Tuesday, March 28, 2017

How late people are not dead to me: An on-timer's rant.

Timing. Good timing. Bad timing. 
Being late. Being early. Being on time.

So much of life is about time. Me time. Husband and wife time. Play time. Cleanup time. Home time.

A friend asked if maybe I'd write about how I, a mother of four fairly little kids, manage to arrive on time, almost every time, "just so I can learn your ways."

I laughed. Because my "on-time" habit is not organization, or because I have it together. I didn't think anything of being on time for things till I noticed, sometime after becoming a mom, that it is a habit, but it takes real effort. 

I had to really sit down and think about this before writing about it, because guys, I'm not trying to be condescending. I get that the struggle to arrive on time is real for well - HALF the people I know, and I love you. There's a reason we're still friends. Probably because you're likeable enough that I can put aside my irritation, but I'm still going to be pretty blunt throughout.

The first reason I'd say I like to arrive on time for things is because I feel pressured by the idea of someone waiting for me.  I don't want them to be as mad or irritated as I am when I'm the one sitting around for 15 minutes waiting for someone. There, that's the truth. I could say it's because I "care so much about the other person," or something fluttery and selfless - and I do care - but truthfully, I just hate to be perceived as unreliable and rude. And yes, in case you're wondering, that's the harsh judgement I place on people who are late. That's on me, and I'm sorry late friends, I'm trying to be more charitable, God help me, but I can't help but think "there is NO way your baby's diaper explodes just as you're on your way out the door 3-4 times a week."
Maybe my patience is why God gave me late friends - but don't think you're doing me a favour!

The second reason I'm thinking about for arriving on time is plain old respect. There, I said it: I think it is disrespectful to arrive late for something that has a start time. If it doesn't really matter when you get there, why do we set times for classes, or gatherings, or church? 
I'm pulling my hair out just trying to wrap my mind around why these times aren't tattooed on other people's brains like they are on mine.

As for things that don't have a "start", like if a friend says they'll be there at 9ish - fine, anytime near 9 will work (but I don't think 9:59 or anything after 9:30 is "9ish").

Also, I have to ask, what about your own self-respect? When I ask you to my home, I want you to be here! I like you! Do you not think your presence is valuable and desired? When it's church or a class that has a definite start time, don't you hate missing the first part? The acknowledgment of people you know beforehand? The settling in and actually removing your coat? How about not having people stare at you as you shush your family who has just been in a flurry of activity but now has to stay still and quiet? 

I don't get it. Maybe a habitually late person can write a post on the "True Beauty of Habitual Lateness, and Why On-Time People are Silly." 

And I do feel silly. I feel silly sitting around waiting for something that is supposed to start at 10, that ends up starting at 10:30 because only 3 people are there! Let me tell you, we three on-timers are thinking, "I could've stopped for coffee. I could've shaved my legs. My kids could be wearing matching socks! My dishes could be done if we'd just decided to start at 10:30 instead of 10!"

But we know that if it started at 10:30, we'd just be waiting till 11. And when the late-arrivals walk in with coffee we just want to dump it on them. Oops.

Wow. I didn't think I was that bitter. 

Deep breaths.

So here's the "magical" formula I use for arriving on time: 

The time I need to arrive minus the time it takes to get ready (accounting for variables like poo-slposions if I have an infant, or lost shoes if it's a certain kid of mine) minus the travel time (accounting for variables like weather and traffic) minus 5 minutes of cushion time for any of the things that could happen when you have 4 kids to get somewhere (and you're kind of neurotic and sometimes check if you left the stove on after everyone is out the door).

Of course, the "magic" formula depends on me knowing that it takes ~5.5 minutes to clean up a poo-sploded baby and put them in new clothes, or that it takes my shoe-losing kid about 2 minutes to run around looking for them. It also depends on my having as much prepped for leaving as possible (actually putting diapers in the diaper-bag is key), and because kids need long transitions, meeting their basic needs before go-time so they'll happily get in my vehicle. But I'm also not against dragging a kicking-toddler and strapping them in their car seat in pants they don't want to wear if it means I'm not late. I'm heartless, I know.

If I do arrive super-early for something (which rarely happens, because with practice, I'm better at time management) I have a book handy or know where the nearest coffee place is, and I bask in the luxury of that! I don't feel like I could be doing something else, because I work hard to be on time, and respect for others, myself and not missing the beginning of something is worth a couple extra minutes of time to just be (or wash breakfast off a little face, and remind the others of the bribe I promised if they're good).

It's work, this business of being on time. It's mostly a hard, not fun process for me, and I hope I was real enough with you to justify my rants about late people. Again, late friends, I really do love you. I don't understand you, but I love you.

1 comment:

Let's talk. I love hearing what others have to say, even if we don't agree. Just be nice. Thanks!