I've been thinking about this conversation we had as a family the other night. . .
Phil: Mommy, can you come up and watch us in the tub?
Me: Oh, I am so sorry, sweetie, I have to do the dishes.
Phil: Yeah, Mommy, doing the dishes is your JOB.
Paul: (jumping in defensively) Well, it's not really her JOB. . .
Phil: Oh, so it's your HOBBY, mommy!
Yep. That's it Phil. Doing dishes is my hobby. :)
Now, to his credit, I do tell him every day that doing dishes is my job. Right after breakfast, they ask me to come in and play with them in the family room and I say, "Well, sweethearts, Mommy has to do her work before she can play." Then I wash the breakfast dishes and by the time I am done they are so wrapped up in pretend that they have forgotten that they even wanted me to play with them in the first place. Now, I know if I were the most amazing mommy ever, I would just forget about those dishes and say, "Yes, dears! Let's play! I'll be the mommy dinosaur! RAWR!" But anyone who has left a bowl of cereal in the sink for longer than a half hour knows why THAT is the meal I always tackle right away! I'll be the mommy dinosaur later, once those bran flakes are safely down the drain. Mommy dinosaur doesn't like scraping bran cement out of bowls, it brings out her inner Velociraptor.
Plus, doing dishes really IS my job. My job is to make a home for my family. Keeping it clean is a part of that. To be honest, I don't even mind doing them at all anymore. For some reason the sound of that running water gets me thinking some of my best thoughts. Or, I sing when I do them. The sound of the water also somehow convinces me that no one can hear me, and I can sing as loud as I want! But when I was first married, you never could have convinced me of that. When you are a newlywed, you come home after a long day of work and slave away at dinner for your husband, then HE does the dishes, right? OK, maybe not all the time. He might just go take a shower or start checking his email and you do the dishes with a grumble and a frown in your heart. Maybe throwing in a few dramatic sighs, just in case he didn't notice that YOU were once again doing the dishes? And that you did the dishes LAST night? And you would really like to sit down, too, because you have been on your feet at work all day? SIGH, SIGH, BIG DRAMATIC SIGH!!!?????
Yeah, I am guilty of that. I remember the pile of dishes in our old kitchen, where I only had the brick wall of my neighbor's house to stare at and I could barely see a patch of sky out the kitchen window. The kitchen was tiny and there was barely room to fit the dishes next to the sink, and they required tons of pre-washing before they went into our 30 year old dishwasher. First world problems to be sure. :) I did my share of grumbling and cursing sticky plates and questioning why I was doing dishes once again because didn't I just tackle this kitchen a few hours ago? How many times a day do these people need to EAT? Do I now spend my whole life with my bare feet on this cracker crumbled tile floor? I can't tell you that magic switch went off in my heart, but for some reason within the last year or so the dishes and I have made peace. Maybe because at my new house I can see sky and trees and watch my new neighbors smoking on their patio. I love some good people watching. Or maybe because my new dishwasher requires less prewashing and I am not afraid to run it twice a day. It says "energy efficient", right? I think I might be saving water. Or, maybe it's the fact that the sound of the running water muffles the sounds of my noisy lil' children for a few minutes and I almost feel like I am at the beach listening to them play in the sand. Yep, I have a good imagination. That helps.
Mostly, though, I think it is just a greater peace in my heart. When your first child is born, a mother is born in you. But just like your baby, she grows, too. You aren't born with all the grace, all the strength, and all the peace and wisdom you will ever have. It comes to you when you need it. It comes in big ways through hard lessons and tears, and it comes in more subtle ways. . .through lots of self reflection over that kitchen sink.
I found a card today while cleaning out some of my old teaching things. It has this quote by Elizabeth Ann Seton that I used to keep on my desk at work mostly because it is pretty, but I read it today with new eyes. . .
"Contemplate how you are being asked to give your heart to God amidst your everyday activities. Be prepared to meet your grace in every circumstance of life."
We can meet our grace in every circumstance. In every plate, sippy cup and bowl. I know I have a long way to go to grow into the mother God wants me to be. But I'll get there. . .one dish at a time.
(Now, if you will excuse me, there's some rice and beans cementing itself to my dishes and kitchen floor as we speak!)