by Jocelyn Jane Cox
Welcome to the Chronicles of Parenting by local author, freelance writer, blogger and parent-of-toddler Jocelyn Jane Cox. Read on for advice you never knew you needed and the chuckles you know you really need, tailored to those who live in the Great State of Parenthood.
Do you ever feel like parenting is more about washing dishes than it is about rearing children? Even though more than one person washes dishes in our household, and we have a dishwasher, I have never spent so much time standing at the kitchen sink.
We’re talking thermoses, tiny spoons, funky bowls, and plates meant to make mealtime more fun. Plus, last night’s nasty pan still reeking of salmon. Ad infinitum. Motherhood has changed many things in my life for the better but I can’t say I’m a fan of this aspect. I guess we’re cooking more, which is a good thing. I suppose we’re nesting. We’re trying to be more creative in the kitchen to encourage healthy eating. All of this is creating more mess and requiring more clean-up.
Something weird started happening around the time my son was 20 months old: whenever I tried to walk away from the kitchen sink, he pushed me back toward it and said, “Mommy wash.” This gesture was gentle yet firm, and caused me to pause, silently freaking out. What is this – 1950?! I have a graduate degree after all! He hadn’t been out of the womb all that long, but still, I had high hopes he would always respect women, be a kind boyfriend, and eventually a helpful and equality-minded husband.
I was never sure how to respond to this: If I double-backed and turn on the faucet, I felt like he’d bossed me around. If I didn’t continue to wash the dishes…well, then they didn’t get done. Either way, he repeated it over and over again, Mommy wash, Mommy wash and I was forced to think about the many possible layers of meaning behind these two simple words. Was it…
An encouragement? Mommy wash. As in, keep going, I know you can do it. Remember when I couldn’t get the crocodile piece lined up exactly in the animal puzzle and you told me to keep trying? Same thing. You got this.
An identifier? Mommy wash. As in, this is what you do. This is who you are. Own it.
A comfort? Mommy wash. As in, this is where I am most accustomed to seeing you stand, moving your arms vigorously with suds flying all around, and I feel uncomfortable when you leave this position.
An admonishment? Mommy wash. As in, you probably should have cleaned those up last night, or throughout the day yesterday before they piled up. This is the result of serious slacking, so deal with it.
A preference? Mommy wash. As in, Daddy and I are going to play. First, he is going to throw the red airplane and we are going to clap with delight. Then I am going to throw the red airplane and we are going to clap with delight. Next, we’re going to spin the top and possibly read some books or just see where the next hour takes us. Daddy and I will spend that special time together, and you, you will wash.
A brilliant manipulation, my son is a genius? Mommy wash. As in: Daddy, you see how well she rocks these dishes? I don’t know if you’ve ever tried this? She must be the only person in the universe who knows how to do it…I kid you not, one night when my son said, “Mommy, wash,” my husband chimed in defensively with these exact words, “I can wash dishes, too, you know.” And he proceeded to demonstrate. Aha! (Yes, he really can do dishes, too, and does an admirable job, but in more isolated bursts, and usually early in the morning before our son is awake and therefore without an audience.)
Now our son is almost three, and I’m still chipping away at that mountain of dishes. The difference now is that our son is more articulate. We’re teaching him to ask questions instead of tell people what to do. When I enter a room and he’s playing with Daddy, he sometimes says, “Mommy, do you want to wash the dishes?” Sometimes he adds the word “please” to increase the chances that he can keep Daddy all to himself.
What I want to say is: As a matter of fact, no, I NEVER WANT TO WASH DISHES EVER AGAIN. I never want to see another apple sauce dish, scrambled egg pan, or a plate with spaghetti dried up and stuck to it like petrified worms ever again. I want to eat take-out for the rest of our lives straight from the containers with our hands. I want to put all of our pots and oh-so-fragile ceramics and plastics in the dishwasher even if they get ruined!
What I say instead is: “Actually, I think I’d like to play.” I sit down, insinuate myself. While I vroom those matchbox cars with enthusiasm, I wonder when I’m going to get those dishes done.
Eventually, I get up, and wash them.
Jocelyn Jane Cox is a freelance writer and author. Her 2012 humor book on life in the New York suburbs, The Homeowner’s Guide to Greatness: How to handle natural disasters, design dilemmas and various infestations, is available on Amazon.com. Follow her on Twitter at @JocelynJaneCox.
The Chronicles of Parenting is sponsored by The Palisades Center, your one-stop-shop for fun. Come to the Palisades Center for Munchkin Mondays, childrens’ concerts in the East Court. See the complete schedule of events at PalisadesCenter.com.