Doing the Dishes: A Family Affair

This past week our family was at the cottage, where we do not have all the comforts of home (although we are far from roughing it!)

I was washing the dishes after supper one night, and I had a flashback to my childhood, making me realize how much things had changed in just one generation. I started out thinking about doing dishes, but then thought about all kinds of other family issues too.

When I was a kid, we were the last family on our street to get a colour TV. I remember that we were lobbying our parents for that colour TV, but my mother wanted a dishwasher.

I don’t actually remember if we ended up getting the TV or the dishwasher first, but I do clearly remember the fights I had with my sisters over whose turn it was to dry the dishes each night.

All sorts of memories came back, about my Dad forcing us to create a calendar to keep track of whose turn it was; complaining that there were more dishes on the nights when it was my turn; thinking that maybe if I “accidentally” broke some plates, I might “get fired”.

So here I am at the cottage, washing the dishes by myself, and I never even asked my able-bodied teenagers to join me. Was I just sacrificing myself , so they could enjoy the last few days of their summer vacation, or was I trying to avoid the whining that would surely result in my asking for help?

After I had washed them all, they were drying in the rack, so I just left them there overnight, and put them away the next morning. This made me wonder why I was forced to dry dishes 40 years ago in the first place; did we not have the patience to let nature take its course and let them dry themselves? In retrospect, it seems like there was a lot of fussing over nothing.

But of course the real question that arises is whether we are we spoiling our kids by not making them help out more, or is this just the way people raise their kids these days, or both?

And what about that “colour TV” we wanted, not many families are having that discusssion nowadays, as TVs are becoming passé, with such a variety of screens all over the house.

I remember watching the old Spiderman cartoons with my young son a decade ago, where episodes featured the words “In Colour!” and I had to explain to him that back then, everything used to be in black and white.

We have come a long way with technology, and few would argue that so many of the changes have been positive.

What about the family, and not raising the kids to help out? I am not sure if that is such a good thing. We want our kids to become independent, but we don’t always help them by doing so much for them.

In wealthier families, this can be even more of an issue, as the kids can begin to think that household tasks like mowing the lawn, shoveling the snow, and keeping the house clean are somehow beneath them, as they are all things we pay “others” to do.

Back to me doing the dishes that night, at least my kids were not thinking, “Wow, Dad is doing the dishes!” as if it was something that should automatically be Mom’s job. That is one thing that has definitely changed since my father’s generation.

Somehow, though, I am pretty sure my son is hoping he will end up finding someone like his grandmother, who did view that as part of the woman’s role. But they don’t make them like her anymore, do they?