To my extended family, my tardiness is a running joke.
I was never the most punctual person, and shuddered at the thought of being the first guest to arrive at a party. I’ve adopted the social policy of “fashionably late”, not only as a way of life but as a courtesy to the host. Personally, I prefer guests arrive a few minutes late so I can finish my makeup or get one last appetizer on a plate.
Tardiness isn’t all my fault. It’s hereditary. My parents are notoriously unpunctual, though they’ve improved with age. Their ski boat is actually named ‘Running Late’.
On a second date with my now husband, we were meeting for a post-work movie date. I was getting ready when he called from outside the theater, asking where I’d parked. I felt embarrassed that I hadn’t started my car yet. He laughed when I told him where I was, and I put some serious pep in my step. I was trying to impress this punctual person, and my “running late” trait isn’t my finest.
Tardiness doesn’t permeate all facets of my life. I’m punctual for work and to pick up my kids at daycare. It makes them feel safe and important when I arrive on time. Plus, you know, daycare frowns upon tardy parents and will charge accordingly. Lastly, I cringe at the thought of them alone with the teacher, most lights turned off. It happened once, and I felt horrible.
My husband leaves for work around 6:30am, so it’s all me to get our girls ready for daycare. As we go through our morning routine, I’m always moving, like a mama shark. But even on those days when I think we’re ahead of schedule, something inevitably goes awry: my 1 year-old, Emmeline, douses herself in the cat’s water, or I run up and down the stairs repeatedly fetching accessories for my 3 year-old, Edie.
There’s been times when being late bit me back. For example, I planned to meet up with friends and our kids at an outdoor Easter egg hunt last month. The event started at 10am in Glastonbury, and despite my best intentions, couldn’t get everyone bathed, dressed, and out the door on time. We left our West Hartford home at 9:50am, and arrived at a field plucked clean. The kids (whose parents were on time) had baskets full of plastic eggs and cheap candy.
Edie didn’t mind; she is young enough where the attraction is running around the field with her buddies. But I felt humbled in front of a handful of my friends. How long did I think a kids’ Easter egg hunt would last? Why can’t I just start the process of getting out the door sooner?
It comes as no surprise that my habit of running late has been exacerbated by two largely dependent kids. Yes, Edie can put on her shoes and brush her teeth, but I still manage much of her routine. And well, Emmeline can’t do anything productive besides feed herself. In fact, much of her doing is destructive. I am the MC with the watch.
Despite my track record, when I’m on time, it feels great. I’ve even been early on a handful of occasions, and I felt downright accomplished.
You may notice a pattern of negative feelings associated with this behavior. However, I waiver between feeling ashamed and embracing my tardiness. Like most working parents, our energies are divided among many competing tasks. We have full lives and ambitious plans. Unless we are talking inflexible events like flight departures or wedding ceremonies, is it too much to ask for a tardiness pass during this chaotic time in our lives? My husband is less comfortable arriving late. As much as possible, I’m sensitive to other people’s valuable time. But does it matter if we arrive at 6:20 to a 6pm barbecue? Maybe to some, but I give people the benefit of the doubt and hope they do the same.
If you invite me to a party, I’ll follow through and will be a great guest. But please don’t ask me to bring an appetizer. Desserts are more appropriate. They’re more likely to appear on the table on time.