Tuesday, August 7, 2012

On punctuality.

A friend and I were discussing punctuality today, and because she lives 25 minutes away from me and my children fell asleep in the car, I had time to actually think about it enough to decide, "I should blog about that!" So here goes...

Quite often, my family is late for events. Most recently, it was the wedding of a friend of my husband's.  I'm not going to point fingers at the cause, but I know that for most people with young children, a common excuse is "X pooped just as we were going out the door!" or "We were waiting for them to wake up from their naps," or "We had to move the ___ carseat from one car to the other." 

Blame the kids, especially if they're babies or toddlers and still have an inability to bathe, clothe and feed themselves. I've done it, I've seen it done, and it works as a legitimate and face-saving excuse. It is undeniable that kids, especially young ones, take time.

Nobody can look at those cute faces and say, "How dare you make your parents late? Don't you know that this was important? Don't you realize that we can't all stand around and wait for your family to show up before we start?"

It would seem that children are the ultimate scapegoat.  Babies have no concept that pooping just as they are sat in their carseat constitutes a 5-15 minute delay (depending on the severity). Toddlers don't watch for minus 30, then refuse to wear pants, causing their parents to spend the extra time wrestling them on. 

Yet, I'm beginning to wonder if it isn't simply poor planning on the part of the parents (well... me) when it comes to getting ourselves (myself) somewhere.  Take the wedding for example... I planned a hair appointment the morning of, which ran till one hour before the wedding.  I had to travel 15 minutes back to my house, and from our house to the church, it was a 40 minute drive.  This left us 5 minutes lee-way, which might have been perfect if the kids had been dressed for the wedding when I got home, and we had known exactly how to get to the church.  Thinking back, perhaps planning a hair appointment for that day was trying to cram in too much.  We won't go into my husband's role in the occurrence. As a side note, the haircut kind of looked like a grown-out mullet - which is, in my opinion, not worth anyone's time.

My thoughts on punctuality are a little deeper than just anecdotal ramblings, entertaining as they are to write about.  I started to ask myself today what being late says about me as a person and us as a family.
It hints of disorganization (guilty), dawdling (guilty), trying to cram too much into one day - or the hour before going out the door (guilty), or not feeling an event is important enough to be on time for (sometimes guilty).

I also thought of times when others were late to events or get-togethers that I'd planned.  It ranged from slightly annoyed to trembling with anger - though that one was a rarity.  Resignation fits into another category for those who are "always late."  You know, those people. Everyone has those people.  During some of those more chaotic times in our life, my family has been those people. I hate being those people.  Living with the expectation that you'll be letting people down in some way every time you go out is depressing.

I've been telling myself for awhile that I must shape up and manage to get my family to and from places on time.  My conversation with my friend today may have been (we'll see) the turning point and the key to the beginning of our success as a punctual family.   What being on time says to people is discipline, reliability, enthusiasm and a plethora of positive things. There is no downside to being on time, except perhaps that you may have to sacrifice some so-called fashion, by not being late.

The most important thing I can think of when it comes to punctuality is holiness.  To build a holy family takes discipline on the part of its leadership (the parents). I realize that if I want to teach my children to care about others, to be considerate of other's feelings and needs and to truly love others as they want to be loved, being on time is simply one of the small, but fundamental things I can do to set that example. 

Granted, there are legitimate reasons to be late, but poopy diapers, car accidents and other emergencies aside, being on time is possible too when you get down to it.  If I live in a city where it snows for most of the winter, I should add extra time to my journey instead of blaming the weather. If I need to bring food to a pot-luck, I should add the time it takes to pick something up or make something into my plans.  It's important to have some sort of plan. When I was in my teens, I never called my friends... because they would always call me and have a plan.  Being on my own in university was like a smack on the head saying "Welcome to life! Adults make plans. Leaders make plans. Parents make plans."

 For me, being on time may mean cereal instead of pancakes, or laying out clothes the night before.  It may mean sacrificing a little face-time with the mirror or lingering over the morning paper.   With two or three or six children, it may mean realizing that it seems to take more people exponentially longer to get out the door and into the car, and not planning as many things into my day. In the end, it's about the people I've made plans with, not about myself.  It's about getting it out of our egocentric minds that the party begins when we get there.