Can Lateness Be Unlearned?

September 22, 2009 at 2:13 am 7 comments

white-rabbit-with-watch-5It was the third day in a row that I found myself signing Reagan into her Toddling Tots class five minutes late. It was also the third day in a row that another parent, one tot in his arms, the other by the hand, hustled in right behind me. I sheepishly said to him, “Looks like we’re the late parents.” He let out a deep breath and replied, “I am always the latest.” Trying to make him feel better, I offered, “Well, you have two kids, I just have one.” But, the truth is, we both knew our personal circumstances really made no difference. A late person is just that: always late. I should know. I’m one of them.

I can try to pat myself on the back and say, “Well, I’m never more than 10 or 15 minutes late,” but, no matter. Whether it’s 10 minutes or an hour, once your friends start to plan their arrival time around your expected arrival time, you’ve already lost a certain amount of their respect. Timeliness is about respecting others’ time and honoring your commitments. No one likes to be made to wait. And, arriving late to a classroom disrupts the class and takes the teachers attention away from their planned activities with those that are there on time.

If you’re a late person, I don’t have to tell you, being on our end of the situation (we caused) isn’t fun either. The stress we put on ourselves rushing to the destination is never worth whatever we may have achieved in those 10 extra minutes we spent dilly-dallying around. Perfectionism is usually to blame. It’s the drive to make every minute count that keeps us from leaving early. We don’t want to be the ones waiting around when we could be accomplishing something, so we try to cram as much into the time we have as we can. The problem is, we always overestimate how much time that is.

So, if I know all this why am I still late? It is my absolute worst habit. The thing that my military/commercial airline pilot husband and I argue the most about. The quality I dislike the most about myself. I’ve read all the tips and tricks on how to fix it. I can’t fool myself into thinking it’s 2:30 when it’s really 2:15 just because I set my clocks back. I’ve had personal coaching that held me to account. I’ve done seminars that reinforced the idea of personal accountability. And while I have improved, I’m still not cured.

I am not one to blame my parents for my misgivings, but I do believe lateness is a learned behavior. My mother was late for everything. And, consequently, my brothers and I were late for: doctor’s appointments, sports practices, birthday parties, school… I rarely made it to school before homeroom started. A lot of times I’d miss homeroom altogether. Ugggh. How I dreaded coming in late with a note every day. At a time when you’re just trying to fit in, few things make you feel more set apart. I swore I’d never do that to my little girl.

I imagine I can relate to how the real Alice that inspired Alice in Wonderland must have felt:

“Dean Liddell, Alice’s father, might have been an inspiration for the White Rabbit. The Dean was always running late as well; when Alice was a child, there was no west entrance to the Christ Church Cathedral and the Dean would normally have had to leave the Deanery, walk along Tom Quad, around the Cloisters and into the Cathedral through the south door. Therefore he was notorious for being late for services.” – taken from Lenny’s Alice in Wonderland.

This is not something I want to pass on. And, yet, here I am. Already doing it. Knowing I was going to write this post, we arrived 15 minutes late for class yesterday. I think even the “always the latest” guy beat me there this time.

Am I now destined to play the part of the White Rabbit? If only there were a magic elixir I could drink…

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White Rabbit image from Lenny’s Alice in Wonderland

Are you a late person and how has it affected your life? Is lateness “cureable?” If so, how did you “cure” yourself?

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7 Comments Add your own

  • 1. A Mama's Blog  |  September 22, 2009 at 1:54 pm

    I used to always be late. I am not sure what happened, but it seems like after I had kids, it got better. I am not always on time, but it has gotten better. Sometimes I think I can just get that one extra thing done before I leave, and that is what makes me late. When I don’t do that and just leave, I’m on time. It is funny because it is never something that is life or death- I’d try to unload the dishwasher, or put away some clothes…tasks that could wait until I got home.

    I’d suggest stop doing those one or two things you are trying to squeeze in before you leave. I have also found, like you wrote, it is SO much nicer and less stressful to realize you are going to be on time, or even a few minutes early. It is worth it!

    Reply
    • 2. Mama Bird  |  September 22, 2009 at 3:18 pm

      Yes! It is that one stupid thing you try to get out of the way. I’ve also learned to just skip it. If it isn’t life or death, head out the door! Hate how it still gets me sometimes, though. Overall, I’d say I’ve improved. Having a kid and a very timely husband has helped!

      Reply
  • 3. MiaHysteria  |  September 22, 2009 at 8:25 pm

    You completely nailed it. I try to cram on more thing into any spare moment I might have and constantly underestimate my timing. Though for me, as with A Mama’s Blog, after kids, I’m just not as late as I was. Usually no more than 5 minutes (max)….it used to be at least 15 minutes late….

    Reply
    • 4. Mama Bird  |  September 23, 2009 at 12:58 pm

      It’s the underestimating our time thing I don’t get. How does that happen? Seems like we perfectionists should be clock-conscious!

      Reply
  • 5. pagebyrner  |  September 23, 2009 at 12:33 am

    I have no qualms being late to the doctor’s office, they’re always running oh, an hour or so behind. And is there anything worse than being stuck in a waiting room (or on an airplane) with a person who wants to engage in a full-blown conversation but the only common denominator you have is the weather?
    THEM: Some weather we’re having, huh?
    ME: Yup.
    Maybe this is the reason for my lousy punctuality, subconsciously I realize my day is filled with small talk and I’m in no rush to begin.

    Reply
    • 6. Mama Bird  |  September 23, 2009 at 1:06 pm

      Uggh. There’s nothing I hate more than small talk. Not a phone person either. Bad with e-mail too. When I get emails from friends asking me how I’m doing, I want to say, “Don’t you read my blog? Or my Facebook page?” 😛 I realize this is sad on my part, not theirs’.

      Reply
  • 7. Brandie  |  September 23, 2009 at 10:50 pm

    Does it count that I WANT to be on time? The only thing I can make it on time to is church and that is only if my husband doesn’t go with us. I don’t get it. He makes me late. But mostly traffic makes me late. I hate that I have to leave extra early to account for traffic. It irritates me. So really it’s not my fault! LOL

    Reply

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