The One Thing I’m Doing That’s Helping Me Survive The Teen Years

Here's how I survive the teen years.
This is my tip for how parents can survive the teen years.

Parents of teens talk about it until they are blue in the face–the teen years are busy, they are hard, they are stressful, they make our heads spin. None of us really know what the heck we are doing or how we are going to keep our weeks straight.

Am I right?

We’ve entered a decade (or so) of intense sporting events, orthodontist appointments, feeling like an Uber driver to keep up with their activities. We’ve had to brush up on our relationship skills in order to give the best advice we can and let’s not forget college preparation that seem to start a few years too early.

For me, all that chaos is tripled since I have three teenagers. As we entered these older years and their lives seemed to spring into action overnight, I knew I had to do something to organize myself after double booking our family activities or appointments.

I’d be on the phone with a family member saying we were free on Friday night when, in fact, we had a school fundraiser to attend or had already bought tickets to see a play.

Have you ever had to call your mom and retract your promise to be there for Sunday dinner after she bought a pot roast to accommodate you and your family?  It’s not fun, folks.

And I can’t even count the number of times I forgot about a dentist or hair appointment I’d scheduled months in advance. Even after putting a reminder in my phone, I’d still forget about it because short-term memory seems to be the first thing to go when you become a mother.

But I’ve been doing one thing that has helped keep me straight while also helping me to feel less stressed and less irritated. Also, this thing I do makes me appear to have my life together, which I do not, but that is an added bonus.

I now write down a daily to-do list and I’m all old-fashioned about it; it has to be where I can see it, not on my phone.

I have a huge chalk board in my kitchen and every Sunday, I go through the appointments I have put in my phone’s calendar, as well as other plans I’ve made (usually via text), and I write them down according to the day of the week.

There is something about actually writing (not typing) things down and seeing them in front of me when I come down in the morning to start my day. It helps me remember all the things I need to do, and all the places I need to go. For some reason seeing it written out helps it stick in my head better than when it’s only in my calendar on my phone.

I don’t know if this is some kind of trickery, or if it’s in my head, but I don’t care because it works. People can call me a dinosaur if they wish–this dinosaur no longer forgets. And, it works for all of us, including my kids. Maybe it’s because they can see it written out, but for whatever reason, they don’t need as many reminders about which days they are staying after school, and they don’t ask me a thousand times when the family party is.

It could be that I grew up making to-do lists using a pen and paper or dry erase board because that’s what my mother did, and I’m just not evolved enough to organize my schedule through my phone. Or maybe when my phone buzzes with a reminder I don’t focus because I also have emails, texts, and other notifications screaming at me all day.

Whatever the reason, writing it down and having a visual has helped me manage our schedules and I no longer feel overwhelmed or crazed or like I don’t know which day it is. I look at my schedule every morning and feel more prepared for the day ahead. When I was relying solely  on my phone, I was constantly checking it because I kept forgetting where the hell I had to be and what I needed to do next.

In the evening as we are cleaning up dinner dishes, I look at the next day’s events and it starts getting my brain prepared for the next day.

And if something comes up, my kids add to the list themselves, which is working like a dream and feels smoother than the days when they’d tell me about a concert or sleepover or their need for new socks, and I’d have to remember to put it in my phone and set a reminder.

It’s impossible to keep the craziness of our days straight one hundred percent of the time, but writing everything down in a common place where you can all you see it has been a game changer for me–I can’t recommend it enough.

It has helped me plan my weeks with intention and purpose and has taken a lot of the drama out of my week because I’m no longer afraid that I’m going to forget a meeting or an appointment.

And when the day is over and I’ve accomplished everything without forgetting a single thing, it’s so satisfying to erase all the tasks and start thinking about killing it the next day.

So, what are you waiting for? Get a chalk board, and some chalk board paint and paint an entire wall, or grab a dry erase board and watch your life change.


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About Katie BinghamSmith

Katie Bingham-Smith lives in Maine with her three kids. She is a Staff Writer at Scary Mommy, shoe addict and pays her kids to rub her feet. You can see more of her on Facebook and Instagram .

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