Thirteen is a childhood milestone — an age that, for some young people, marks a beginning or ushers in a tradition.
Jewish children, for example, celebrate a bar or bat mitzvah. Many Roman Catholic children receive the sacrament of confirmation.
At the Imwalle household in Hilliard, the milestone carries a new responsibility: cleaning a bathroom.
With 10 children, including six still at home, my wife, Lisa, and I view self-sufficient offspring as a necessity.
Which explains why, by age 3, our children have learned to put their dirty clothes in a hamper and clear their dirty plates from the table.
Such training also helps each Saturday, popularly (or maybe not so popularly) known as “job day.”
Everyone is responsible for picking up his or her bedroom; then the younger kids move to the basement to put away the balls, Legos, toy cars, wooden trains, green Army guys, video-game accessories, dollhouse and board games.
With age, the kids take on more-specialized jobs — such as vacuuming, dusting and glass-door cleaning.
We have high expectations of our older children, who not only clean up after themselves but also do their own laundry and help with the general family chores. At 13, then, they assume responsibility for the “crown jewel” of jobs.
Many of the bathroom tasks — cleaning the mirror, sink and vanity top, for example — require little training and are easily completed. Refilling the soap dispenser and sweeping and mopping the floor prove relatively simple, too.
The toilet, though, is a bigger challenge.
Introducing a brand-new teenager to a dirty toilet is inevitably interesting.
My wife typically receives a half-blank, half-incredulous, open-mouthed (braces visible) stare when she hands over a scrub brush and the toilet-bowl cleaner.
Has he never seen a toilet before?
When he finally recognizes the contraption, he can’t believe what he is expected to do.
Lisa explains that “the blue stuff” should be squirted into the toilet and under the rim. Then the entire inside of the bowl should be scrubbed with the brush, with special attention given to the part not easily seen (under the rim).
With six males in the house, my wife has no trouble showing the trainee why the outside of the bowl must not be ignored, either. It must be sprayed with Lysol, then wiped with a paper towel.
I’m the bathroom inspector — a physically demanding job for a middle-aged man.
A proper inspection requires me to put on my glasses, get on my hands and knees, stick my head inside the “clean” bowl and look at the little holes where the water comes out when the toilet is flushed.
Did you know that a standard Mansfield toilet has 24 rim holes?
I always keep the apprentice nearby during an inspection (lest he wander off when my head is in the bowl). I’m tough to please during the first few inspections, and, although I could surely fine-tune the job myself quicker than I direct him on the proper method and make him finish it, I avoid doing so.
Unfortunately, I’ve noticed when visiting my college-age children that bathroom-cleaning skills deteriorate when not used. Still, I’m hopeful that, like that of riding a bike, the skill is never truly lost.
Randy Imwalle, 52, cautions son Matthew: “You’re next!”