Today I finally forced myself to wash the dishes that had accumulated over the past couple of days. I stuffed the dishwasher full and piled everything else up to the left of the sink so that I couldn't forget anything. (I rarely allow dishes to accumulate, but I've been in a bit of a kitchen cleaning slump lately.) As I was washing dishes I pondered upon washing dishes and dishwashers. I realized how grateful I am to have a dishwasher - even a crummy cheapola one like what we have. Without our dishwasher the dishes tonight would have taken a whole lot longer. And I'd probably have many more days when I just let the dishes wait until the next day.
But while I appreciate the dishwasher, I feel a little bit conflicted about having one while our children are young. You see, I didn't grow up with a dishwasher. I know my mom really, really would have liked one for many years (especially once all us kids somehow turned the dish washing back over to her), but we didn't get one until we moved into a new house towards the end of my senior year in high school. And, no, I don't want my children to have to go through hand-washing dishes simply because I had to. It's that as I've gotten older I've realized how grateful I am that I had to hand-wash for all those years.
Having several roommates during college helped me to see how growing up with a dishwasher can leave one lacking a few necessary skills. Many (probably most) of the roommates I had were, quite frankly, pathetic when it came to hand-washing dishes. If they used something of mine and washed it by hand, I usually had to rewash it myself because it was so obviously still dirty it made me sick to think of using it again. It was amazing to me to see how low their standards were for clean dishes. Several roommates seemed to not realize that hot water was necessary to the process. And it definitely didn't help that usually all they used was one of those soap-dispensing sponge things. I noticed that those wasted lots of soap, got ridiculously disgusting after a few months (remember, this is a college apartment, so the sponge part definitely never got replaced), and were horrible at scrubbing. Most of these roommates had no idea what "elbow grease" was or how to apply it. The worst part of that was that this lack of knowledge usually carried over to other things, such as cleaning the tub or stove, as well.
So, though I'd always hated doing the dishes as a young child, I suddenly found myself glad that Mom had insisted dishes be completely clean, that I'd learned how to use elbow grease on a particularly stubborn pan and that my hands had, over time, become conditioned to being in very hot water.
Ryan and I spent our first two married years hand-washing dishes. Initially we alternated who washed and who dried each night. We owned one of those soap-dispensing sponge things since that was the only way Ryan would wash the dishes. I kept a washcloth on hand for anything that needed real scrubbing when I washed. But, eventually, we mutually agreed that it was best if I wash and he dry. I didn't really mind washing anymore, since Ryan wasn't a sibling who would purposely drop the silverware into the rinse water like bombs and splash water all over me. In reality, it was probably more that it wasn't keeping me from anything I'd rather be doing and I hated having the little counter space we had be covered in dishes. Ryan was good at getting the dishes clean, but I could wash a lot faster than he could. I'm not sure if that was due to all my years of practice or to his getting lost in our conversations and forgetting that he was supposed to be washing dishes as well as talking! On top of that, he never could get his hands to stand my almost-as-hot-as-it-can-go water temperatures. So, when we moved after those couple of years we threw away the soap-dispensing sponge thing and haven't ever bought another one (which probably distresses Ryan on the rare occasion that he washes dishes).
I worry that our children, if we have a dishwasher in our home, will grow up to be hand-washing pansies like so many of my roommates. My only hope lies in the fact that we still have several dishes, including our pots and pans, that are not allowed in the dishwasher. I'll just have to purposely make them difficult to clean once in a while, just so the kids get lots of elbow grease practice.