My 15 Minute Rule for Arriving on Time

J running in the driveway

J running circles in the driveway, completely oblivious to the fact that we’re supposed to be in the car.

I hate being late.When I first moved to San Diego from Portland, I noticed that everyone was at least 10 minutes late, but it bothered no one! This was a looooong time ago and I have become more relaxed about my punctuality when it comes to informal engagements but there is still something in me that dislikes tardiness. If you’re supposed to be somewhere at 10am, how hard is it to get there?

Enter exhibit A, a small child age 3.75 years old and you will understand why I am more or less perpetually late.

I figured when J was first born I had a free pass for being late. A last minute explosive poo or feeding pretty much always happened before leaving the house and no one blinked twice when I showed up late. My inner Timex was always agitated but the newly birthed “mom” in me fought that demon down. I also told myself that things would get better once J’s bowels matured and she was more reliant on solid foods instead of the boob.

Wrong. AGAIN. As a parent I am reminded daily that I have done, am doing, or will do something wrong. Now that J can articulate herself very well, we go through a laundry list of “things” before we are ready to leave the house.

J in car seat

This blurry picture totally captures the mood. J was totally cranky and NEEDED her Ariel earrings and princess crown before we could go anywhere.

To compensate, I plan to leave 15 minutes ahead of when I actually need to leave. Most of the time this works and I end up starting the car at the actual departure time. Then there are times when no matter how far ahead I try to leave, there is a force of nature keeping me anchored to the house or I will be compelled to make a u-turn at the end of the street for a forgotten snack/water cup/toy/jacket/etc.

Here are just a few of the things that take up the extra 15 minutes:

  • J needs socks for the “owie” shoes. If I get the “wrong” socks then I must go upstairs to get another pair.
  • J needs a toy or a different toy than requested 5 seconds ago.
  • J needs to put the toy in a purse.
  • J needs to get the paper in the driveway.
  • J needs to see if there are any new rollie pollies in the front yard.
  • J needs to climb into her car seat via the driver’s seat and examine every speck on the way from the front to the back.
  • J needs to buckle her toy into the seat next to hers.
  • J needs the Frozen CD liner notes so she can obsessively follow along with each song.
  • J asks if I brought the Pirate Booty/Princess Fish/Cheesy Crackers in the snack bag and if I’ve guessed incorrectly, I go back into the house to get said snack.
  • J needs to examine the sticker from Trader Joe’s that she dropped on the car floor five days ago and cannot get in the car seat before doing so.
  • J has to pee. But she doesn’t tell me until we’re 10 minutes into our drive. If we left on time, we’ll now be late because we pulled over for a pit stop.

Don’t get me wrong, I am not placing all of the blame on my child, as I know her sense of time is in its infancy of development. She still sweetly calls tomorrow “the day after this day.” There have been a few (or more) times when it’s entirely my fault we’re late. Most notable is the time I forgot my shoes and the time I forgot J’s swim suit. These were two separate events, but both involved getting to her swim lesson on time. If anyone has paid for their child to learn how to swim, you know how expensive lessons are and that you don’t want to be late! I walked in that door barefoot (and totally skeeved out). I bought her a reuseable swim diaper on the day she didn’t have a suit. That was about a year ago and wouldn’t fly today as she would be too embarrassed to swim “nudie.”

I now carry an extra pair of flip flops in my car in case I am ever caught shoe-less again.

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