No, I’m not talking about leaving the lights on every time I come up from the basement, or chronically abandoning my empty travel mugs in the car. I’m not talking about taking off my jewelry at night and leaving it on the bathroom counter, or neglecting the mail for days.
I’m not even talking about answering my phone when it rings (Sorry, Mom).
My worst habit, the one I’m finally resolved to kick, is the habit of BEING LATE.
I’ve been a late arriver for as long as I can remember. I learned it honest (Sorry again, Mom). I’m not usually REALLY late. Two to five minutes tardy is when I tend to roll in.
For the last seven years, I’ve told myself and others that I was late because of the kids. And sometimes that’s the case. I mean, the kids DO pull shenanigans like waiting until we are going out the door to go take care of serious bathroom business, or spilling a glass of milk on the rug just as we’re about to leave.
Really, though, there’s a solid chance I’d be late despite those things.
For starters, I’m classically crummy at underestimating how long it takes me to get somewhere. When we go “to town,” we have a twenty minute drive. If I left thirty minutes before start time, I’d be golden. Instead, I head out to the car at the twenty ‘til mark, then rush my way there.
I’m also always tempted to accomplish just one more thing before setting out. I’ll just put these toys away real quick. I’ll just throw this roast in the slow cooker. I’ll just fold this basket of laundry before I go. That five or ten minutes of “I’ll just…” is the five or ten minutes that makes me LATE!
My husband despises this habit. He’s one of those people (Perhaps you are, too?) who feels that tardiness is incredibly rude – that showing up late says to everyone else, “I don’t care about your time.”
For us latecomers, though, this really isn’t the case. We DO care about other people. We DO value their time and efforts. We’ve just established some undesirable patterns that need to be replaced with planning and intention.
So here’s my attack plan on lateness in three (I wish I could say easy) steps:
Plan Ahead – This is especially important for parents who are getting multiple human beings ready to go somewhere. I can’t wait until the minute we’re supposed to leave to help three little boys wiggle into their stiff church shoes on Sundays. This alone takes five to ten minutes! Packing lunches, letting the dog out, gathering warm weather clothes – it all takes time. We truly need to be preparing to get out the door thirty minutes before departure time.
Build a Cushion – Factoring in EXTRA time allows those incidental things to occur without stress. If a kid has to use the restroom, or I have to run back in for my forgotten coffee mug, it’s no big deal, because we allowed a cushion of extra time for things just like these.
Go Time is Go Time – This one’s tough for me. This one means that when it’s time to go, we are getting in the car regardless of toys on the floor or crumbs on the counter. We are going no matter who has a dirty mouth and NO MATTER HOW my hair looks.
So far, the plan has worked. I’m ten days in, and I haven’t been late yet. There were a couple times I was EXACTLY on time, which still felt a bit stressful, but there were also times I was fifteen minutes early. I even took the back way to town twice and enjoyed the dawn scenery.
I can honestly say, even this early on in the pursuit, that the change is making life so much better — so much more PEACEFUL.
I don’t spend our departure moments hollering at my kids “HURRY UP! WE’RE GONNA BE LATE!” I don’t have to tornado through the house before we leave or push the speed limit on my way to town only to arrive with a stomach ulcer and sweaty pits.
The best part, though, is that instead of having all eyes on me as I ashamedly rush in late to events (an introvert’s nightmare), I arrive with time to settle in, relax, and chat with others as the room fills with people.
It’s pretty great.
I know I won’t be perfect at this new plan. I’m sure I will occasionally end up late, because STUFF happens, even to the best planners. But I’m pleased at the prospect of being able to look up from the speedometer and the dashboard clock to catch a morning moon — the prospect of less rushing and a greater sense of peace.
Tell me about you. Do you share the vice of tardiness? How does it affect you and your family? If you’ve kicked the habit, help a sister out by sharing your best tips!
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