Natalie’s prompt: Tell me about a time you washed the dishes. Go. Ten minutes.
Growing up I had two sisters and a mom who usually did the dishes. We never had a dishwasher that I can recall, so time spent around the sink was not an unusual sight. I got drafted to help on many occasions, and usually insisted that I be the one who got to wash. Drying was boring; I hated waiting for the next dish to be placed dripping and hot in the plastic drainer sitting beside the sink on the counter, and I didn’t like the way the pot or the plate never seemed quite dry even after I took the time to find the driest part of the towel to wipe it with. Washing was definitely more my style – bubbles, scrubbing and rinsing left little to get bent out of shape over.
Of course my mom and I didn’t always see eye to eye. There would be times where I felt that she cared more for my sisters when she allowed them to help out so much in the kitchen. Silly, I know, but there it is. If mom was in the kitchen, and I wasn’t welcome there, then there was a distance between us – physically and emotionally. So one evening during my early high school years, when the gap between my mom and I seemed to be widening, I took advantage of an evening when mom and dad were away somewhere and washed the dishes that had been left in the sink over the course of the day. I worked fast because I wanted to get the job done before they got home so mom would be surprised and lavish a tiny bit of praise my way. It felt good to be helpful, but the feeling that I had to somehow earn mom’s praise trumped whatever sense of helpfulness and “doing my part” I might have tried to claim.
Yes, she was surprised. Yes she said thank you and the gap closed a bit. But even today I find myself being helpful on many occasions not out of a sense of responsibility or genuine care and concern but rather out of a need to be noticed and recognized and praised. There’s a fine line there somewhere that always been a bit blurry . . .