School is officially underway. As I sat in my 2nd Curriculum Night of the week, I breathed a bit of a sigh of relief. It’s my 3rd year in both my daughter’s elementary school and my son’s middle school. I know the routine. I understand how the special ed program at the middle school is supporting my son’s IEP and how it ties in with our Autism program at home. Next year, more heavy lifting as my daughter enters a middle school I don’t know (as my son is at a different school that has an Autism program) and my son enters high school. Yikes!
The topics I blog about often focus on how I manage our family calendar. More and more, I’m trying to teach my kids how to manage their own schedule. It’s a skill they need to learn. And as I shift responsibility from me to them, it helps me focus more on my career as needed.
This year, my son is on the tennis team for the first time. Instead of emailing the coach for the schedule, I’ve been pushing my son to bring the schedule to me. This has been hard for me. After 2 weeks of practice, tournaments had to be starting soon. But I trust my son can problem solve if something goes wrong. Well, we tested that today.
4:54 pm, a very alarming text message from my babysitter (and new babysitter in training who starts next week) came in:
OK, I admit I felt some panic first. 🙂 But logic quickly found me and I thought: “the first tennis tournament is today”.
My resilient babysitter found someone and got the information on which school the tournament was at. It happened to be the school closests to where I was so I headed over.
As I reached the school, the coach and remaining kids were leaving the tournament. I introduced myself to the coach and turned to my son and said, “You’re in trouble.”
I turned back to the coach and asked him if he had a schedule. He told me he sent one home with the kids yesterday. I tunred back to my son as he was pulling the schedule out of his backpack. “You needed to give me the schedule. We went to your school and when you weren’t there, we were VERY worried. I’ve been asking you for your schedule all week. This is why you need to give me the schedule.”
When my son and I got home, we put the tournaments into our family calendar so he could see it on his phone and we talked some more about why he needs to show me papers from school — an ongoing problem that I think MANY parents face.
Needless to say, it was a rocky afternoon but mistakes are moments we learn from. I think my son understands the worry he caused. And if his current track record is a good indicator of the future, he won’t make this mistake again. 🙂 And we’re now set up to manage the crazy logistics of the tennis team schedule.
Family life has a lot of routine to it. A lot of us keep the routines in our heads and use our calendars just to manage the exceptions. But trying to keep track of everything in our heads actually adds to the stress of keeping the family running smoothly. “Clearing the Mental Clutter” is good advice.
So how can you use your calendar to help you clear the clutter, keep things running smoothly AND be your safety net? Here are a few simple tips:
#1 Keep the recurring appointments in the calendar and include addresses and contact numbers
If you are sick or your babysitter is sick and someone else like Grandma or a friend are filling in, you can simply forward the calendar item and all the info is there. Often, a spouse who isn’t as familiar with the routine is trying to fill in. Set them up for success by having these details in the calendar when you create the appointment in the first place.
#2 Capture cancellations in the calendar
If the piano lesson or the soccer practice gets cancelled, update the calendar to say something like “Piano Lessons Cancelled Today”. If you just delete it, when you look at that week, your first thought will be, “Did piano get cancelled?” Turn that question into a statement. You want to be confident that it’s cancelled and not force yourself to remember why the appointment isn’t in the calendar anymore. If you’ve got a babysitter managing the schedule, this will also save you from getting an unnecessary text in the middle of your workday asking to confirm whether or not Piano Lessons are actually cancelled.
#3 Put reminders in the calendar
A lot of these routine appointments involve things you need to remember. If your child needs to remember to wear a white shirt and black pants to her choir assembly on Wednesday at school, add an item to your calendar for the night before to remember to lay out those clothes. You may even need a second reminder so those items are clean so you’re sure you can set them out the night before. Google Now and Cortana are great ways to capture these reminders in your calendar and by doing so, you’re getting them out of your head and putting them into your calendar to remind you when you can actually act on those things.
Part of the stress of juggling a family AND a profession is keeping track of all of these details. By dumping these details into your calendar, you remember things at the right time and your calendar becomes a safety net when you need a friend or family member to fill in for you.
If you’ve got kids who are involved in after school activities, this blog post is for you. If you’re a Stay-At-Home-Parent, you’re trying to coordinate everything and make sure the kids are where they need to be. And you want them getting picked up and dropped off on time. If you’re a working parent, you’re trying to coordinate all of this with your child care provider.
Our family had a busy week this week. It was the first week of track practice for my 13 year old son in the 7th grade AND it was the first week of rehearsals for the school play for my 9 year old daughter in the 4th grade. I faced the week with great trepidation. Looking at my calendar, I think you’ll see why:
To try and tame the chaos, I color coded my son’s activities in red and my daughter’s in blue. I told my sitter, “Let’s just plan to text each other a lot to get through this first week on this crazy schedule.” On Wednesday, I had the pick up time for Play Rehearsals wrong. And my sitter was having a really hard time understanding all of this when looking at it on her iPhone.
My son has Autism, so it’s particularly important that he understands the schedule using the visuals of a calendar. When I got this text message from him on Wednesday night while he was with his Dad, I knew I needed to do something to make this calendar easier to understand:
Looking at the calendar, I had everything crammed into ONE calendar. I had more details than were really needed. Too many things were overlapping each other. I needed to simplify the calendar. My babysitter needed to understand when to pick the kids up and where. My son needed to understand his own schedule, know when he was getting picked up, and not have his sister’s activities cluttering up what he was looking at. He needed to see what HE cares about.
What to do?
I created a separate calendar for my son. It’s under his Outlook.com account, but I set things up so that I can edit it directly while using my own account. I also set up an account for my daughter while I was at it. Next, I got rid of the overlap by moving my son’s track stuff into his calendar, my daughter stuff into her calendar, and then focused the family calendar on pick ups and drop offs. The new version is much better:
Notice the tabs across the top. Each tab represents a different calendar in a different color. You can show multiple calendars at once. And when you turn off my daughter’s calendar, it was a much clearer picture for my son. We sat down and reviewed the schedule again. Here’s what he is seeing on his iPhone now:
And here’s what the babysitter was looking at (on a Windows Phone), because my son’s calendar is NOT in view:
I’m hoping that the schedule will be more clear. Everyone will be happier. And I won’t be distracted with lots of text message from a frustrated babysitter who can’t figure out where I need her to be because I haven’t set her up for success. Yes, we’re using multiple calendars and sharing them. It may sound complicated at first but once it’s set up, you’ll wonder how you ever functioned any other way.
For those of you interested in some of the nitty-gritty details, keep reading. For the rest of you, happy scheduling!
Some details for me to explain:
What is “Juanita House”? We are in a split family. Since the kids have 2 homes, “home” isn’t clear. I call my house “The Juanita House” so they know where they need to be. I don’t want to call it “Mom’s House” or “Mom and Jeff’s House” because it is “Our House”. Dad didn’t name his house (because he’s functioning like a normal person 😉 ) so we just call his house “Dad’s House”.
Who are all of these people? Dad is Dad. Jeff is my husband. Marie is the afternoon babysitter. Lauren is my son’s ABA therapist (Autism services aide). When I set up appointments with Lauren, I actually email those to her so they are on her calendar. Dad also has the appointments for “which house” on his calendar as well as anything that is on the days when the kids are with him at the end of the day. There’s a lot going on here but this way, everyone has what they need on THEIR calendar.
Please send me your follow up questions! I’d be happy to do a dedicated blog post to deep dive on any questions you have.
I remember when my son’s middle school PE teacher reached out to me and asked me if I thought my son would like to join the track team. I was elated! My son has Autism and somehow, through all the speech therapy, ABA therapy, IEP meetings and everything else, I had just given up on the idea of my son being involved in any organized sports. Thank goodness for this very proactive and caring teacher!
I think the way I find the energy to tackle and break down new challenges like this for and with my son is through an incredible sense of optimism when I launch into something new. In this case, I immediately had fantasies of my son becoming an amazing track athlete, overcoming the odds, and being one of those viral stories that hits the internet and motivates countless people.
The realist in me understands the odds I’m up against. But this remote possibility is enough to help me get started. If you share a similar dream, here’s how I broke this down:
1. Find the time. My son has ABA therapy twice a week and lots of help with homework. We just had to put this on hold for a while. Track season isn’t that long. 6 weeks to make room for a new experience that has the potential to build confidence and potentially open up an entirely new world is worth it.
2. Support the time. Our ABA therapist met my son at the track 2 days per week. Her time was spent observing my son to determine where he needed help. He knew NOTHING about track and has gross motor problems that inhibit his ability to really run. As he runs, it’s as if he needs to think about every movement to make it happen. His arms pumping, legs moving, even how his feet touch the ground – it’s as if he has to think about each movement to make it happen. We worked on running, understanding the track, “the rules”, understanding the race he would run, the starting gun (and how LOUD it is), what a finish line is, everything.
3. Coordinate the time. On the days when the ABA therapist was not at the track, the babysitter would pick him up from track practice. On Wednesdays, there was no track practice so my son needed to understand that on that day of the week, he needed to get on the school bus to get home. Track meets were typically on Fridays. He would need to support this very chaotic environment, to know when his race was and what he should be doing before and after his events. I would flex my time at work to support this when our aide could not.
We used a calendar to help our son (and the rest of us) understand the schedule. A typical week looked like this and was critical to not only ensuring my son knew where to be but to help coordinate who was picking him up on specific days and setting his expectation so he knew who was meeting him.
4. Enjoy the Ride. The first time I saw my son run in a race is something I will never forget. I was fearful. I knew he was slow and I wondered how all of these people would react. What followed blew me away. As my son was waiting, he was smiling, happy to be there and be part of things. This really warmed my heart. But not enough to lessen my fear that he’d cause a false start. He and the rest of the runners were ready. The starting gun went off! No false start. YES! As predicted, the other boys were running faster and got farther and farther away from him. As the first kid hit the finish line of this 55 meter race, the crowd cheered. By now, my son was really far behind and he was going to be running the last half of this race all alone. But as he became the only kid still running, this wonderful crowd of students and parents did something I would have never expected. They started to cheer LOUDER! Louder than they did for the kid who came in first. When my son crossed the finish line, the crowd cheered for him. I’ve never seen him smile so big. After the race was over, he literally skipped over to the coach who gave him a high five. A couple of the other kids on the team also gave him a high five. He was part of something and his confidence soared. I sat there with a huge smile and tears running down my face.
There’s a good chance that my son will NOT become an Olympic track star or be part of any viral video that inspires countless people. But he’s happy. He’s doing new things and learning new things. He’s becoming part of something larger than his family, becoming part of a community. He’s showing the world what it looks like when integration in schools works. As track season came to a close, ALL of his teachers noticed a big difference in him. He was more confident, raising his hand a bit more in class, improvement with eye contact, improvements with greeting his teachers, all kinds of positive intangibles that are almost impossible to teach. I would have never known that track would be such an important step to making improvement in the classroom.
I’m so grateful for the school my son attends and these wonderful teachers who are making such a difference. I’m grateful that I’m sitting with parents who cheer on the underdog and are being such a good example to their own children. No wonder my son is so happy at school. We need to do what we can to help our kids be part of things that expand their world. And even if you’re not in a situation where you have a child with special needs, I hope my story shows you how you can be part of making the world these kids live in a better place.
We’ve all read the quote “Behind every strong man is a strong woman” as well as all of the related quotes that mock the whole idea. While I understand the criticism of this quote, I strongly believe that having a strong support network, whether it’s a spouse or extended family or friends, it’s a critical part of being a successful working parent.
At work, when I see someone that I view as very successful, when I am able to get more “behind the scenes” information, I often learn that they have a spouse at home who doesn’t work. Their spouse is doing all of the heavy lifting related to keeping a household running, raising the children, volunteering with the PTA, very important and critical work.
For those of us who don’t have this kind of situation, we can still be successful at work. It just requires a bit more juggling and planning. This blog focuses on a strategy to help your support network at home help you so you can be more successful at work
Tip #1 Create a Family Calendar and share it with the right people.
In my case, I created a calendar on Outlook.com. From any calendar, Outlook.com, Google, Yahoo, whatever, you can “Share” the calendar by clicking the “Share” button and then providing the email addresses of the people you want to share it with. My babysitter and my husband have the calendar. I helped my sitter set up her iPhone so that she sees this calendar. I only add items that show up in the weekday afternoons so that she only sees stuff related to our family when she’s working. She literally uses this calendar on her iPhone as a checklist for what needs to be done today and where the kids need to go. My husband usually has this calendar turned “off” but it shows up in his list of calendar so that he can easily see what’s going on at any time.
By creating a Family Calendar, you’re creating a “Communication Center”. All appointments go here. Everyone knows where to look for information. How does this help you at work? You cut down on how many times the babysitter is texting you with random questions during the day about the schedule. In fact, when she DOES send you a text, you know it’s important and related to something that you really need to respond to in the moment. You no longer have your spouse IM-ing you with questions about whether or not you’re free next Thursday after work so you can get together with his co-worker and their spouse. You organize your schedule so you can FOCUS. This is a critical element to being successful at work. if you’re constantly being distracted by things from home, your efficiency at work drops more than you realize.
Tip #2 Get the right appointments onto your spouse’s work calendar
Many working families share the responsibility of dropping off and picking up the kids to/from school and childcare. But work responsibilities often mess up that routine. When an important meeting is scheduled first thing in the morning on a day when I’m usually taking the kids to school, I create a calendar appointment that covers the school drop off time and send it to my husband. If he has a conflict that he can’t move, he just “Declines” and I know I need to figure something else out. The same goes for me. If he can cover it, he “Accepts” and I know I’m covered.
By doing this, you’re setting things up in the moment. No need to remember to talk about this when you get home from work (and risk forgetting). No risk of your spouse forgetting to put this in their calendar, not to mention getting on the right day. It’s fast, simple, clear.
This same approach can be used for meetings at the end of the day. Have you ever had one of those “Executive Reviews” scheduled from 3 to 5pm? They never end on time. You spend the last half hour of the meeting watching the time. You’re stressed. You’re distracted. You’re not focused on the actual meeting because you’re worried about picking up the kids on time. Don’t put yourself in this situation.
When that Executive Review is scheduled for the end of the day, send your spouse a calendar invitation for them to pick up the kids or meet the babysitter. You’re now free to focus on the meeting. Beyond that, often, the most important conversations happen in the hallway after the meeting. Put yourself in a position to be there for that conversation. By taking this simple additional step, you’re lowering your stress, covering the responsibilities at home and creating an environment where you can focus, do your best work and be there for critical conversations.
Tip #3 Planning for the Week
Even with all the right appointments in the calendar, sometimes the family may not be actively looking at their calendars. Family life is all about routine. Routines are what help us manage the chaos and the volume of activities going on. We can keep a lot of that routine in our heads and not rely on a calendar. But the exceptions are the things that mess us up. And the exceptions are the most important things to capture in the calendar because they are hard to remember.
On Sunday evening or first thing on Monday morning, email the calendar out to the people who need it. In my case, this is obviously my husband and babysitter. But I also include my ex-husband and the behavioral therapist who works with my son who has Autism. To email the calendar from Outlook, go to the Home tab and select “E-mail Calendar”. From there, you’ll get options to send the “next 7 days” and an email will be created with the calendar info. I highlight the exceptions to the routine so my family can scan the email and get those exceptions for the week in their head. If you use a calendar like Cozi, they have a wonderful feature that automatically sends a weekly calendar to a preset list of people every Sunday evening.
By incorporating these 3 tips into your day to day management of your schedule, you’ll be amazed at how it will smooth out the bumps in the week. It should also help you go from “surviving the week” to really excelling at work.
For working parents, having a plan for what the kids will do over the summer when they are off from school is important — and stressful. It’s expensive. There aren’t always a lot of options. My school aged daughter doesn’t even want to go to camp, asking me if I could stay home with her instead. And my son with Autism needs a camp that can accommodate him, which is even more expensive!
As I talk with other parents, we all share the same stress, whether you have a child with special needs or not. Here’s my advice on how to approach, and conquer, this very daunting task.
Set a Deadline.
My deadline is the end of March. In the Seattle area, and probably any larger city, there’s a sweet spot between when registration opens up for summer camps and when registration fills up. In the case of summer camp, I sign up for emails from the camps I’ve used in the past and I sign up for them on any camp that looks interesting. As Spring approaches, I look for these emails to help remind me that I need to sign up.
I like to involve my kids in the decision on where they are going to camp. Do they want to do the same camp as last year? Do they want to try something new? Since my daughter continues to beg me to quit my job for the summer and stay home with her, involving her makes it easier to get her into a place where she’s actually looking forward to the summer.
Involving the kids in planning includes figuring out where their friends are going to camp. Encourage your kids to ask their friends what they are doing. Reach out to the parents you know. This is a great way to discover great camps you don’t know about and potentially sign up the kids for a camp they can attend with their friends from school. And as your kids understand that many of their friends are doing summer camp as well, this helps with their enthusiasm.
Finally, planning ahead involves figuring out any summer vacations you’re going to take. You don’t want to sign up for a week of camp if you’ll be away on vacation. This adds to the complexity of planning but once you’ve got that detail figured out, not only do you get child care covered for the summer but you also have your summer vacation to look forward to.
Camps for Kids with Special Needs
This situation is a lot trickier. Just like with typical camps, doing research and asking friends is important. In the Seattle Area, I’m lucky to have many options, though they are expensive. My son has attended summer camp with Outdoors For All for 3 summers now. It’s a relief to have this option.
If you live in an area that doesn’t have camps for kids with special needs, there are still options. Before I discovered Outdoors For All, I found a local daycare that had a summer camp program. I met with the director and explained my situation. The group of kids was small enough that she felt she could accommodate my son. I also arranged with her to get the schedule in advance so that I could communicate that to my son. At the time, having him know ahead of time where he was going and how the daily schedule would break down was half the battle. I kept a tight communication loop with the daycare provider and the summer worked out really well.
For a working parent, the other element of summer is focused around logistics. Drop off times and locations are different than the school year. To simplify things, we work out a schedule for this in advance. For example, I’m taking the kids to camp on Tuesdays, Wednesdays and every other Monday. My ex-husband is taking them on the other days. The babysitter is picking up in the afternoons. We add the drop off and pick up times to the calendar, including addresses of pick up and drop off locations, so that the first week, everyone knows where they are going.
As the dates get closer, we also agree on a plan to put details of field trips into the calendar and work with the kids so that THEY remember the things they need to bring. Swimming stuff for swimming related field trips. Camp t-shirt for field trip days. Hiking boots for fields trips that need that item. By putting this responsibility on the kids, they learn to be responsible and it takes some of the burden off of you. Trust me, it only takes one field trip of them sitting beside the lake rather than swimming in the lake for them to remember to bring their swim suit the next time.
Register and then Relax!
If you’re like me, until I have camps all set up, Spring just brings me anxiety. Once registration is complete, I can relax, enjoy Spring and look forward to the Summer!
Because I work on Outlook Calendar at Microsoft, I see requests all the time to “automatically add travel time to my calendar”. Why don’t we see this in Calendar solutions out there today? It’s a bit tricky. Before I tackle the question of “Why Not?”, let me give some advice on how to deal with this using the calendar solutions that are available today.
Tip #1 Think about travel time the moment you add a new item to your calendar.
You know where you will be going to and where you’re going to be coming from. When you create a calendar item, also create additional appointments before and after. Calendar reminders are getting smarter and smarter. These smart reminders help you leave for an appointment on time. For example, Google Now will look at the address in an appointment on your calendar and look at your current location and then pop a reminder at the right time so you’ll leave on time. But what if someone at the office schedules a meeting right on top of the time when you would have been traveling to the appointment? This is why it’s useful to add that “travel time” appointment. It helps you communicate to others (at work) both the time you’ll be away at the appointment as well as the time you’ll be away traveling to the appointment. The same advice holds for traveling BACK from the appointment.
Tip #2 Think about travel time the moment you ACCEPT a new item on your calendar.
Whether you have a job that requires you to travel from client site to client site or you work in an office that is part of a larger campus, you need to think about the amount of time you’ll need to get to an appointment the moment you commit to that appointment by accepting it. Proposing an alternate time to accommodate travel time right when you set up an appointment will make it easier for the person you’re meeting with to modify the time to allow you to arrive on time. They will appreciate how proactive you are. Even more, being this proactive will be perceived as showing respect for THEIR time.
If you work in a corporate campus environment, it’s actually a bit tougher. You’re not driving across town, but you may need about 10 minutes to get from your building to the building of the person you’re meeting with. I see people take the approach of leaving a meeting 10 minutes early. But often, the actual decision making happens in the last 10 minutes of a meeting so by taking this approach, you’re missing critical moments in your work day. Instead, my advice would be proposing a time with a start time that is 10 minutes later. Instead of accepting a meeting from 2 to 3pm, propose a 2:10 to 3:00 meeting, assuming this is a smaller meeting where the meeting organizer has some flexibility. When you propose the time, add a comment like this, “Can we start 10 minutes after the hour so I have time to get from my previous meeting in building X?” Again, you’ll be helping this meeting start on time by not being in a position where you have not choice but to be late.
The Result: when you take this extra step of accounting for travel time, you’ll reduce stress in your day to day. Instead of checking your calendar in the morning and being faced with what feels like a horrible obstacle course that will result in you arriving late to everything all day, you’ve created a manageable schedule that you can glide through in order to accomplish everything you need to accomplish that day.
So back to the question of “why don’t calendars today automatically add travel time to your schedule?” All I have is a theory but here it is: Your time is as precious or MORE precious than money. Using money as an analogy, imagine if your bank automatically committed your money to other things every time you spent money. For example, you spend money on school supplies for your children so your bank decides that you should be saving for college as well so it transfers a chunk of money into your child’s college fund just because you spent money on school supplies! People SHOULD be saving for college. But that doesn’t mean that they want someone else making that decision for them. The analogy applies to time as well. Just because you’ve committed to something on your calendar doesn’t mean that you want your calendar automatically committing to other things. Maybe you’ve accepted a meeting that you may or may not end up attending? If your calendar automatically adds travel time to block your schedule, you may not be very happy about that. I’d love to hear other theories on why we don’t see features like this in calendar today or if there are calendars out there that do this that I haven’t seen.
When your kids become teenagers, one of the biggest things they need to learn is how to be independent. They WANT to be independent. It’s our job to help them learn to be both independent AND responsible.
The same goes for a kid on the Autism spectrum. The challenge for the parents is a bit tougher.
For my teen with Autism, I feel my job is to create opportunities for him to be independent and then put supports in place to help him be successful. Our calendar is one of our biggest tools.
This year, he’s joining the other middle school kids on the Ski Bus. This is a great social opportunity to be around the typical kids that he doesn’t usually see in his special education classes, take ski lessons to increase his confidence and have the other kids in school SEE him doing typical stuff.
For most kids, they sign up, hop on the bus and figure it out. For us, it took a lot more work but as I look ahead to our first day, I’m optimistic that we will be successful.
First step, instead of a typical ski lesson, I arranged for a private lesson. He’ll be more successful with one on one instruction so that’s what we’ll do.
Next, setting up a plan to establish the routine for getting from the bus to the rental center and ALL of the important steps involved in getting the ski gear and getting him to his lesson was key. I met with the director of the ski school. His team has a heads up that my son may need extra help. And I will be with him the first day to work out the bumps.
Finally, I’ve made arrangements at work to adjust my hours so I can help each week. It’s only 5 weeks. My son will do the routine on his own, but I’ll meet him AFTER his lesson. Unstructured time is tough for him. So the 2 hours of free ski time will be with me.
This is where the calendar comes in. For many kids with Autism, visual information is critical to communication and understanding. I can TELL my son about what is happening but I know from experience that if he doesn’t visually understand what I’m saying, comprehension will be low.
We’ve broken this endeavor into 2 routines: before school and after school.
Before school, he needs to get himself ready so he has everything he needs for the afternoon. We’ve talked about it. He’s seen the schedule but I know he’ll use the calendar on his phone as a checklist so he can get himself ready to go in the morning, independently.
Now for the afternoon routine. He’s got the breakdown of what will be happening. In addition to HIS routine, the picture below shows my work calendar, our family calendar that our babysitter uses AND my son’s calendar. This is to show that to support my son, it requires coordination across the entire family. It requires team work. 🙂
This schedule shows our first day on the mountain. This first day is about establishing the routine. For all the future weeks, my son will be on his own until free ski time. HIs calendar reflects that. And my work calendar shows my team that I’ll be leaving early on those days so they know what to expect from me and can plan around me (and better support what I’m doing).
So for any parents out there with kids on the spectrum who look at school activities like this and think it can’t be done, it can. A little organization, a few conversations with key folks and a solid plan captured in your calendar can go a long way.
I should say that a calendar could have saved the Tooth Fairy!
It all started last night. My 9 year old daughter announced that she had lost a tooth while eating dinner. It’s been loose for weeks. Later that evening as my daughter was ready for bed and just coming up to have me tuck her in, she was very excited about that fact that she had put the tooth under her pillow and was wondering how much the Tooth Fairy would give her for this tooth.
This is where I made my critical mistake. In that moment, I thought,
“I can’t put money under the pillow until after she falls asleep but I’m going to forget. I should put this in my calendar so I get reminded around 9:30pm.”
But I didn’t. I somehow convinced myself that I would remember. I should know better.
This morning, my daughter was a bit groggy. After breakfast, she went back down stairs to finish getting ready for bed, brush her teeth, make her bed, etc. Not much time went by before she came back down the stairs, crying,
“I lost my tooth when I was making my bed and the Tooth Fairy didn’t bring me any money!”
“Oh, no!”, I thought. I forgot! What am I going to do! Do I tell her the reality that there is no Tooth Fairy in order to explain what happened? Is there any way to recover? Luckily, I think pretty quick on my feet.
I told her to grab her backpack so it’s ready for school and that I’d go look in her room to see what was up. I needed a distraction so I could look in my purse for a few coins. She left the room. I looked in my purse. ALL PENNIES! What am I going to do!? Ah! A quarter and a nickel. I can work with that. The Tooth Fairy has never been very generous in our house anyway.
I went downstairs. Her bed was made perfectly as usual. I dropped the coins down on the floor between her bed and the wall. Just then, she came in.
“Hey, I see some coins down here on the floor. Were they there before? Or do you think they are from the Tooth Fairy and you accidentally knocked them down there in your sleep?”
“Let me look! No! That money is from the Tooth Fairy! And my tooth is right there, too!
I didn’t see the tooth when I dropped the money. I’ll call that a gift. Phew!
So I recovered but the moral of this story is: when it’s critical to remember something, especially something that needs to be done at a critical time, put it in your calendar!
It’s hard enough for a typical family to keep track of everything between school holidays, career deadlines, soccer games and business trips. How does a split family do it?
I’m divorced and I’ve found that sharing a calendar is the key to successful communication and coordination. To be blunt, I really don’t like needing to talk to my ex. 🙂 Before we got our calendar together, I felt like I was talking to him more than when we lived together. Sharing a calendar has solved that.
We split custody 50/50. We both want to be involved. I’m already keeping a calendar so why no share it with him? I put all of the dates in the calendar like:
Kids at Dad’s
Kids at Mom’s
Parent Teacher Conferences
Stuff Like That
I’ve set up this calendar in Outlook.com. I use Outlook to see both my work calendar (with Office365) AND this Outlook.com calendar which I’ve named “Family Calendar”. For the events I listed above, I “invite” my ex and those events are sent to his work calendar. He only keeps one calendar, that work calendar, so this was the best way to get this stuff in there. When we first got organized, the number of “invitations” was a lot. But now that it’s set up, it’s easy.
Both of us are pretty busy with work so we try to be very flexible with each other in terms of scheduling. By using Outlook, we can run changes by each other over the phone or even via text message and then I make the updates in Outlook. When an update is made, the updated appointment is sent to him. It may feel formal, but it’s a great way to confirm the conversation we had and make sure things are straight – BEFORE we hit a conflict or have a miscommunication.
I also share this calendar with my husband and babysitter. We just use basic calendar sharing. My husband accesses the calendar when he’s trying to plan things and wants to see if we have the kids or not. My babysitter uses this calendar to manage each day. I add additional items that I don’t invite my ex to like Guitar Lesson, Piano Lesson, Reading Tutors and things like that so the babysitter has that schedule. But I don’t add my ex to those items so they won’t fill up his calendar over the top of his busy afternoons at work.
Each Sunday night, I email this calendar to my ex (along with my son’s Autism specialists who work with him in my home). It serves as a reminder for all of us to look at the week ahead and update anything that was forgotten. This is especially handy in terms of support work schedules. As conferences and business trips come up, they can be managed ahead of time.
Even though we’re divorced, we both need to support each other in our careers – as we do this, we’re helping each other do the best we can for our kids. And by having all of the kids school commitments in one place, we can also coordinate so that we can BOTH attend or make sure at least one of us is attending. Again, it’s the right thing to do for the kids.
So if you’re pulling your hair out trying to coordinate your custody schedule with your ex, AND stay on the same page with your shared babysitter, give this a try. You’ll be amazed by the amount of harmony it will bring.