Now that’s something I wish everyone would learn to respect. I’ve hardly ever been late in my life because I would rather wait than have someone wait for me. I was late for a photo shoot once because I had to wait for a make-up artist who was so unforgivably late. That was a tough lesson because it made me look so unprofessional in the eyes of the photographer. Needless to say, I never worked with the same make-up artist again. Recently, I was late for a lecture because the traffic was much worse than usual and the allowance I gave even for a slight delay was simply not enough. I hated disrupting the flow of that endeavor, especially since I know how much work, time and love the speaker put into it.
Last week I was very upset when my son was nearly an hour late being dismissed from an activity. I had him pulled out of it. I didn’t want to do that but he would have come home even more delayed and I know my children well enough to know how much time they need in between activities so that they do not become overtired. Part of my anger had to do with not being informed of the delay. In this day and age of texting and cell phones, there is just no reason for that. The other is that punctuality is a core value in my family. Honoring time is more than just being on time. It shows respect for another human being and for social order. These are the things of such deep value that we often take for granted. It has to do with adhering to agreements. Our children would do well to learn these things early as it will make them conscientious when dealing with others. It teaches them to honor commitments and treat other people with consideration. We cannot teach them these things by lecturing. We simply have to be the example and hope that they are in environments that support, embrace and live these values as well.
When you are late for something–whatever it is–you exhibit thoughtlessness. My younger child had to wait an extra hour for his brother that day and that didn’t bode well for either of us. He was having bouts of mild asthma so I wanted him to rest, but he had begged to stay longer that day and I relented because I thought it would also be good for him to have some play time, as long as by 3pm, they were both heading home. That was an internal agreement in our family that, of course, no one else knew about. But these are the things that are compromised when others do not respect time. There are so many invisible threads that are broken when we are not disciplined about our time. Would somebody else’s plans be affected if you’re late? It is highly likely. There are so many things we don’t know about other people’s lives that we might be disrupting–even if we don’t mean to–when we take their time for granted. The children came home very tired and out-of-sorts that day, our rhythm was off and I had to play catch-up just to make sure they could get to bed on time doing all the things they still needed and wanted to do.
For us hands-on moms, time is such a valuable tool. I plan my days and weeks around how much time it takes to get from one place to another, what needs to be accomplished before and after, how long it takes to prepare a meal and for the kids to get ready, when they have to be out the door to get to school at a certain time, then working back to when they need to get up, on and on forward and backward, all with the thought of giving them enough time in the day to just breathe out as well because they really need that, too. They need time to come home and just read or play and generally decompress and gather themselves. That is such an important health-giving part of the day for them. They need to breathe between activities and not have their days jammed with action! I cannot run my household or my life and give my children the rhythm they so need if I didn’t have this respect for time! To me, it is a friend and ally and respecting and working with it really helps put much-needed order in our lives. My days flow better when I have planned my time well and we all breathe better because we’re not scrambling due to poor planning.
Having said that, I know that there are instances when delays cannot be avoided, but it helps a lot when we let others know of this delay so that they can adjust or respond accordingly. That is always better than putting people in a position that compromises them simply because they were not informed and given enough leeway to adjust to the change. If our children are the recipients of such sudden and unavoidable changes in their schedule, we can better inwardly carry the change for them if we have been informed. Then the day will somehow move more smoothly because we know what’s what.
There are many values we want our children to learn and imbibe but what we don’t often see how closely related one is to the other and how, if we are lax in one, we are affecting everything else. I hate lecturing my kids because it doesn’t work, makes me feel like a witch, and it’s not the best way to teach anything. I try to just live what I want them to learn. I want them to be respectful about everything towards everyone, or at least carry the honest and heartfelt striving for it. If I am disrespectful, lax and casual about time, I am already being inconsistent within myself about this value that I so want them to live.
When others are late and my children are caught up in it, it really frustrates me. These are the times I feel compelled to say something to the children about honoring time. And I do. When others behave in a way that goes against our core values, then I am forced to show them the discrepancy. I cannot let it slide. I worry that other authorities in their lives are undermined, which is also not healthy, so I never put the element of blame in it but rather talk about the value that needs to be put right.
Punctuality is more than just being on time. It is a spiritual practice that cultivates respect for other human beings. That is a foundation that is best laid for our children from the very beginning. It is also an invaluable practice that instills an attitude of inner discipline in everything. It is a gift that will serve our children well for life.