All those times I'd driven by that corner, there'd never been a stop sign there before. This unfamiliar sight grabbed my full attention, and I braked carefully. As I stepped on the gas again, I had an idea: If stop signs could help me do what I'm supposed to, maybe they could help my kids pay attention, too.
"Did you pick up your dirty clothes?" "Did you turn off the lights?" "Did you bring your dishes to the sink?" I hate reminding as much as the kids hate being reminded. What if a few simple stop signs could finally make my nagging obsolete?
When I arrived home, I got right to work with paper and markers to make three signs. When they were done, I placed them where the greatest number of cleanup violations took place in our home: the bedrooms. I hung my creations at each child's eye level, in the doorways of the bedrooms. They read: "Stop! Did you pick up your clothes?" I stood back and chuckled. Even the shortest member of our family would be unable to say, "But I didn't see it." Starting now, I was officially on mute regarding misplaced dirty laundry.
Soon enough, chatter filled the house as my kids went about their daily after-school routines. I grinned when I heard, "Mom, what's this for?" It was Cole, age 11, standing in his doorway. His brother, Cade, 8, ran to join him and asked, "And what do the oopses mean?" Their sister, Lindsay, 13, was close behind.
"Well..." I said, drawing out the suspense. "There are twelve oops tabs on the bottom of each sign. Each one left at the end of the week earns ten minutes of screen time on Saturday."
Sixth-grade-math whiz Cole said, "That's two hours!"
I smiled. "Yes, and here?s the deal. For each piece of clothing that I have to pick up off your bedroom floor, I'll tear off one oops.'"
I have to admit, I was especially proud of the tabs, which had been inspired by those flyers printed with phone numbers to tear off for later reference. The tabs could be ripped away faster than I could say, "Did you remember to..." and they'd make tracking the kids' progress simple.
When I'd finished explaining the new system, something magical happened. Without a word from my lips, all three of my children began scrambling to grab every sock, sweater, and pair of jeans from the floor. There was actually a line at the laundry chute in the hallway! To me, this scene was more beautiful than any vista I could imagine.