Sunday, November 9, 2008

washing up


Washing up (washing the dishes) after dinner was always a power game when I was a lad. There were three jobs to do for the kids to do, wash, dry, put away, and there was always the shout "I'll put away" because this was particularly cushy. I remember one evening when my brother was on the gravy "putting away" train he declared "I'm leaving after I put that knife away", I seized the opportunity to have my brother trapped in the kitchen for all eternity by putting the knife away myself. I was sure I had delivered a crushing blow, the logic was brilliant, he just walked off, my cries of "but you said 'I'" fell on deaf ears.

After a kitchen re-fit my Dad created a hole big enough for a dishwasher. He ran some tubes into the back of the sink and did some other magic, and stuck a dishwasher into the gap. This was fantastic as we wouldn't be fighting any more about who was doing what job, after dinner would be a time of love and caring, communal, domestic, happiness. The family sat around the table as Dad went through the instructions for the new wondrous device (curiously, reading instructions before use is not something that is genetic). To my horror there was a list of items that couldn't be washed in the machine. To steal from Douglas Adams it's like a video recorder (look it up kids) that would only record some shows and not others. What a waste of money! Piece of junk! It wasn't a dishwasher, it was a (Some)Dish(es)washer. The games continued.


My Father-in-law is a very generous man in all manner of ways. But he's not a man of great "practical skill", so we don't ask him about fixing holes in walls and such work, but he is a domestic wonderman. Within minutes of arriving in one of his children's homes he is at the sink, sorting, filling, tidying. When you have one or more pre-schoolers the dishes stack up like a students kitchen. Towers of plastic bowls, with branded cartoon characters and food stuck on with the strength of a mother's character label, it's always too much to comprehend, so you use the least disgusting equipment for the next meal. Having a compus adult waltz in and re-arrange it into an order and clean mass is wonderful, beyond a dream. It seems like an utterly inconsequential act until it is done for you.


All my horde of kids (4, what were we thinking?) have loved to stand on a chair next to me when I am washing up. When they are two or three years old they take great pride in helping, picking the next thing to wash, and dumping it with a splash in the sink (extra points for covering Dad with the spray). It has been a great time to talk with them about everything and nothing, "whose plate was this", "what can you see out the window", "yes, that is water running down the glass, who put it there?", "look at the angles the bubbles intersect at" (closely answered by "Bubbles, yey"). Now my girls are older there is less wonder in helping with this chore but there are still good conversations and occasionally some splashing.


We occasionally torture our children with domestic work. The brief effort of washing up is met by my eldest with a look of disgust, of course her little sister jumps straight in (what a goody two shoes). After brief lecture on the topic of "you have to do something for your pocket money" there is a pair at the sink. Within a few plates the conversation is flowing, but hushed. Sometimes we hear riotous laughter, sometimes a name is exclaimed. Then whenever the girls are asked what they are talking about, it's always a quick exchange of glances and a reply of "nothing".

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