Confession: I am obnoxiously early.
It’s a sickness, I realize. But I hate to be late. HATE.
So, I always overestimate how long it’s going to take me to do anything, to get anywhere. Stopping for gas? A good twenty minutes! Picking up my neighbor? An extra ten, easily. Finding parking downtown? Fifteen minutes at least, especially with all of those one-way streets.
But, I figure with a good book, a charged phone, and a coffee shop on almost every corner, being early bugs no one (except for my children) and, in fact, means one very important thing: I understand the value of other people’s time.
Being early is not only good for the people who will never have to wait for me, the people to whom I will never have to say, “I am so sorry I am so late!” it’s also good for me. It means I can decompress before a meeting or an appointment, I can visit the bathroom, I can touch up my lip gloss, I can answer all the texts and emails I didn’t read because I was driving. No one will know that I spent the entire drive downtown twitching and sweating and worrying about finding parking.
I am always the early-to-on-time person who buys the movie tickets and waited—first patiently and then increasingly impatiently—outside for the late people to show up. I always hold the table. I always volunteer to drive.
And look—I GET IT. I get that things come up, babysitters are late, kids are, well, kids, traffic can be unpredictable. Things happen and not everyone can be obnoxiously early like I am. It’s really when people just have no concept of time that I get a little
a lot annoyed. Someone who leaves 3 minutes to get gas when he knows it really, actually takes 20, the mom who knows her kids are slooooooooow in the morning but still doesn’t factor that time into her estimation of how long it’ll take her to get to my house to pick my ready-and-waiting kids up, the friend who simply mismanages her time.
“Oh, you said 8:00? I figured that 8:25 is a normal time to show up!”
Actually, no. It’s not. 8:00 means that I will be there at 8. 8:05 is normal, 8:10, even. I’ll even give you 8:15, if you text me to tell me that you are running late. But 8:25? No. That’s not normal. It means you don’t value that I will be standing somewhere, waiting for you for an extra 25 minutes. And chances are good that I was there at 7:45 and already had a coffee and caught up on Gawker and Buzzfeed and read three blog posts.
For this reason, this value of time reason, something sort of ate at me a tiny bit when I read that wonderful post about the mama who no longer tells her daughter to hurry up. I loved the article, I really did. The sentiment is absolutely lovely. For someone who is Type Triple A and always on the go, go, go, there’s something amazing about needing a simple and carefree child to teach us that sometimes we need to stop and smell the roses—or eat the sno-cone, as it were.
It’s important to do this. 1000%. To stop. To slow down. To not always be forcing ourselves to rush. To be less hurried, frazzled, frantic.
But, it’s also important to teach our children the value of other people’s time.
When you have appointments and obligations and people are waiting for you, it’s okay to tell your children to hurry up. In fact, it’s IMPERATIVE to teach them that they can’t just mosey through life. Because you really don’t want your children to grow up to be the adults who keep other people waiting at movie theaters; you don’t want them to be the ones who are constantly apologizing—“I am so sorry I am so late!”—because they never really learned how to manage time properly, how to gauge how long something will actually take.
So, I think, truly, there needs to be balance.
We need to live in the moment sometimes, let our children lead the way, to lead the pace. Sometimes.
We also need to guide our children sometimes, to tell them to hurry up, to lead the pace. Sometimes.
And to make sure they always have a book handy.