Thursday, September 3, 2009

"Emergency Preparedness" Isn't Only For Earthquakes and Hurricanes

Whenever people come to my house for the first time, they make fun of my schedule. It's prominently displayed on my gorgeous, shiny, black, brand-new refrigerator, marring an otherwise-perfect surface. (Fridge magnets scratch, and, honestly, aren't that cute.) But it's the single-most important piece of paper in my entire house. You don't believe me? It went up the same day I came home from the grocery store to find two screaming, hysterical kids laying on the floor, sobbing, and my husband about to throw his own temper tantrum. The girls were 1 and 3, and when I asked the oldest why she was screaming, she replied, "Because I'm so very hungry, Mommy!" Turns out when he made himself a sandwich at noon, he forgot to feed the kids. Or put them down for naps. Oops.

Now, my husband is a great dad. He's a thoughtful husband. But he's a guy, so sometimes he's a little, well, clueless about what goes on around here. He's not around a lot during the week, so he's not always sure when they eat, when they do homework, when they go to bed, or who has library and who has P.E. Sometimes he forgets that one child is a vegetarian and the other won't eat anything green. (He also forgets that the "leave" time is NOT the same as the "tell everyone to pee and put on their shoes" time. No, Hon, that takes an extra 10 minutes, easy.) To help him out, I posted the Flexible Daily Schedule on my refrigerator. Sure, it's a throwback to my days as a teacher, when we had to have our schedules posted on our classroom doors, but hey, it works.

On said schedule, I list things like wake-up times (one for grown-ups, one for kids, because let's face it, if I'm not up before them, nothing's happening on time), when to leave for school, pick-up times, when they need a snack and when they do their homework. I also include extracurricular activities, the school's related-arts schedule (they need to wear sneakers for P.E. and "messy clothes" on art days) and any other regularly-scheduled events. Dinner time, shower time, and bedtime are at the end. Let's be honest, the kids MIGHT tell him when they do all this, but it's unlikely. I also make notes like "check assignment books/initial when homework is done" and "lay out clothes for the next day before bed". He's never experienced a tween girl having a clothing or shoe crisis at 6:45 AM, so he needs this information.

I also keep a Family Notebook, where I list other pertinent information. Sports practices, game schedules, coaches; the name of and directions to the dance studio and the girls' dance class schedules; the kids' friends and playmates, and neighbors who could help out in an emergency; school and PTA commitments and events; personal and health information for the entire family - all of this is in one place and can be accessed at a moment's notice. (Really, does your husband know which dentist or specialist to call, or the home and cell phone numbers of your girlfriend who would come over and do a ballet bun before the big recital?)

Some moms consider this system too rigid, a little controlling, or (more than) a little Type-A, but there's a method to my madness: if I weren't around, my family would have one less thing to worry about. A few years ago, my mom had a heart attack and I had to hop on a plane to L.A. with little notice. Everything Mr. Mom needed was at his fingertips. Sure, he couldn't do their hair, but the preschool teacher was more than willing to help him out with that. And last year, I had surgery and didn't recover as quickly as I thought I would. The schedule and notebook system meant that I didn't have to worry about things running (somewhat) smoothly while I was recuperating. OK, so the leotard went on backwards, and the ballet shoes didn't make it home from class that day, but overall, things went well. The kids were a little wrinkled, but everyone got to school and their activities on time. My husband knew which of our friends to call when he needed someone to pick the kids up while he took me back to the hospital, and who had a house key and could let the dog out and feed her. It meant that the kids had the comfort of the familiar during an uncomfortable time.

Slacker Mom Says...don't make fun of another mom's system (or apparent lack thereof). We all have our own way of doing things. I may be a Slacker Mom in other areas - don't look under the beds or in my linen closets, and I certainly don't have an earthquake kit or an apocolyptic "we can live for months without the outside world" kit. But my family's affairs are in order. My system is like having a will and life insurance: I hope I never need it, but if I do, I'll be so glad I took the time and effort to take care of things.

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