Was it Punctuality or Cleanliness that was next to Godliness? I can never remember – I just know that I can go into instantaneous spasms if I realise that I’m going to be late – for anything – whether it’s to drop a child off anywhere or to get to Work on time and I used to work from home for 7 years. Never mind when a professional with whom I have an appointment has his/her waiting room with people actually waiting in it.
What is this insanity and obsession with being On Time? I really need to loosen up – and I have, a lot.
If I really had to take it back to its source I could probably tie it up with the natural delivery from my Mother’s loins – I believe I was a little over Full Term – say 42 weeks and 3 days or summat like that. Perhaps due to my lateness and an over zealous use of forceps by the Doctor my birth was a punishment and so I felt I should never be late again. My Brother, on the other hand, was really Over Term at 43 weeks and 5 days (good grief, My Mother is a Saint) as a result of being born by easy gravity and not having enough beatings as a child my Brother still needs to be lied to about what time a meeting starts by about an hour and a half. You know what I mean? We’re all going to gather at 10 am – we tell him it starts at 08h30 – then we’re guaranteed that he’s only going to be 30 mins late.
Perhaps my fear of untimeliness is due to my part German Father’s obsession with Punctuality – as a Clergyman (now retired – as if you can retire from Clergying) his church service always starts on time and ends promptly an hour later – which I understand is rare in this breed who tend to waffle. Of course a Bride is allowed the grace to be late, 15 minutes – max! Don’t ask what happens if the Blushing One is any later – it’s not pretty. These days he’s a dj/radio announcer for a local Station in the Karoo and is as Punctual as ever – muttering and mumbling if the previous announcer isn’t winding up his show within the obligatory 5 minutes so that he can come in and set up his papers (yes, papers, this Grandad hasn’t quite gotten hang of all the new fangled digital malarkey in the State of The Art Studio).
Fact remains – I like to be at least 5 minutes early. Enter the birth of my Eldest – who didn’t have a chance to choose her Time but was instead Electively Removed via Cesarean Section. Delightful Child, Easy Baby born to Obsessed with Timing Mother. Her feeds were scheduled according to when she was hungry (of course) – at first permanently latched and then every One Hour and Twenty Seven Minutes, slowly stretching longer and longer in Fourteen Minute Intervals – call me on it – I wrote it all down in a Log Book. Sleep patterns from 6 months were monitored and I could tell you within the Hour at which time she would wake up, to the Minute and then I would know at what time she would be ready for her next nap due to having it all scientifically worked out according to which age group and temperament category she belonged – thank heavens for Sleep Guides now available at any local bookshop.
Problems came about when I would have liked My Life to have resumed. Still under the illusion that things could be just the way they used to be, I would make an appointment:
Step One: Phone the number of Person with Whom Appointment needs to be made. During phone call shush little person who become rowdy once the headset has been placed close to ear hole. Rowdiness only commences once the handset is lifted past shoulder height since texting and dialing don’t prompt this behaviour.
Step Two: Speak to efficient Appointment Maker, trying to sound as if I do this all the time.
Step Three: Find diary (random piece of paper)
Step Four: Pick up writing instrument – from somewhere – usually a pen/khoki/crayon that no longer ‘writes’
Step Five: Carve aforementioned time of appointment onto paper. Thank the kindly, patient person and hang up phone
Step Six: Live life until Day Of Appointment
Step Seven: Prepare the night before Appointment by packing and repacking, my bag, her bag and our bag. Checking list of all the things that need to be placed in vehicle.
Step Eight: Wake Up Early On Day Of Appointment
Step Nine: Start monitoring feeds and naps so as to be able to get into the vehicle and allow for enough travelling time to arrive at The Appointment 8 minutes before the time. Have false impression that it’s all going according to Plan
Step Ten: Feel Smug.
Step Eleven: Plan failure imminent as The Eldest is still sleeping, now 20 minutes more than usual. Book says, Never Wake A Sleeping Baby.
Step Twelve: Phone the nice people 2 hours in advance to say we’re going to be late.
Step Thirteen: Eldest awakes to complain that I’m on the phone. Should have picked it up past shoulder height 20 minutes ago!
Step Fourteen: Massive explosion (hers, not mine) to be dealt with, including full costume change for the Eldest, who should probably eat something now that she is so obviously empty.
Step Fifteen: Breastfeed, this is not as it fast as it should be, maybe this appointment should have been made a little later (like when The Eldest has gone on her Gap Year)
Step Sixteen: Load the Car, my bag, her bag, our bag. Spare blankets. A Perambulator. Of course I put all the other stuff that we would NEED in while she was having her extended nap.
Step Seventeen: Get The Eldest and her Snug & Safe Wrangled into the vehicle
Step Eighteen: Extricate myself from the passenger side seat belt and get into the Drivers seat.
Step Nineteen: Find the dummy and plug the Eldest who is weeping because I had to walk around the car – Separation Anxiety is not for the faint of heart.
Step Twenty: Ignition and lift off. It took 8 minutes to get over the diabolical speed retarding ditches on the servitude road that led to the road that would put me in line with my destination.
Step Twenty One: Hit ALL the red lights
Step Twenty Two: Breathless and disheveled, carrying ALL our bags and The Eldest, arrive at The Appointment. In tears of rage because I am 17 minutes LATE.
Of course only to be told that someone else has taken my time slot and that I would now have to wait another 30 minutes for my turn. I learnt early on in this new phase of Being A Parent to make only one Appointment per 24 hours (and then later one per week – but that’s a different story) to avoid the Knock On Effect of then being Super Later for Everything.
So I am slowly learning and adjusting and changing little things to accommodate this Obsession with Punctuality. For example I don’t openly judge other people on their inability to use a time piece effectively. Another example is having Other People handy to look after The Eldest and The Youngest so that I can dart off and Be On Time. This is a neat trick but it doesn’t always work since the Other People are not ‘Mommy’.
Lastly, I think what has made the greatest difference in making peace with this affliction is having slowed down. Adopting a Minimilistic Approach in everything. Less things to do means less things to plan. Having less things means having less things to take care of giving me more time for important things – like not stressing about where to find something just before we have to be 20 minutes late. Because of course I know where everything is. Sort of.
And now, after spending three days writing this, all the while squeezing minutes out of Our Schedule and spending two days editing it so that it isn’t too long to read for our bite size little attention spans – I am late getting The Eldest to school, which in turn has made me late for my away-from-home Job.