washed up

The older boys make sure I am raising the little ones correctly. “You’re spoiling her!” “Gabe needs to do more math homework.” “When I was seven I was making my own lunch, playing concertos and reading Dickens.”

Depending on the advice, I choose to listen or ignore them. I say ‘no’ to Mary as often as possible and I make Gabe do his worksheeets, but I’m also smart enough now that I don’t want or expect them to be superstars. And besides, the little ones may have more toys but the older ones had more trips to the park and days at the zoo.

Still, I couldn’t argue that with Gabe’s 8th birthday looming next week it was time for him to take on dish duty.

Our chore chart has evolved over the years from the lofty goals of ‘put away shoes’ and ‘go in potty’ (hey, those seemed almost unattainable at the time) to a lovely graph that maps out the dishes, vacuuming, sweeping, dusting, practicing, laundry and bathroom cleaning duties of the day. Truth is, 1/2 the jobs get ignored every day (especially bathrooms- you are not invited to my upstairs bathrooms) but dishes are impossible to ignore. They pile up all day long: pots, plates, cups, silverware, bread pans, measuring spoons. We cook a lot and dirty almost every plate, pot, cup and spoon every single day.

I don’t move kids into the dish rotation until they are over seven. Washing requires a certain amount of height, strength and knowledge of what can go in the washer and what can’t (and our dishwasher is weak; you’ve gotta scrub every speck of food off those plates). When Xander took his place at the sink a few years ago it was traumatic for the whole family. Every 4th week when the chart put the X-man on washing, Erik and I would look at each other and know we were in for a week of pain. Xander is practically perfect in every way, but he groaned and whined and ‘forgot’. It took nearly a year for him to settle into a sudsy groove.

And Gabriel, while angelic, has never gained a reputation for industry. Xander usually ends up putting away most of his laundry and cleaning 90% of the room they share (see Xander, I redeemed your reputation). I think Gabe is planning to get through life on dimples and charm. And it just may work in the rest of the world– but not here.

So with much trepidation, I created an all new chore chart with Gabriel on dish duty. Monday, I steeled myself for much weeping and wailing and gnashing of teeth as I instructed him on sorting and washing and putting elbow grease into the pots. He certainly balked at the dried oatmeal and asked repeatedly, “How can one family use so many dishes?” Trust me baby boy, I’ve often wondered that myself.

But when I stood back, I saw something I didn’t expect: PRIDE.

He was ready and able and proud to join the ranks of scullery boys.

Maybe those older boys do know a few things.

p.s. I just looked at Gabe and noted that he is wearing the same shirt today that he wore in this photo on Tuesday, “Yeah,” he replied, “I’ve worn this shirt and pants to school every day this week.” Oh my. I have got to start paying attention.

p.p.s. I know his hair is killing you, Ashli, I’ll send him over for a trim.

January 7, 2010



  1. Trainer Momma

    January 8, 2010

    My children, too, are moving into the kitchen duty time of life. They do a much better job than I anticipated! Your blog is breathtaking… The pictures are killer!

  2. Azúcar

    January 8, 2010

    I was just asking myself when a good age to create scullery boys would be. I like 7. That seems attainable.

    Today my 6 yo is on bathroom duty, because he is responsible for the state of the bathrooms.

  3. Selwyn

    January 8, 2010

    Scullery boys – love it/’em!

  4. jennie w.

    January 8, 2010

    Our dishwasher broke last week so we’ve ben washing everything by hand. There must be some sort of system to keep the dishes manageable, but I’m not aware of it.

    Arabella (age 8) got put on dishwashing duty out of necessity and she is wonderful at it! Who would have guessed?

  5. Annie

    January 8, 2010

    Hooray for scullery boys! I love the tongue out for concentration.
    I can commiserate with weepers and wailers. I have a couple of those myself. Drama gets you nothing but extra days on duty 🙂

  6. martha corinna

    January 8, 2010

    I was just going to say that I love the tongue as well. Your boys always inspire me.

    You are not invited to my upstairs bathrooms either.

  7. Blue

    January 8, 2010

    i’m going to make sure Bunch and Gator read this post. You’re a “cool mom” in their book, and they both look agape at any suggestion i make of actually sullying their lillywhitehands with dish water. i’ve gotten them mostly trained to empty clean dishes from the dishwasher, but otherwise, they’re complete pansies about scullerywork. thanks!♥

  8. ashli

    January 9, 2010

    just call! ;0

    i guess now is the time i get my boys to work. i think i will show them this post and so they believe me. boys can do dishes.

  9. Melissa

    January 9, 2010

    Could Gabey be any cuter with his little tongue sticking out like that?

    No, I don’t think so.

  10. Tracy

    January 9, 2010

    Oh my goodness, he is adorable. Are you sure he isn’t available in oh, about 13 years for a cutie from Minnesota?

    She has a thing for men washing dishes.


  11. Rachelle

    January 10, 2010

    What a great reminder that younger kids can take on responsibility and a good reminder to try not to baby the younger ones. Hard!

  12. Ken

    January 11, 2010

    Congratulations Gabriel!
    I’m pleased to see you taking pride in your work. When I tried to help with dishes on New Year’s Eve, Stefan and Xander escorted me from the kitchen. I guess they didn’t want an “amateur” like me, messing up their kitchen!
    I love you all.
    Grandpa Ken

  13. Denise

    January 11, 2010

    See, more proof that you are a great mom. I’m not so organized about the chores, but really I should be. My attempts with chore assignment are more in the here and now. Your methods are superior. I think I’ll follow suit.

  14. angela michelle

    January 20, 2010

    i just upgraded my 7yo to “detective” in our chore chart–which is our most dreaded chore of all–picking up all the random little items the little ones leave around.

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