I sat at the kitchen table eating pecan pie with my dad last Sunday and he commented on my husband. J was unloading and then reloading the dishwasher. My dad seemed to think this was woman's work and questioned why - with 4 daughters - did my husband do the dishes. I replied very simply.... because I mow crooked lines in the lawn. As puzzling as this was to my dad, it made perfect sense to me.
There is only ONE way to load a dishwasher. My way. I've taught the girls my way of doing things. The right way to fold towels. The right way to hang clothes on hangers. The right way to load a dishwasher. No need for me to explain these things to you - we all have our own way. But I have a touch of OCD so I need things done a certain way. It's not a "monk" kind of thing or a problem like I can't leave the house, but it does make things easier for me to have a certain "order" about my day. Probably because of the chaos inherent in a household full of women.
My daughters think it is hilarious. I try to chew an even number of chews on each side of my mouth at meals. I like the volume on the radio or the TV to be an even number. I take an even number of steps. I have "stutter stepped" many a time to keep an even number of steps on tile before the pattern changes. My husband likes to adjust the TV volume and leave it on an odd number. I've tried to leave the remote alone, but the best I've done is 30 seconds before I pick it up and click once - up or down - to get back to even. My girls like to walk around the mall, zig-zagging across the walkways, over the various patterns, and watch me try to step around colored tiles placed in random patterns. It's sort of become a fun thing to do, no malice intended, and we laugh about it.
However, the dishwasher has always been sacrosanct. If you load it wrong, you must unload it. I put them away in a certain order and if it is not loaded the proper way, I can't put them away. The Cheese understands where I am coming from and does a really great job of loading it properly. The rest, not so much. So, if they've been coerced into loading, they must unload.
In the early days of our marriage, I didn't want to label jobs as "his" and "hers." Mostly because we had four daughters so that would leave a whole bunch of chores for J and a lot of help for me. Being such a modern wife, I would try to help out and mow the lawn. I did this exactly four times. Then, no more. You see, my husband fancies himself the greens keeper on a golf course or something because each time I mowed, he would thank me and then point out where the lines were crooked. Frankly, in a passive-aggressive sort of way, I decided that he didn't appreciate my efforts and I would stop. We didn't discuss it. I just stopped. I didn't mow again until last summer.
Last summer, he casually mentioned that the lawn needed mowed. I said I would see if I could pay one of the neighborhood kids to do it if he didn't have time. He asked me why I couldn't just do it. I was astounded. Didn't I have enough to do? Why was his time more valuable than mine? I said as much to him.... Why should I mow the lawn when he was just going to complain about the crooked lines? And then he responded with something that astounded me even further. He said... "You mean like the way I don't help with the dishes because you just take everything out and put them back in your way?"
A light went on for both of us. At the end of the day, we both needed to accept help in whatever form it was offered, be gracious, and don't sweat the small stuff. He really doesn't need straight lines in the lawn and I really don't need the dishwasher loaded "just so." It's nice to have someone pitch in and help around the house - to see that maybe you've had a rough day and want to just sit and drink some coffee - or a cold beer on a hot August afternoon. It's actually nice to loosen up a little on our tight reins of control.
So the next time my dad is over and my husband is loading the dishwasher, I may ask dad to lighten up and give J a hand.