Friday, October 23, 2015

How to Be Late

I think there are two kinds of people in this world:  those who are late and those who aren't.  Some people seem to be born with the ability to run on time, and some of us ... well, we have to learn how.  Having been in the former group most of my life, there's a sizeable build up of guilt that triggers when I'm running late.  I don't know about you, but guilt doesn't bring out my best behavior.  Guilt makes me want to avoid speaking the truth (I'm late), which makes me less likely to be considerate of others (call ahead to say I'm late).

The discussion around punctuality is typically centered around Don't Ever Be Late!  Ideally, standard practice is to be habitually early, but in the (hopefully rare) event that circumstances beyond our control prevent an on time arrival, we need a plan so that the bad behavior of the guilty late-comer doesn't take over as default.

Our HomeSchool Co-op runs on a clear outline of expectations and procedures.  If you're late, there's a defined process to follow (text Pam!) and clear consequences if you don't follow it (a demerit for being late). As a new HomeSchool Mom, I was super anxious to get it all right, and that dreaded demerit was the spectre in more than one bad dream for me.

The first time we were late for Enrichment classes, I did it my way:  desperately trying to cover my guilt by rushing, completely stressed out, driving too fast, rushing breathlessly into the building, dragging two children by the hand and tongue lashing the other two for moving too slowly.

Then I tried it the other way:  late, desperately in need of a break, calling to confess we would probably arrive a few minutes after the bell.  What I got back was complete grace, and just like that, a topsy-turvy morning was set right by the simple act of taking responsibility met with a gracious response.

What I've come to understand and appreciate is that our co-op rules have provided not only an excellent rehab opportunity for guilty-late me, but also a great chance to teach my kids how to be late.  To be clear, I don't advocate being late - you should make punctuality a habit (I wrote }here{ about how to do that).  But in the event one of your passengers gets carsick, or you get stuck behind a tractor on a country road, or you have to go back to get the class project which adds 20 minutes to your commute, you can still be late responsibly.

Here's how we've learned to handle it when we're running behind schedule:

Call Ahead

Don't stress yourself out for 30 minutes thinking you'll make up time in traffic and arrive on time after all - as soon as you know you'll be late, just call.  It feels  so.  much.  better.  You're exerting a positive on the day that didn't start off so great - now you don't have to drive like a maniac, and you won't get a ticket or have an accident because of careless driving.  You also know that you've been considerate of others and have given them adequate time to cover your spot or use their time differently until you arrive, which feels pretty fantastic and grownup.

When You Arrive

You'll be tempted to rush in like an out of breath hurricane when you reach your destination.  Don't do that.  Rushing only makes you feel more flustered.  Remember:  slow is smooth and smooth is fast.  It's a distraction to have someone rush in all dramatic because they're late.  The transition will go faster and you'll be out of the embarrassing spotlight more quickly if you'll just be calm.  If it's appropriate, apologize to the proper authority for being late, but don't take up time to give excuses or tell your story about the neighbor's buffalo blocking your driveway, even if it is true.  Your goal is to mesh into the activity in progress as seamlessly as possible, and as is so often the case, it isn't all about you anyway :o)  Just enter quickly and quietly and go on about your day.

Even if you're late, you still have power over how it will affect other people and how significantly it impacts your day.  I have to admit being on time is something I'm still learning, and I still backslide on occasion.  But knowing how I'm going to handle it if I'm going to be late makes it significantly less stressful.

Shared joy is doubled joy ... let's double the joy for both of us - what are you most grateful for today? Click below to leave your comment. I'll go first :

  1. A late-comer can become an early arrival ... I'm so grateful that people change!