When my kids were little geeklings I seldom had trouble keeping track of them. They were always underfoot. On any given day they were either at school, or under my direct care. But then the teen years hit and suddenly they seemed to disappear on a regular basis. School sports, visits to friend’s houses, long jaunts off into the woods behind our house…there were times I had to stop and honestly ask myself, “Do I truly know where all four of my kids are right now?!”
That’s the point I introduced the white board into our house. Right across from the back door, the only door we ever use, was a big, empty spot on the wall. With just a few strategically placed screws and a bit of trim paint to match the windows, we had our new message center. I tied a thick piece of string to a nail and attached a dry erase marker, avoiding the inevitable disappearing marker trick (handy hint: hand sanitizer works great for keeping a marker board fresh and clean).
It started as a way to keep track of where my kids were (they were required to post their intended location before they left the house) but soon grew into a full fledged family communication tool.
When one of my kids flippantly says to me, “Oh, by the way, I need more toothpaste”, or “Hey mom! We’re out of peanut butter!” I don’t have to cringe, and hope my memory doesn’t fail me the next time I’m at the store. My instant response is, “Put it on the white board.”
If they don’t put it down, I don’t buy it. On my way out the door to tackle the errands, I copy down the list from the magic board and hit the road. It only took a few times of missing out on their needed items for my kids to catch on to the system.
Then I found that the kid’s friends loved the board. I often find messages, left by visiting kids, offering a greeting “Great movie night! See ya next time!” or a reminder “Meredith, don’t forget the party next Friday!” My niece left me this lovely message the last time she stayed with us, on her way back to college – “Thanks for the awesome visit! I will email you guys about coming up for a visit!”.
It’s also a handy tool for letting my own kids know what’s going on. It beats my old system, the one I inherited from my mother, who raised a houseful of kids of her own. She often told me about an event four different times, then, thinking she’d ‘told everyone’, never get around to telling any of my siblings. When relatives are expected for a visit, or an impromptu pizza night with neighbors is coming up, I write it on the board. As each child comes home, he sees the message and is in the know. No more wailing, “No one told ME!”
On this same board is a reminder to feed the neighbor’s animals while they were away. I shudder to think how hungry those little guys would have been, had we not written down the days we needed to go check on them.
I dread the day our household slows down so much that the board stays white. Every time I walk in and there are new marks and messages, I’m reminded how quickly life is clipping along and how important it is for geek families to stay connected.