Today we were pushed for time. I am a bit of a punctuality freak. Actually that’s not true, I’m a ‘be ridiculously early because the worst will always happen’ freak. Which just makes me a freak really. Here’s some things I do which are stupid but which I feel I need to do as a matter of course as regards time.
If I am taking a flight and I am required to check in 2 hours before departure I like to aim to arrive at the airport about 2 and a half hours before departure. On my own this is fine. I have travelled by air by myself a great deal and this to me means less chance of missing the flight, less time in a check-in queue and more time in the coffee shop / bar (depending on time of day) pre-flight. Win / win. But add an easily bored wife and children in to the mix and the stress that is involved in getting anywhere near that early arrival target when you have two little people to pack and organise and I can see it’s less than ideal.
I also like to leave in the morning so I arrive at the station about 20 minutes before my train to work is due. This is just because. Just because I’m a panicky idiot who’s sacrificing 15 minutes extra sleep over the possibility that something might prevent me getting my train if I leave any later. Like tripping over a warthog on the walk. Like needing a ticket and being in a queue for the ticket machine behind 40 Japanese tourists with limited ticket buying skillz. Like someone moved the station.
And then there’s the lunch bookings at local restaurants which I insist we must be early for because otherwise they will give the table away to someone else and the children will cry and no other restaurant will take us and we’ll starve and die. Just reading that makes me feel a bit nuts.
So where was I? Ah yes. This morning. I work from home once a week and when I do then I am in charge of the school run. As you can imagine I am normally one of the first parents to arrive in the playground. However, today stuff happened. Or rather it did last night. Boy had a nightmare and got up for a very long time and then would only go back to sleep in our bed, relegating yours truly to the sofa. This made him tired. And so, at 8 o’clock this morning he did Not Want To Wake Up. The doors to Red Class open at 8.50 and close at 8.55. The rational human being would have seen this as plenty of time. Me? I was already thinking of what I could say at his exclusion hearing when he was booted out for arriving at 8.56 and the wife and I were thrown in clink by Social Services and branded with Bad Parent tattoos. Forever.
When he finally got out of bed he did not want his breakfast. When he finally ate his breakfast he did not want to put his uniform on. And so on and so on.
My approach to dealing with this is, by my own admission, pathetic. It’s all stick and no carrot. I go for it in the style of the ignorant Touriste Anglaise. Basically I repeat myself only slightly louder.
Me: Put your uniform on.
Me: PUT YOUR UNIFORM ON
Boy: *ignores me*
At this point the wife, who also has to be somewhere, always cuts in and introduces the carrot. Meal eating / dressing or whatever else are suddenly turned in to a fun game which the Boy miraculously excels at. I am reduced to parenting pondlife. And the task is achieved. She did this again this morning and went from hunger strike / uniform refusal to a ready Boy in 5 minutes.
I wish I could do this. I know what I do is wrong. But I’m not really thinking about the correct way to parent. I’m thinking of the terrible consequences of being a minute late for school. I am not, remotely, thinking straight. I am just lucky my wife thinks differently.
Writing this has helped a bit I think. It’s helped to at least understand that my punctuality obsession is a bit weird and not entirely helpful. So maybe next time I have to be somewhere by a set time I should read this back to myself first. Just as long as, y’know, I leave enough time to read it in. Perhaps I ought to start an hour or so ahead just in case.
(In case you were wondering we made it to school on time)