“You come from a long line of procrastinators,” my grandpa told me when I was young.
I didn’t know what that word meant back then, and it might have taken me thirty years to fully comprehend and appreciate his insights, but I have embraced my destiny.
I have become that mom who is always late.
As a teenager, I rejected the notion, especially since my mom was a professional procrastinator. For all the times I was the last kid to be picked up, from after-school activities, or tennis practice, or shopping at the mall, and had to wait for our wood-paneled station wagon to come barreling down the street, I vowed I would never do that to my kids.
Time and motherhood
Today as the mother of two young children, I think of those times and chuckle, picturing all the time I leave my house like the White Rabbit shouting “Hurry up. Let’s go! We’re going to be late!” as I attempt to corral my kids into the car. (It often amazes me how simple daily routines, like sitting in a car seat, can take so long. I’m pretty sure my kids would win an award for Most Distractions While Putting on a Seat belt.)
Last year, when both kids were in the same preschool, my lateness was legendary, even though the school was only seven minutes away. Countless times while dropping them off, we had to sneak in the side door because the main door was already locked. During pickup, I was always relieved to see other cars in the parking lot. Maybe my kids won’t be the last ones left on the playground. At least they have each other! I often rationalized. I had a wake up call one day as I raced across Isle of Palms and got pulled over. I only got a warning, and was very grateful, and haven’t gone over the speed limit on that road since, but I still felt like a slacker mom explaining to the teachers how I almost got a ticket.
Why am I always late?
I’ve spent a good amount of time wondering why am I always late for everything? I read an article recently that theorized that people who are always late are optimists. They always think they can accomplish more than they are able to in a short amount of time. While that is sort of true — “I can take a shower and get ready in ten minutes!” “I just have to send a quick email!” (These are common lies I tell myself when I usually don’t have enough time for either task.) I’d be hard-pressed to describe myself as an optimist. I think it’s more a complex combination of being a little unorganized, a tad lazy, and having a completely different construct of time than everyone else. I always think it takes about ten minutes to get anywhere in Mount Pleasant, or at least it should. I also think that if an event starts at six, then that means I leave at six.
It’s taken me years to perfect the art of procrastination. It started out gradually, putting off writing papers in college, waiting until the last minute to start long-term projects. It picked up steam in my 20’s when I was left to my own devices and saw time as a shifting guideline rather than a strict rule. One job in particular, I’m pretty sure I showed up late everyday for nearly four years.
But soon after my son was born, I realized that babies are the best excuse for being late. Babies are also great equalizers, putting a once-prompt parent and a never-prompt person on an even playing field with their scheduled unpredictability. I would wager 60% of my play dates end up with one mom either cancelling last-minute, or showing up more than half an hour late, scenarios that always turn out in the favor of this laid-back lady.
I tell myself that being perpetually tardy is just part of who I am, part of what makes me unique. It’s easier than accepting the cliché that, actually, I turned out just like my mom. Of course, my dad is super organized and always on time, but luckily I didn’t inherit any of those traits! I did marry someone who is always on time and seems to have an annoying amount of patience when it comes to my wayward relationship with time. Although he might have a slightly different take on all the times he’s had to wait, I am very grateful for his unhurried approach and gentle reminders, since he knows I hate being rushed (and yet I’m always in a rush — the irony is not lost on me).
My son just started Kindergarten and the amount of time-oriented information at an elementary school is slightly overwhelming with lunchtime, snack time, paperwork deadlines, drop-off lines, pickup times and bus schedules. I consider it a success that he hasn’t missed the bus in the morning the first eleven days, although today was a close call.
I have decided that this school year I will make an extra effort to be on time because in a society that prides itself on punctuality, I don’t want my kids to be penalized for my master procrastinator status…at least not right away. They will have to learn in their own time how to handle a mom who never wears a watch, or knows what day it is and shows up late for her own kids’ birthday parties. But I’m not worried, there’s still plenty of time for that.