A Mantra Amongst The Dishes

Less complaining, more doing.

This phrase popped into my head this morning as I was cleaning up dishes left on our dining room table by our daughters who had to rush to get out the door to make the bus. My initial reaction when I saw the dishes? Rolling my eyes and mumbling to myself about how the kids always leave stuff laying around and don’t care about our house.

I carried the glasses and plates to the sink, a scant ten foot walk. I froze in front of the sink, my hands full of things left behind, four words blazed in my mind’s eye.

Less complaining, more doing.

It took me less than five seconds to migrate the dirty dishes from the dining room to the sink. Five whole seconds. For the duration of this laborious effort, I bitched. A pissy version of me outright accused my girls of being lazy.

Never mind that they were in a hurry to not miss the bus.

Never mind that they are both mildly sick and a little out of sorts as a result.

Never mind that I’d been sniffling for the past few days, allowing crankiness to set in.

There I stood, surveying the objects in my hand. Was it really a big deal that I had to pick up a few things? Not at all. In fact, it was something helpful. Something kinetic that made things easier for everyone. Yet I took that opportunity and turned it into a means to lament another thing that needed to be done that someone else could have taken care of, instead of seeing it for what it really was: an act of doing. Of helpfulness.

For too long I was in the rut of private protest whenever I had to some menial household task to finish up that clearly someone else (namely, my able-bodied children) could have done, but chose not to. I groused and grumbled complaint and disappointment to myself, which only made the rut deeper and harder to get out of. The stress of our house went up tremendously. Our kids didn’t understand why, other than I was being grumpy AGAIN.

What were the major crimes they were committing? Wanting to spend more time with their mom. Finishing up some show or movie they were watching. Working on a world in Minecraft that they had been feverishly working on for days. Reading. Texting friends. Just being a kid. All egregious offenses, clearly.

In our house, we talk frequently about being helpful and mindful. My wife and I want to instill the desire to help others in our children. Here was a perfect opportunity to practice what we were preaching for years, and I was failing spectacularly at it.

Less complaining, more doing.

I set everything in the sink where Jillian prefers them, instead of on the counter like I normally would. I looked about, to see what other ways I could help in the short amount of time I had before I had to leave for work.

I scrubbed what I could out of a dirty crock pot, then filled it with soap and water to soak.

I replenished the cats’ food dispenser.

I cleaned the dining room table.

These are seemingly small tasks, but they are steps toward that epiphany that I want to make my mantra.

Less complaining, more doing.

In those simple maneuvers, I felt better. I felt helpful and useful.

Now the challenge is to adhere to my new mantra. Being human, I’ll undoubtedly slip up here and there. I’m hopeful that by doing more, I’ll indeed complain less. I’m certain my family will prefer less complaints and grumpiness from me and my rut. Who knows? Maybe they’ll join me in doing more.

Dare to dream.


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