Things I Want to Teach My Kids (That My Husband Never Learned)

The other day I asked my husband to help me in my weekend house-tidying efforts by cleaning the toilet. Sure, he said, no problem. Later, while I was chipping toothpaste off the sink, I glanced over at what I'd hoped would be a sparkling clean, pee-free appliance, and saw how he'd tackled the project -- by haphazardly spraying cleaning solution around the inside of the bowl, swabbing here and there with toilet paper, and leaving giant unflushed, blue-tinged pile of sodden TP floating in the water.

My husband's definition of "clean" is very different from mine, and I can live with that. I do live with that, after all, and have -- happily, I swear -- for almost 13 years. But it got me thinking about how I hope to teach my sons to know how to clean a damn toilet ... along with a few other basic skills.


It's not that I expect my kids to be neat freaks or even that I necessarily expect them to clean without being reminded. They're boys, and if they're anything like their father, they'll be perfectly happy to wallow in their own filth. But here's the thing: I want them to be able to identify what a dirty toilet looks like, because it's the inability to do so that's really annoying to live with. It sucks being the only person in my household who has the astounding superpower of being able to see that a toilet has crossed the line from "iffy" to "BIOHAZARD ZONE, CODE RED, USE EXTREME CAUTION," but it's even more maddening to realize that I'm the only one who knows how to deal with the situation. I mean, come on. Use the toilet brush. Check the base for dried pee! Is the toilet made of yellow ceramic? NO IT IS NOT AND THAT IS YOUR FIRST CLUE. And jesus, lift the seat -- yeah, that's called EVIDENCE OF BAD AIM, and you could continue pretend it's not there until the whole thing eventually mutates from various chemical deposit layers and becomes sentient and tears itself from the linoleum floor in order to start lurching around devouring the housepets, or you could GET OUT THE 409.

Whew. I ... have Toilet Feelings, it seems.

Anyway, along with the ability to visually acknowledge whether something is dirty or clean, I'd like them to be competent in the kitchen. My husband never learned this: he can make pancakes, PB&Js, and boxed macaroni and cheese. Beyond that, there'd better be a pizza delivery number handy. (During his college years, he'd make big pots of Hamburger Helper and eat it for breakfast, lunch and dinner until it was time to cook up a new batch. I realize we all ate some gross stuff at that age [Top Ramen with crushed Saltines was a staple of mine], but I'm not exaggerating: he ate Hamburger Helper for like two straight years.) I'm going to teach my kids the basics, and when it's time for them to move out on their own, they will by-god know how to scramble eggs and boil pasta even if they do choose to live on something from a box.

Finally, I would like to teach my sons the delicate, womanly art of finding things. I have a bad feeling I already missed the boat, since they're prone to rushing back and forth every single school morning bellowing about how they can't find their coats, their coats are GONE, did someone STEAL ALL OUR COATS, and when I ask if they looked on the coathooks and they're all, oh right. My husband can gaze directly into a cupboard with a jar of Jif staring him right in the face -- like, if it was any closer it would be resting directly on his forehead -- and ask with total sincerity if we're out of peanut butter, so I'm not terribly surprised to see this trait has been passed down to his loin-fruits, but I'm hopeful I can somehow overpower nature with nurture on this one. Maybe I could make a helpful flow chart:

In all seriousness, there are so many wonderful things my husband will teach our boys. How to be hardworking, respectful, loving, and loyal. How to build fires, pop wheelies, and mend nearly anything that's in need of fixing. How to value laughter and never stop dreaming.

Still, it's not too much to hope they also grow up to care just a teeny, tiny bit about their toilets, right?

What sorts of things are you hoping to teach your kids that your partner -- or you! -- isn't so good at?

Images via Linda Sharps

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