Vehicle cleaning: No children allowed (by Billy Coffey)

image courtesy of photobucket. com

image courtesy of photobucket. com

I am a big believer in the value of chores in the life of a child. My kids work. They keep their rooms clean, help clear the table after dinner, dust, and pitch in with the yard work. They even clean the bathrooms. And by doing such, they are introduced to what will one day become one of the most basic tenets of their lives—if you work and do a good job, you will be compensated accordingly.

But there is one chore that requires a No Children Allowed sign to be hung from it. In big, bold letters that are underlined and italicized.

They are not to help me wash the vehicles.


The reasons are pretty selfish. I’m man enough to admit that. And it’s a pride thing, too. I like my wife’s car and my truck clean. Spotless, even. I like the windshield completely free of bug guts, the tires shined, the wheels polished. I like the fact that a doctor could perform open heart surgery on my dashboard. Such things are important to me, as they should be to any man.

The problem, of course, is that having two kids involved makes the proper cleaning of a vehicle impossible. More often than not, they’re the ones responsible for the mess in the first place—the cracker crumbs, the soda stains, the castoff M&M that has melted into the seat. Ask them to clean that up, and you’ll only wind up with a bigger mess.

Which is why I always very politely and very casually brush their pleas aside whenever they ask to help. Usually works, too. But it didn’t last night. No amount of brushing aside would silence the chorus of “Please, Daddy?” My children employed one of their most powerful weapons in getting me to do what they wanted—they couldn’t convince me, so they just wore me down.

I decided to limit the damage by prohibiting them to handle the water hose and the vacuum. Those would be mine alone to control. So while I cleaned the interior, I put them on trash detail. Everything that couldn’t be sucked up the hose was their responsibility. And as we’d driven 140 miles the day before to a wedding, there was much to keep them busy.

My son found the Star Wars action figure he knew he’d left in the dirt outside the reception hall. The momentary shout of glee resulted in my daughter dancing for him, which evolved in the two of them dancing together in the back of the SUV, which then devolved into an impromptu light saber fight with the vacuum hose as a prop. I settled them down, but not before my son claimed victory by sucking half of my daughter’s hair into the hose.

I tried to keep them on task. Couldn’t. A stray Crayon and torn napkin found under the seat was reason enough for an art lesson. A forgotten pack of Tic-Tacs started a shoving match. The heat made them tired and cranky.

Washing the outside only made things worse. My daughter wanted to be in charge of the rinsing, but chose to rinse everything besides the truck. She rinsed the driveway and the grass and the neighbor’s dog. She rinsed her brother (yet another shoving match). And my son’s wash-whatever-you-want-however-you-want-to philosophy with the sponge didn’t help.

It was all too much for one adult to handle, so I did what any mature father would do.

I snapped.

I asked my daughter for the hose and my son for the sponge, then proceeded to drown them both in suds and water. They raced around the truck to hide. I found them. My son tried to crawl through the grass and escape. I pulled him back. But by then my daughter had managed to get the hose back, and she sprayed me. I kinked the hose and held it until she wondered what had happened and pointed the nozzle toward her face. The three of us ended in an exhausted heap in the front yard. The only words were uttered by my son, who looked up at the clouds and said, “That was the most awesome thing ever!”

We didn’t get the truck washed last night.

It’s sitting in the driveway with splotches of dirt mixed with small areas of cleanliness. It looks like a mechanical zebra.

But that’s okay. At least, that’s what I’m telling myself.

Because there is a time for chores and a time for fun, and sometimes there is a time for both.

To read more from Billy Coffey visit him at What I Learned Today and follow him on the twitter at @billycoffey.

« « Previous Post: Shirt of the tiger | Next Post: A mother’s love (by Annie K) » »

14 Responses to “Vehicle cleaning: No children allowed (by Billy Coffey)”