Monday, June 14, 2010

Late (4.1.09)

Friday morning at 9:15, we're due at Irving Park and Pulaski in fifteen minutes and I'm running around the house frazzled, tracking my keys, my wallet, a hat and a box of tampons.

"Are you okay?" asks my husband, who doesn't have scheduled meetings on Friday mornings.

"I'm late and it's my period," I reply on the run.

"Then you're not late," quips my too-clever hubby, giving me the only laugh of the morning.

As much as I dislike those doubt-filled days before the happy monthly reminder that I'm not pregnant, I hate the other kind of Late even more.

The kind of late when the girls are supposed to be somewhere and I've ditzed around all morning and now Eleanor is pretending to be Super-Nora with her shirt as a cape instead of getting dressed and how could I stop her game, really?

To be perfectly honest, I think my degree of tardiness is directly proportional to the expected tolerance of the people on the other end. For doctor appointments and school we are at the door on the dot. (Generally.) Birthday parties, playgroup, park district classes? Eh. But even though our arrival time, traffic notwithstanding, is entirely within my control, when we're not on time, I still feel stressed.

Perhaps this is another insidious effect of the fairy tale that we grow up with. Yes, I'm going to blame Cinderella again. Besides teaching girls to expect problem-solving princes and wear ballgowns to church, the ancient story of the girl left in rags at the side of the road probably instills in us a pathological dread of being late. I know I hear gong-gong-gong in my head when our window of opportunity is slowing closing and there's still a list of things to do before we get out the door.

I don't like being late. I don't want to be that mom. I don't want to be the one about whom everyone else needs to exercise patience. I want to be the one exercising the patience!

There are a couple of schools of thought about being late. One school (the one that begins precisely at 8:57 a.m., can't you just see the principal in her severe glasses and stiff wool suit and the desks in straight rows?) holds to the opinion that being late is discourteous and selfish and a bad habit that could be eradicated with some simple strategic planning. The meeting will begin on time, whether or not you are there. Thank you in advance for your promptness. Five dollars per minute late fee for the day care center.

The other school of thought (bead curtains and pillows on the floor) understands that kids will be kids, these things happen and no one is going to die if your child is five minutes late to dance class. Hey, we'll see you when we see you.

My first daughter was born at Prentice, (the old spaceship looking women's hospital, not the new luxury hotel-looking one, you lucky new moms) and Northwestern offered a new moms class that offered so many things I was needing in those scary first days - friendship with other moms in the same rocky boat, snacks, consultation with med professionals, even a sweet RN who was just there to hold the babies for us...Sigh. And one of the best things was that the whole class lasted over two hours so even if you were really really late, you still got some facetime with friends.

And we all know what it's like getting out of the house with your first baby. You have to find time to get yourself cleaned up and try to face the limited choices in your closet for a post-baby-body, then there's the packing, the dressing, the changing, the feeding, the changing again...

My too-often solution to avoid the stress of being late? We don't go. I skipped soccer this week and last week we just ate lunch at home instead of trying to eat out before the movie. I've had it easy for the past five or so years. Our schedule is largely optional and completely non-essential, except for kindergarten, that starts in the afternoon, giving us plenty of time to lollygag around and then rush at the last minute. Next year Mia's first grade will start at 8:55 am. I'm in for it.

In some countries, I've heard, there is much less attention paid to calibrated start times. In some places, I've heard, the collective experience begins once everyone gathers and no one really knows when that will be. So the first to arrive wait in the shade of the trees and fan themselves and talk together. Where is that wonderful place? Oh God, it's probably a flight away and I'll need to be at the gate two hours ahead of time and we should budget an extra hour in case traffic is bad...I should have left yesterday.

Now I have got to run!

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