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Life was simple without children. Now there are so many tasks that they go on a list stretching to the neighbor’s front door. If something doesn’t get on the list, it won’t get done and you will probably regret it for the rest of your life. 

When I am not telling a kid to remove his shoes from the hallway so I don’t break a leg, I am writing lists. These lists are online, on the refrigerator and on a square of toilet paper next to my bathroom sink. 

In fact, rather than downtime spent dwelling on weighty, thought-provoking topics like why can’t parents do fourth grade math, you would be happier if you too were working on a list. 

Here is a recent list of mine. I found it lying under a frying pan.

1. Avoid household chores until I can only make out one eye in the bathroom mirror.

2. Hand the nearest young person cleaning products and point to the bathroom. 

3. Have lunch followed by a snack involving chocolate.

4. Worry for three minutes about why my child doesn’t understand dresser drawers.

5. Make another list. 

Please don’t be daunted by how much I might have accomplished so far, according to this list, or by the sheer number of lists that I produce every week (approximately 73). Not everyone can be such an over-achiever. 

Lists are indispensable to the parent whose goal is to retain some semblance of sanity. I will go so far as to call them “parenting hacks,” since everybody online seems to be interested in hacks, which are miraculous, time-saving ways to fit 602 tasks into a day. 

Do at least a couple of the absolutely necessary tasks on the list so, for example, you have enough electricity to put the kids in front of a TV for an hour. Remember that crossing off items on a list can make a person feel victorious. Also, the phrase, “I’m sorry but it wasn’t on the list” can come in handy in certain situations.

If I didn’t have lists, I wouldn’t know what to do. I’d be sitting sad and alone in a dark room somewhere, eating potato chips and ruminating about how the world is a crazy place to raise children. I’d also wonder how much saturated fat was in the chips and whether I should be feeding them to my kid. 

The next most critical thing about lists is that producing them is probably the most important life skill to have, other than not jumping off a roof onto a trampoline. So make sure your children can write a decent list. Lists put attention where it needs to go, encourage responsibility and give the comforting feeling of some control over our lives. 

Post a simple to-do list with pictures for the youngest of kids to indoctrinate them into the magical world of lists and you won’t be sorry. They may even happily do some of the things on this list, like bathe regularly, at least until they’re pre-teens. Then they may try to take a breather from that task for a while. 

Brainstorm together a list of activities they can do independently and have them make their own list. Combine it with the phrase, “go see your list” for a few moments of peace before they’re back and you have to say it again.

One of the wisest people I ever knew was 10 years old and had an important to-do list scrawled in permanent ink on her hand. It only had two things on it, one of which may have involved acquiring candy, but I am confident that she was on the right track to joy and success in life. Unless, of course, she ran out of ink.

Pam J. Hecht is a writer, instructor and mother of two (but not necessarily in that order). Reach her at pamjh8@gmail.com or pamjhecht.com.

Life was simple without children. Now there are so many tasks that they go on a list stretching to the neighbor’s front door. If something doesn’t get on the list, it won’t get done and you will probably regret it for the rest of your life. 

When I am not telling a kid to remove his shoes from the hallway so I don’t break a leg, I am writing lists. These lists are online, on the refrigerator and on a square of toilet paper next to my bathroom sink. 

In fact, rather than downtime spent dwelling on weighty, thought-provoking topics like why can’t parents do fourth grade math, you would be happier if you too were working on a list. 

Here is a recent list of mine. I found it lying under a frying pan.

1. Avoid household chores until I can only make out one eye in the bathroom mirror.

2. Hand the nearest young person cleaning products and point to the bathroom. 

3. Have lunch followed by a snack involving chocolate.

4. Worry for three minutes about why my child doesn’t understand dresser drawers.

5. Make another list. 

Please don’t be daunted by how much I might have accomplished so far, according to this list, or by the sheer number of lists that I produce every week (approximately 73). Not everyone can be such an over-achiever. 

Lists are indispensable to the parent whose goal is to retain some semblance of sanity. I will go so far as to call them “parenting hacks,” since everybody online seems to be interested in hacks, which are miraculous, time-saving ways to fit 602 tasks into a day. 

Do at least a couple of the absolutely necessary tasks on the list so, for example, you have enough electricity to put the kids in front of a TV for an hour. Remember that crossing off items on a list can make a person feel victorious. Also, the phrase, “I’m sorry but it wasn’t on the list” can come in handy in certain situations.

If I didn’t have lists, I wouldn’t know what to do. I’d be sitting sad and alone in a dark room somewhere, eating potato chips and ruminating about how the world is a crazy place to raise children. I’d also wonder how much saturated fat was in the chips and whether I should be feeding them to my kid. 

The next most critical thing about lists is that producing them is probably the most important life skill to have, other than not jumping off a roof onto a trampoline. So make sure your children can write a decent list. Lists put attention where it needs to go, encourage responsibility and give the comforting feeling of some control over our lives. 

Post a simple to-do list with pictures for the youngest of kids to indoctrinate them into the magical world of lists and you won’t be sorry. They may even happily do some of the things on this list, like bathe regularly, at least until they’re pre-teens. Then they may try to take a breather from that task for a while. 

Brainstorm together a list of activities they can do independently and have them make their own list. Combine it with the phrase, “go see your list” for a few moments of peace before they’re back and you have to say it again.

One of the wisest people I ever knew was 10 years old and had an important to-do list scrawled in permanent ink on her hand. It only had two things on it, one of which may have involved acquiring candy, but I am confident that she was on the right track to joy and success in life. Unless, of course, she ran out of ink.

Pam J. Hecht is a writer, instructor and mother of two (but not necessarily in that order). Reach her at pamjh8@gmail.com or pamjhecht.com.

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