I never used to be on time all the time. There are those people, I know a few, who will be there on time no matter what. I know people with toddlers that still manage nine times out of ten to be there on time, I have absolutely no idea how they do it! It is an unwritten rule amongst my friends with children that when we say a time, it’s just an approximate guideline for us to aim for. The chances are that in reality we will end up getting to a place at the same time, it’s just between 15 and 30 minutes later than the initial suggested time. We may message each other to explain the reasons why we are running late or we may, mostly, just shrug our shoulders when we see each other as we understand that we tried our best to get there earlier than we did.
It’s frustrating though. Frustrating when you think today is the day you’ll get there on time. You’re up a little earlier for example, your toddler is still asleep so you get to have a peaceful shower and can get dressed and bags packed before he wakes. Or, whilst your toddler naps, you get yourself and everything else ready to make a swift exit from the house post-nap. All the time, thinking in your head, we are well ahead of schedule – we may actually be on time today!
Then there is always something, late naps (because toddler won’t go down when you hoped they would), overrunning naps (because of all days, the day you want to leave the house is the day he decides to sleep for hours), tantrums, untimely poos, spilt food and a change of outfit (if it can’t be wet-wiped), demands for snacks or drinks, tantrums, tantrums…
By way of an example.. I had planned to go to my friends last week, no set time as such (because, you know, what’s the point?) but I wanted to leave the house at 2.30, that was my aim. My son was napping so I had everything ready for when he woke up, including his lunch ready made and sitting on the table. I woke him up with plenty of time and he sat him down for lunch. He didn’t want lunch. It was “yukky”. (I love that my phone autocorrects that to “yummy”… that was not his choice of word!) He wanted to see his friends, which is what I had promised him when he went for his nap. Parenting technique 101 pulled out of the bag.. the bribe. No seeing friends until lunch is finished. He picked up the sandwich put it to his mouth, and then put it on the plate. “Yukky.” It was now 2.30. We weren’t leaving the house on time. Again. I pretend to call my friend to say we can’t come as my son hasn’t eaten his lunch so no play date today. Still no eating and now a major tantrum on the kitchen floor because he thinks he’s not seeing his friends. At this stage I know I had messed up, as any parenting book will tell you, you should always follow through with these threats so the child knows that you are being serious and will understand for next time. Thing is, I really wanted to see my friends too, and desperately needed to get out of the house. I renege on my previous threat, pack the sandwich in a lunchbox (in the hope he may actually eat it in the car..) and leave the house. Closer to 3 than 2.30, with a screaming (hungry) toddler.
On the scale of things, being late for a play date isn’t too bad, especially when it really would be more of a surprise for my friends if I was actually on time. Being late for other stuff, especially work, is more frustrating and stressful. When I lived in London I could leave my house for work on time, 5 mins later or even 10 mins later and I’d get to work, about the right time as I only needed to rely on the tube. Now I live out of London and rely on Great Northern to get me to work I have to be at the station at a set time. At the moment Great Northern may or may not decide to show up but I still have to get there. As the trains currently are, if I don’t get to the station on time, I’ll be at least 30mins late for work if not more. Leaving the house 5 or 10 mins late is not an option like it used to be. Throw a toddler into the mix and you have yourself a pretty stressful morning. With nursery drop off times and new train times, I now have 12 minutes to complete drop off and get from nursery to the station in the morning. It’s a 7 minute walk and I factor in 2 minutes to buy a ticket. That gives me 3 minutes from when the nursery doors open to drop off my son. This is usually plenty of time, as he runs off, sits down for breakfast and I shout bye at the back of his head. But there are days, like today, when he is just not happy and does not want to be left. We left home in plenty of time this morning (instead of running out the door like sometimes happens) and were waiting outside nursery with a few minutes to spare. I thought this was going to be an easy drop-off. My son clearly had a different agenda and did not want to be left at all once we got inside. Having to weigh up in my head staying for cuddles against running to get my train is tough. Not knowing why he is upset on this particular day, when most other days he is fine, is heart-breaking. Leaving him to seek comfort from someone else is really upsetting. Its made worse by that feeling of optimism when I left the house draining away as I try to check my watch whilst comforting my son without the nursery staff seeing me (and feeling like the worst parent). My antidote on those days is a phone call when I get my desk to hear that my son is “absolutely fine”, which is always the same.
So far I haven’t been missed the train. But that doesn’t change the fact I am constantly late for almost every other event in my diary. I know I shouldn’t really blame my son but I see no sign of any change any time soon!