Before I had kids, I was on time everywhere I went. Early even. I was so early I could run an errand before I was supposed to be somewhere and still, STILL, be five minutes early. Then: kids. I had to remember to pack a bag with diapers and wipes. Extra clothes. Burp cloths and teething toys. And heaven forbid I actually remember to grab the damn thing BEFORE walking out of the house and locking the door. For the first two years of Max's life I was the mom that rushed into the doctor's office or restaurant flustered and apologetic for being late.
The two most powerful warriors are patience and time.
Then you know what happened? Isaac came. I had to do it all over again but this time there was already Max. Max who wanted to put his own shoes on. And bring a toy. And help lock the door. And remember he needed to go potty. And help unlock the door. And get a different toy. And help lock the door. And climb into the car himself. And buckle himself (knowing good and well that Mama was going to check that five-point harness anyway).
And then I realized why a friend had told me years before I had Max, "Just expect me to be 10-15 minutes late."
Fast-forward to 2018 and I while I have things a little more under control, the process of getting ready to go ANYWHERE is not pretty. For close to a year I taught Music Together with the wonderful people of Prelude Music Classes for Children. For me, leaving the Prelude team was one of the few difficult things about leaving Houston, but teaching there brought on some unexpected stress.
About halfway though my time at Prelude, it became apparent to me that the sitter I had hired was no longer a good fit for our boys. Left scrambling to find someone new, I discovered that some of the other Prelude teachers were looking for childcare solutions as well. We decided to trade off watching each other's kiddos while we taught. It worked great...until I realized that because I was now having to prepare for the boys to be out of the house all morning long, my Wednesday mornings had turned into a complete nightmare.
First was the alarm. Oh the alarm. Panicking when one kid would wake up before I was ready to "manage" him. Waking up the kid that wanted to sleep in. Packing lunches. Yelling at both kids to get dressed and brush their teeth and make their beds. Hurrying them through breakfast. Not sitting with them at breakfast because I needed to finish getting ready. Tapping the steering wheel nervously and obnoxiously when I had to sit through a red light more than once. It was awful.
Until one Wednesday, literally mid-yell, when I just stopped. I closed my eyes. I sat down in the middle of the boys' bedroom floor and just stopped. This was not me. This was not us. This was not what anyone, most especially my boss at Prelude, would want me to be. The world was not going to end if I was not 20 minutes early to class. Maybe a parent would get there before me and he or she would have to wait a few minutes outside. They would understand. I would be okay if I didn't have time to review every line of my lesson plan before class. I could warm up my voice in the car.
So I just...stopped...rushing.
I smiled at them for the first time that day. I gave them the hugs they requested in the middle of brushing their teeth. I stood and listened patiently while they told their dad "one quick thing" before he had to leave for work. I let Max tie his own shoes (OMG so S...L...O...W).
Nature does not hurry, yet everything is accomplished.
Punctuality is important but that day I realized I was going about teaching its importance the wrong way. Now, instead of nagging at them to hurry up, I try explaining the importance of being respectful of other people's time. I name what the possible consequences of tardiness are. The parent waiting for me might have a child with them that needs to go to bathroom. What if that child has an accident? If they are late to their music lessons, their time will be cut short because someone else has a lesson right after them and it wouldn't be fair for that person to have to wait. Do they like waiting when their lessons start late?
They're only six and four so don't picture some Utopia where my kids are committed to doing everything they're told the first time, where I never lose my cool or make requests through clenched teeth. I still lack a significant amount of patience, but since that day I've tried really hard to keep things in perspective.
The saying goes that the days are long, but the years are short. Let your kids take their time while they can. They have a lifetime of alarm clocks and schedules and deadlines ahead of them. Breathe deeply and stop rushing.
Unless it's bedtime. Then you speed read that Dr. Seuss book, sing those lullabies in double time and hightail it out of their room fast enough to make their precious heads spin. You'll be halfway through your glass of wine before they realize you skipped three pages.