How is a Plastic Plate Like Ancient Babylon?

For the past two days, I’ve been attempting to do just one thing at a time, rather than distractedly doing fifteen things at once as I usually do. I try to maintain the focus all day long, but to keep me from feeling overwhelmed, I’m mainly just trying to uni-task while I do dishes.

I chose dishes for a few reasons.

For one, it’s one of the things that Thich Nhat Hanh mentions as a great mindfulness practice. I’m not sure why that appeals to me. Maybe I’m just comforted by the idea that someone else has not only tried it, but has written about it in a book.

I also chose dishes because it’s one of my biggest “let’s get this done so I can move on to more important things” tasks. I’m often angry and rushed when I do dishes, and I’m usually wishing away the moment. Those are exactly the feelings I’m trying to ease by doing one thing at a time.

I decided that the best way to do dishes deliberately was to do them by hand. Wash, rinse, dry, put away. Wash, rinse, dry, put away. It takes some time, but there’s a sense of satisfaction knowing that there are at least three moments during the day (after breakfast, after lunch, and after dinner) when every single dish in the house is clean and in its spot in the cupboard (except the ones in the fridge with leftovers in them, but they’re serving a purpose and will be washed, too, in due time).

A lot of thoughts come up while I’m washing dishes, and I find myself humming, whistling, and singing an odd assortment of songs. Eventually I’ll write about those thoughts and tunes, and maybe even have some conclusions to share about them.

What I wanted to share today was one of the things that happened this evening that I’d not anticipated.

My daughter and I did dinner dishes together by hand tonight. We didn’t argue, we spoke gently to one another, we made a mess, but then we cleaned it up together. And I was privy to comments like this:

My daughter, rinsing one of the BPA-free plastic sectioned plates we have for the kids, said, “Hey! This plate has ditches and canals in it!”

“It sure does,” I remarked.

“The water just runs right down them,” she observed. “It reminds me of when the Assyrians flooded Babylon.”

I smiled and took a deep breath with my hands in the hot, soapy water.

My daughter and I have been butting heads lately. I’ve been anxious that our homeschooling isn’t as organized or as effective as I’d like it to be. I’ve been lamenting that I rarely have a chance anymore to just hang out with my daughter in a non-instructional capacity.

My daughter’s observation about the plate she was rinsing helped ease all of these worries, at least for a moment.

All that and I don’t have to put dishes away before breakfast tomorrow.

3 comments

  1. Pingback: Uni-tasking With Children: The Impossible Dream? « Imperfect Happiness
  2. timbra · November 24, 2011

    see. . . i avoid the whole whining (I thought you were switching to “winge”) thing, by doing the dishes every third day or so. My children would NEVER allow me to do the dishes three times/day, nor would I ever want to spend that much time dealing with them. Just all in one go! 🙂 Our homeschooling is not nearly as focused or structured as your own, but I do love when I feel like my daughter has somewhat spontaneous knowledge, moments where I realize, she actually IS getting it 🙂 Very cool story!

    Like

    • CJ · November 28, 2011

      It’s possible that our homeschooling looks more structured from the outside than it feels like it is from the inside.

      My kids are surprisingly tolerant of my doing dishes multiple times a day. Having dishes stacked up just puts me on edge, so I couldn’t go every third day unless I also avoided going into the kitchen.

      Like

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