compost, deal with it appropriately.

5. Stack.  Your stacking strategy can have an effect on how long the rest of the process takes.  I like to separate things by size on side of the sink so that I can put the smallest things into the dishwasher first and there is room in the sink to rinse everything.  If there are things already in the sink take them out.

6. RINSE  Everything! This might feel like you are washing the dishes before the dishwasher washes the dishes.  Tough.  The dishwasher is a time saving, water saving tool that helps you do the dishes it’s not a magical solid chunk of food dissolver.  If you don’t rinse first you will end up scraping and soaking the dishes before washing them a second time.  Save yourself the extra work. Use a wash rag to remove the really stuck stuff.  As soon as it’s rinsed put it in the dishwasher right away.

7. Load  Loading the dishwasher is a skill you will be honing for years to come. The best way to learn is to play two or three rounds of tetris to get the idea and then do the dishes at least once a day for the rest of your life.  I suggest starting with the smallest things and then washing the big things by hand when you run out of room.  I’m sure everyone has their own style of loading. Whatever your style is, the most important thing is to be sure that the dirtiest part of the implement you are loading faces the spray of water.  Did you hear that? BUSINESS SIDE DOWN!  If the spray of water does not reach the dirty part, the time you spent rinsing will be wasted.

8.  Put detergent in the appropriate places I’ll admit to not being totally sure why dishwashers come with two places for detergent but just for good measure I put some in both.  I am a total cheap ass so I make my own dishwasher detergent but I put a bit in each place.  Every fourth or fifth load I put some vinegar in the rinse aid spot.

9. Run the machine  This might seem like an obvious step….but I have gone to empty the dishwasher the morning after it was run only to be faced with a smelly mess.  If you don’t turn it on, they don’t get clean.

10. Wipe all the surfaces Counters, the stove top, the sink, anything and everything that has something that once might have been food or the makings on it.  This includes the floor, which might require a broom….use your discretion but make it look clean

Yay! you are done.  Great job!  Aren’t you proud of how great you made the kitchen look?

P.S.  Take all music playing devices and wet clothing that you removed in the process with you when you leave


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