Once you have kids, being on time becomes incredibly challenging. The amount of work that is required to get out the door is monumental. Each step forward can mean another step back, and every completed task leaves a new one in its place.
So, what is it that makes getting out on time so hard? KIDS. They need time to process. Time to eat. Time to get dressed. Time to tell you a very long-winded detailed story about something that happened to them when they were a baby. Time to have a meltdown (or two). They need time.
I do my very best to get where we need to be on time, but things aren't quite as simple as they used to be. Having three kids (3-years-old and under) makes this experience a lot different. For example...
Before kids: Wake up to an alarm clock, press snooze a few times. Drink coffee or tea while it's hot. Turn on the news. Shower. Get dressed in nice clothes. Hair. Makeup. Drive quietly to your destination. Think about the day ahead.
After kids: Wake up to a screaming baby, a child demanding something, or a child standing next to your bed in the dark (yes, it's still dark out!) in a terrifying way. Get little people dressed (they will probably be unwilling and resist), find shoes (then switch to other shoes that aren't itchy or making a "bump" on their toes), feed them breakfast (and sometimes second breakfast if they're early risers or they hated the first breakfast), pack lunches, fill water bottles, retrieve a baby that made her way into the bathroom and is playing in the toilet (just me?), wash dishes, pack bottles, pack emergency snacks, emergency underwear, and get yourself dressed in yesterday's yoga pants - all while moving at a snail's pace (if you try to rush them, it will backfire!). Herd children into the car, strap them into car seats, take music requests, answer philosophical questions, unload them out of the car, and herd them into the classroom. Think about NOTHING because your kids won't stop talking and you can't hear yourself think.
Some mornings I even try to clean little messes up along the way, which seems like a waste of time, but is actually just damage control. I once read that cleaning up messes while the kids are in the house is like shoveling in the snow, but the alternative leaves me completely buried in a snowstorm. So, I clean.
Anyway, my point is that with kids, everything takes SO MUCH TIME. And energy. Arriving on time anywhere is a huge success. Yet every morning, we get up and begin the race to get out the door (on time) all over again - because I am teaching my kids that being on time matters. I plan ahead, I hustle, I offer rewards for behaviors that get us closer to getting out the door, I move quickly, and I am efficient with every minute of my time. I run around like a crazy person trying to stay on time because my kids need to know that if we are late, there will be a domino effect - and somebody will be waiting on us. My kids need to know that if we are late, they are not being respectful of their teachers, of their classmates, or of me. My kids need to know that we show up on time for school, because school is important. They need to know that being on time shows others that we respect them.
And in return, I do my very best to pick them up from school on time. I show up on time because I am respecting the school schedule. I am respecting my kids' feelings. And I am respecting that the teachers (and their time) are important. Now, nobody is perfect. Sometimes we do our best to keep on time, and that's just not enough. Sometimes being late just can't be avoided (like when your baby has a blowout diaper just moments before getting in the car, like when you get trapped in a doctor's office across town, or when you're racing around trying to get errands done kid-free and get stuck in a long check-out line). We are all doing the best we can. But if we make a conscious effort to keep on time, we are teaching are kids a really valuable message – that other people matter.
All the behind the scenes effort, detail, and struggle is worth it in the long run. When we show up, and we show up on time, we are instilling important values into our children's lives that will stay with them always.
So, when you see me in a frenzy with dirty pants, make up on my shoulder, and wild hair – just know that I'm working hard to teach my kids a lesson. And when I see you looking a little overwhelmed, and a little burnt out from the hustle and the meltdowns – I will know that you are doing the same.
It's the hardest job we've ever had, but by far the best. Am I right?