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I’m Not Sorry for Being Late

Photograph by Twenty20

This morning, my younger son’s swim class started at 9 a.m. Considering we are on week three of the 10-week class, I was well aware of it in advance. The event didn’t sneak up on me or catch me off guard. In fact, I had it written on three separate calendars, neatly penciled into the otherwise empty squares. And yet, despite my best intentions, we still arrived 10 minutes late for a class that only lasts 30 minutes.

For some, this kind of tardiness would elicit anxiety or guilt. For years, that’s the kind of reaction it produced in me. I have always hated the idea of making others wait on me, and I’ve long considered lateness to be a sign of disrespect. If you valued me and my time, you wouldn’t waste it by being late.

But right now while I battle it out in the trenches of new motherhood, I am giving myself a free pass on this constant hustle to be on time.

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Honestly, I just don’t have it in me to care anymore.

Getting out of the house these days is tantamount to scaling Mount Kilimanjaro, in both the stamina and patience it requires. My children are 2 and 1. The younger of the two is not yet walking steadily on his own, and neither are able to get into the car by himself. One is still in diapers, neither can dress himself or put on shoes, and each requires approximately three snacks for every minute we’re out of the house to keep public meltdowns at a minimum. Venturing beyond our four walls is often a multiple-hour work-in-progress, but one that is absolutely crucial to my sanity as a mother of two toddlers. Simply stated: Staying home is not an option.

If energy is a form of currency, then my pockets are empty by day’s end. I’m fresh out with nothing left to spare.

And so we’re late. Almost always. Sometimes it’s a matter of just a minute or two. Other times, it’s more like 15. I do my best to not be an asshole about it. I always call or text to let the person waiting on me know I’m running behind—and I try not to blame it on my kids, since it’s really not their fault.

Let me be clear on that point: Though my kids are technically the reason we’re often running late, the blame sits squarely on my shoulders. They’re still babies doing things that babies do—I am the adult. If I got up 20 minutes earlier and packed the car or made the PB&Js when they’re not both standing underfoot begging to eat them at 9:30 a.m., we might actually be on time for things. But I’m still getting my bearings in this world of new motherhood, and though I’ve come a long way on many fronts, the on-time departure is something I’ve yet to master.

It’s not that I’ve stopped seeing the value in punctuality or that I don’t still strive to achieve a timely arrival. It’s just that when it inevitably doesn’t happen, I no longer feel guilty about it. This is the particular season I’m in right now, a season where my energy is better spent on things other than feeling guilty for showing up 10 minutes late to a play date. I happen to believe that energy comes in finite amounts, and mine is completely used up by wrangling two high-strung toddlers 12 hours a day. If energy is a form of currency, then my pockets are empty by day’s end. I’m fresh out, with nothing left to spare.

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Maybe someday being on time will come easily. I suspect that will happen either when leaving the house requires less paraphernalia or when I finally learn how to successfully build in 25 extra minutes as a buffer. Or maybe it won’t happen until years down the road when my children are able to feed, dress and buckle themselves without my aid. More likely, I won’t be on time again until my kids are in college and I can once again exit my house in under three minutes with nothing but a purse on my shoulder. However it happens, we’re not there yet, and right now I’m OK with that.

So, to all the people I’ve made wait on me so far or who I’ll force to wait on me in the coming years, I really do apologize.

Or, at least I would—if I had the time.

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