The title of this article is an exhortation I distinctly remember coming from my mother. It addresses the subject of finishing what you start.
Dishes, Dishes, Dishes
We didn’t have a dishwasher at our house when I was a kid; we all took turns. When it was my turn, it always seemed to me that the dirty dishes were in piles and piles and piles on the sink.
There were three parts of this task, as outlined by my mother’s expert job description:
- Wash the dishes, dry them and put them away.
- Wash and dry the old cast-iron skillet as best you can, then put it on low flame on the stove to remove all moisture so it wouldn’t rust. (It was also important to remember to turn the fire OFF.)
- Clean the top of the stove.
I was a reasonably bright kid; I knew the drill. I just didn’t like the job. I felt enslaved to the sink as all the best TV programs were pelting the airways on our new (black and white) Stewart Warner television. (There was no cable or satellite TV in those days, but Dad had put up an antenna that could pull in stations from six states. But that’s another story.)
One day I took a shortcut. The stove looked clean enough to me; I let it go.
I got caught.
“This stove is filthy. I thought I told you to wash the dishes.” (It had occurred to me that the dishes and the stove were separate items, and from a kid’s viewpoint it was unfair to combine them. Fortunately, however, I managed to keep those thoughts to myself.)
I cleaned the stove, and I don’t remember cutting the dishes job short again. Now, I’m not suggesting I did everything perfectly after that, but I do believe I managed to capture a pretty decent work ethic. For that, I thank a pair of hard-working parents who lived their integrity every day of their lives.
It’s not an automatic thing. If our children and grandchildren are to gain the satisfaction of doing a job well, they have to learn it somewhere.
(And isn’t it interesting how a young person with the people skills of smiling, showing respect toward and delivering their best efforts to the customer can’t stay at the counter at McDonald’s. They’re prompted to supervisor before you can blink.)
Willingly doing a job right is not only right, it eventually translates into all kinds of success, financial and otherwise.
In a way, it was unfortunate that our children had a dishwasher for most of their growing up years. But one day one of those old tapes ran through my head and out my mouth. It sounded a lot like Mom; a bit different, but still the same:
“Son, this mower needs oil. I thought I told you to cut the grass.”
A semi-retired child and adolescent psychologist and speaker, Dr. James Sutton is the author of The Changing Behavior Book: A Fresh Approach to the Difficult Child, as well as other books and articles. He also founded The Changing Behavior Network, an early internet podcast and blog supporting young people and their families. You can visit his blog at Itsaboutthem.wordpress.com.
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