Mom, please buy chloroform

The actual list from my actual whiteboard on my actual refrigerator this afternoon.
The actual list from my actual whiteboard on my actual refrigerator this afternoon.

 

Early on, I determined that running a household that consisted of more than me and one other adult was a prescription for crazy.

Babies, for example. They can be cute, sure, especially when they’re very small and still have that scent designed to keep their mothers from killing them. But they have more accessories than Barbie.

Once the offspring started school, it got worse. First, I had to learn to check backpacks, to find the permission slips wedged in the bottom so I didn’t have to deal with phone calls from school while I was on deadline inquiring whether it was OK with me if someone else drove my little darling to go look at chipmunks, and hadn’t I seen that form? Later, after a few missed Tiger Cub meetings because the den was drawn from two schools and ours didn’t get notes until the day of events, I learned to dump out their packs and folders the minute we all were home.

So what’s my point? Two things saved me: a notebook and whiteboards.

“The white notebook” became our most useful tool as soon as the kids were old enough to be in activities, which in the U.S. these days can be 4 or younger. I grabbed a cheap binder and about two dozen tabbed dividers, and sorted out our ever-growing paper pile. Hockey, soccer, softball, volleyball, all the sports got tabs for the schedules and coach info. Theater, altar serving at church, anything else with a schedule got its own tab. Each child got a tab devoted to progress and grade reports. Another tab went to school, for calendars, dress codes and anything else I might be tested on. Lunch menus got their own tab, so my daughter could find them quickly.

Over time, my children learned to turn to the notebook to check things. It wasn’t all business, either. The very front tab was “things to do,” as we got flyers or postcards about exhibits or events we might want to attend. It also kept maps and schedules for some of our favorite places.

Having the notebook lessened the burden on our refrigerator, which no longer displayed magnetic clips crammed full of papers, all fighting for recognition as most important. Instead, this magnificent appliance could properly be used as display space for student artwork, photos and pizza coupons.

And whiteboards.

I have delegated any number of household tasks. My children learned to do laundry in middle school, for example, when I got fed up with asking for their dirty clothes over the weekend, only to be told Monday morning that they had no clean uniform pants because … how is this my fault? And yet I suffered. And from my pain came their self-sufficiency.

The whiteboards came about because people would blithely announce “we’re out of toilet paper” or some such, and consider themselves absolved of any further responsibility … whether or not I had heard them. You can imagine how quickly that got old.

Hence the list, and the rule: “If you don’t tell me you need something, don’t be mad if I don’t get it.” This is especially true with items others in the house value, such as coffee grounds, but which I rarely notice because I don’t often make coffee. Or foods I never use, such as horseradish.

As you can see above, I live with smartasses. But at least they communicate their needs.

I said whiteboards, plural, and that’s because there is a second one for conveying information to children. They are expected to notice it at least once a day. Right now, it says two things:

• J: dust, including ceilings & fans

• Sprint store

The other child has no posted chore because 1) she has been assigned all dishes and pots until she has 10 or more hours per week of non-school obligations, and 2) she has done other things as soon as I ask, hence no reminders.

However, as the only non-employed child, the Sprint store notice is entirely directed at her. The boy has two jobs and a multilevel marketing business. The bonus boy (and source of the chloroform request) has a job. But until this happened over the summer, and as we nudge the other one toward less reliance on federal student aid to pay for school, every time we are out and about and see that someone is hiring, we post it.

They’re simple measures, but they work for us. Writing things down cuts way back on the blame game. What works for you?

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