I recently saw a meme posted to a social-media site that said something along the lines of “Having children: Your way of showing the world you no longer intend to be on time — ever.”
Although several site users had added comments beneath the graphic agreeing with it or indicating they could relate, I actually found it mildly annoying. That’s because I find it mildly annoying when parents use their children as an excuse to be late.
Yes, it’s true — parents often are late. However, I’m here to tell you that 99 percent of the time, it does not have to be that way. Parents allow it to be that way. I can say that without offending anybody because I’m a parent, right?
Now, people with children certainly do need longer to get ready and get everyone out the door — that’s undeniable. But that doesn’t necessarily mean moms and dads will forever be late. It just means they need to get up earlier.
I get up at 5:30 a.m. so I can get myself dressed and ready before I wake my family up for work and school at 6:30 a.m. I see them off, waving happily from the driveway, at 7:30 a.m. I then briefly run back into the house to grab my purse and lunchbox, turn off the coffeemaker and any other appliances, feed our pets and lock up. Most days, I make it to work between 8:30-9 a.m. So, basically, by the time I plop down at my desk, I’ve been wide awake for three and a half hours.
Do I enjoy getting up 3½ hours before I need to be at work? No, of course not. Is it necessary to ensure I won’t be late? Yes, definitely. I go through the same routine if we have somewhere to be on weekends — everyone is up a good two or three hours before we need to leave the house.
I had this mentality long before I was a parent, and I remember being told countless times that I’d change my tune once my little one came along. Well, I haven’t. In fact, one holiday experience I had in my child-free days pretty much led me to swear up and down that I’d never blame lateness on my kids.
Several years ago, my husband and I were supposed to have Thanksgiving dinner at a friend’s house two states away from where we were living. The hosts told us dinner would be served at 3 p.m. We left our house at 8 a.m., careful to give ourselves plenty of time for the five-hour drive so we wouldn’t be late. We arrived just after 1 p.m. and I helped our hostess in the kitchen. By 3 p.m., everything was ready. I was especially proud of my two contributions to the meal, which I’d gotten up at 5:30 a.m. to prepare — homemade baked macaroni and cheese and a large, gooey butter cake.
Too bad I never got to taste any of the food while it was fresh, hot and delicious. Our host insisted we wait for two guests who, along with their toddler, had yet to show up. Well, 3 p.m. turned into 4 p.m. and we were still waiting for the no-show family of three. The food began to get cold. Our host phoned the absent party and reported back to all the guests that the people we were waiting for were late because their toddler was sleeping. I remember thinking, “What? Sleeping? He’s 2! Pick him up and put him in the car.”
The couple and their toddler finally arrived about 1½ hours late, and we were allowed to eat. To be fair, the late party had told our hosts to go ahead and start without them, but the hosts wouldn’t think of it. I dished up and made absolutely no apologies for popping my plate in the microwave to reheat the once-sumptuous meal.
At the time I didn’t know it, but now I do understand that toddlers don’t like to be prematurely woken from naps. When this is happens, they’re usually cranky for a good hour afterward. Still, I maintain my original belief that the sleeping child should have been woken. If the boy’s mother knew that the host’s holiday meal would interfere with her toddler’s nap schedule — a schedule she refused to alter — she shouldn’t have accepted the invitation.
I know, that sounds harsh. But let me tell you what else is harsh: Keeping more than a dozen guests waiting while Thanksgiving dinner morphs into a cold, congealed mess.
While I certainly understand, forgive and can relate to those isolated, unpreventable incidents that prompt tardiness — illness, messy spills, potty emergencies, etc. — I’m still a firm believer that parents can and should be on time. It just takes a lot of planning and a little flexibility.