To Whom It May Concern (and you know who you are):
It has come to my attention that there may be a misunderstanding about the meaning of this phrase: “Clean up your dishes.”
When a person asks you to clean up your dishes, she is implying that literal cleaning should take place. (Running water, soap, scrub brush, etc.) Judging by the recent condition of the kitchen, it’s obvious you thought “clean your dishes” was more about location, location, location. Perhaps you assumed that by moving the dirty dishes off the counter and into the sink, your job was done.
But that’s not what it means to clean the dishes. We call that “relocating” the dishes. There’s a big difference.
Where you relocate the dishes, a few things happen: No. 1: The dishes don’t get clean. You may be surprised to learn that there’s no magical kitchen fairy who flies in during the night to clean the kitchen. Shocking, I know. No one is more disappointed by this reality than I am.
No. 2: The dishes get disgusting. Do you know what happens to leftover tomato sauce when it sits overnight? It turns into a crusty, rancid mess that makes a mother gag when she catches a whiff of it the next morning. And everyone knows a gagging mother is not a happy mother.
No. 3: Dirty dishes multiply like gremlins. Soon that single plate and cup on Tuesday becomes a leaning tower of terror by Thursday, making it tough to use the sink to wash your hands, get a cup of water or anything else. People try to ignore or work around the tower of dishes, playing a game of what I call “Who can stand it the longest?”
This is a mother’s least favorite game because, typically, she’s the one who loses. At some point, she can’t take another second of the mess or the smell. Or maybe she just really needs a spoon for her cereal. So she rolls up her sleeves and tackles the tower that everyone else thought was invisible simply because it was in the sink.
So let’s put an end to the madness. As stated in previous household memos, you should wash your own dishes or rinse them and put them into the dishwasher.
What’s that you say? Sometimes the dishwasher is full of clean dishes that need to be put away before you can load your dirty dish? Yes, I’m aware of that situation. When this happens, put away the clean dishes and proceed with loading the dirty ones.
And let’s not try to delay the inevitable with tired excuses like, “I was letting it soak.” I admit that some pots and pans require soaking, but the soaking period should not last four days or until a mother can’t stand it anymore and washes it herself – whichever comes first.
Lastly, when you do rinse your dishes and put them into the dishwasher, be sure to wash out the sink before you flee the kitchen. No one wants to see the remnants of your murdered spaghetti and meatballs littering the sink like a crime scene.
When you leave noodle fragments in the sink, they dry up and cement themselves to the stainless steel. Days later they have to be scraped off, and they leave behind what looks like a chalk outline of their limp bodies. Please dispatch your food fragments to the garbage disposal and then use the sprayer, leaving the sink as clean as your conscience.
I’m glad we all understand the system now. Please know that your cooperation is appreciated and that I love you and do not wish to kill you with a dirty butter knife.
Gwen Rockwood is a mom to three great kids, wife to one cool guy, a newspaper columnist and co-owner of nwaMotherlode.com. To read previously published installments of The Rockwood Files, click here. To check out Gwen’s book, “Reporting Live from the Laundry Pile: The Rockwood Files Collection,” click HERE.