Write Every Day
Anticipation of Serendipity

Tardy

When I was in eighth grade, my mother went back to work full time. Before that, she had been mostly a stay at home mom, but that year my dad was laid off from his job at a steel mill (a calamitous event with ripples that continue to affect him and, in odd ways, me) and my mom found a job as a receptionist at a life insurance firm.

This left my dad at home in the mornings, responsible for getting us to school. For who-knows-how-many days and days and days, I was late to school. Every. single. morning. By ten or fifteen minutes. I'd show up to my pre-algebra class, note in hand---the note I wrote and that Dad signed before I got out of the car---and then slink to my seat, face flushed with embarrassment. One day, when I again walked in late, the teacher groaned loudly, shook his head, and said "aren't you ever going to come to school on time?"

I don't think there's a name for the color of scarlet I blushed.

I thought of that experience this morning. I had raced to get my kids to school, almost-late as usual. I am not as bad as my dad was, but only by the skin of my teeth: I usually get them to school with a generous two or three minutes to spare before the bell rings. But let's be honest here. I am not the most punctual person you'll ever meet. I am always running late, always stressed the last few minutes, barely making it, counting seconds and cursing under my breath at slow drivers and badly-timed red lights.

Haley has, fortunately, managed to inherit her father's punctuality. She hates to be late for anything, and my constant-lateness is a source of constant irritation to her. Jake and Nathan are more like me: slow to get going in the morning. It doesn't bother them to arrive at school with only a few moments to spare. The person it does bother, though, is the girl we carpool with. Her mom called this morning, when I was out running errands after dropping off the carpool, to (very gently) complain at my lack of punctuality.

What could I say? Other than melt down into a puddle of embarrassment (that unnameable scarlet color of humiliated blush all over again) right there in the middle of the juice aisle at Target? There is no reason or excuse I can offer other than my general pathetic-ness. I mean, come on: I am a grown woman. What is wrong with me that I can't pull it together enough to leave on time? Maybe that's why I remembered that morning in junior high so vividly today: can I offer up my childhood as reason enough? I'm late because my dad was always late?

Of course not. I am the only one to blame. I am far too old to blame my parents or to not take personal responsibility. Sure, there is extenuating stuff I could argue about, attempting to push the blame onto someone else: the fact that the boys quite often don't get their stuff together the night before, or that there always seems to be some last-minute crisis (this morning it was Kaleb thinking he neeeeeeeeeeded some Motrin even though there wasn't anything wrong with him, or that maybe the Other Parent in the house could get off the computer and come help me. I can't even blame it on Jake, who is maddeningly slow in the mornings, slower even than I, because he is the kid. If he's slow and late all the time, it's because I've taught him to be slow and late by my example. It is my flaw, manifesting it self in him. And that really is what is bothering me, in the end: I am feeling like we are all doomed to keep repeating our parents' mistakes, over and over.

On the radio this morning, there was a psychologist talking about lying. He said that people who are habitual, chronic liars are just like drug addicts, and that they won't stop lying until the lying brings about a personal moral crisis (like losing a spouse or a job as a direct result of the lying). Once a bad habit or addictive tendency starts to affect other people in your life, it's time to do something about it. Maybe that's what I had on my cell phone in Target: a personal moral crisis over always being late. Through my flood of embarrassment I saw very clearly how my failure has affected the people in my life, but it took the threat of losing my carpool to get the clarity.

Here's the thing, though: deep down, I'm not sure I believe people can change. I want to believe that I can be better in the mornings and get the kids to school earlier. I want to be a better example and I want desperately to not pass my punctuality issues on to my children. Deep down I am not sure that is possible. But I am going to try.

Obviously the universe has pointed out what my new year's resolution should be.

Comments

Jenna

Good luck - if you can do it, maybe I can too. But that will have to wait for another year.

Jenna

I think that my comment was the dumbest comment ever - can you delete that??? ... What I meant was Good luck on your endeavor. :)

becky

Yeah. I get this. I CANNOT get my act together in the morning. I calculate exactly how long I can sleep so we have enough time to do everything superfast. It is just how we are. Can we change? I. don't. know.

I've missed your blog. A lot. :)

wendy

I was just thinking this morning, "Why hasn't Amy written? Please tell me her daily efforts aren't going to replace this?" Glad to see you write today. I totally believe people can indeed change, and that people do when it becomes important enough. I don't think it has to be a huge crisis to get to that point. We vascillate in who is to blame for tardiness at our house. I used to be punctual, then it stopped being important and I was rarely on time. I think I'm heading towards mostly punctual again. But with a clothing- and diaper-change resistant toddler, I don't think I'm going to be "always on time" for a long time. Good luck!

Margot/NZ

I agree with Wendy, that people can change - and will do so when it's important enough to them to do so. I can so relate to your feeling of embarrassment - you articulated it so well I could almost feel myself cringe along with you!
As a sleep/warm bed lover myself, I find it hard to get going in the morning. On those days I do get up early, I find myself being early all day - and the payoff is worth the sacrifice of the extra minutes in bed. However I'm by no means able to get up early every day. I'm just trying one day at a time, and feeling good on the days when I manage to get up with or before the alarm. One useful strategy that's helped has been to swtich the alarm to the horrible noise rather than the radio - I can't ignore it, and I've put the machine too far away to hit without stretching out of the covers.

Melanie Bell

I have the same struggle, and for the same reason. To this day, my mom cannot get ANYWHERE on time, even with only herself to get ready. When she's watching my kids, I warn her that she'll need hours to get out the door, but it falls on deaf ears. I spent years of my adult life being late to everything before I decided that it had to change. I've gotten much better, but the stress I feel in trying to get us places on time makes for a very crazy (and a lot of times unhappy) atmosphere in our home. I hate it! I swear I get up earlier and earlier, and I'm still rushed at the last minute.

Now that I have a 5th child - one who needs to eat every hour or two and requires a whole lot of stuff everywhere we go - I'm really struggling. My kindergartner was as close to being late to school as possible without actually being late on Monday, and I was devastated. I've actually gotten her there on time, usually with time to spare, every day this school year, and I do not intend to break that streak. I have vowed that I will not train my children to be late to everything so that they don't have to fight to retrain themselves like I'm having to do.

Sorry, this comment is getting very long. Just wanted you to know that you're not alone. We can conquer this, and hopefully make our children's lives easier in doing so. :)

jamie `

I know well the tardy curse. I married Mr. Prompt and it has helped me become better but really, as you say, those late instincts are deep within us and very difficult to change. sigh.... see right now I should be getting ready so I can get to work on time but alas... I'll probably be late because I'm playing around on the computer... :)

Chris Selander

I love you and your lateness! I think if you arrived on time I would be afraid something was wrong :) Just Kidding. My hubby gets our kids ready for school and takes them each morning. At Ash's first parent teacher conference I noticed after we got home that it listed tardies as 28! Had to have a talk about getting her there on time. It will be interesting to see if she grows up to be ultra on-time like me or always late like her dad.

Wendy

I'm in the club, too. Yes, I even talked about this new year's resolution with the little boys ("Surely, we can manage to get you to school on time! Good grief, it doesn't even start until 12:30! What is my problem? Why are we always late by 5 to 10 minutes?"). So far, and it is only Jan. 19th - we've only been late once for arrival and once for pick-up (when I was waiting for the arrival of my brother's family, who, like me, are oft-times, late).

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