I recall a conversation I had with another mom during a sweltering swimming lesson one miserable summer day. We were discussing our children’s jobs around the house, the things they did to help out, and I commented that the habit we were working on that summer was loading the dishwasher. Each meal, each snack, the kids were responsible for taking care of their own dishes—which meant I had better be on top of emptying the dishwasher.
“Why can’t they do it?” she asked.
“They could, but most of it is too high up for them to reach. It would involve climbing on a chair to put things away, so I take care of that part for them, right now. That’ll be a new habit for another summer,” I joked.
“Don’t they have their own plates?” she asked, looking genuinely confused.
“Well….we have a drawer with their cups,” I admitted. “But other than that, we all use the same stuff.”
“Oh, gosh, you need to get them their own stuff, plastic stuff that doesn’t break, so they can learn to take care of it. Then it really is their responsibility to load and unload their dishes and their cups.”
I really chewed on that one for a while. I absolutely saw her point of teaching responsibility, of kids caring for their own things. But at what expense? An entire extra set of plates and cups? Was I willing to sacrifice simplicity, and accept a potentially huge amount of clutter, to teach that lesson right now? Would the gain, the lesson learned, be worth it?
I finally decided the answer was no. Extra plates? Bowls? Cups? Where on earth would we put it all? As the kids grow up, as they get taller and more able to reach the upper cabinets, we can move on to dishwasher emptying. Right now, we can focus on loading: loading only one set of dishes.