An open letter to anyone that has waited for my family when we were late

Dear People that get upset when my family is running late,

I am sorry for the inconvenience and frustration you experienced waiting for us and I regret to have caused you any consternation.  I promise, running late isn’t because I don’t respect you or your time.  It is possible that it wasn’t intentional and may be a result of respecting my children and caring for my family. It is also possible that I grossly underestimated how much having children would drastically make simple tasks such as getting out of the house a feat of epic proportions. Particularly when there are more than even one small child involved, let alone six.

Getting out the door with everyone appropriately dressed, with everything they need for where we are going, and not falling apart is nothing short of a small production involving children. You’ve heard film and stage directors talk about the challenges of working with children? Yeah, that is my life every single day. That it happens at all is impressive even when we are running late. Because what you don’t see as our family straggles in 10, 20, or even 30 minutes after the appointed time is that there was a diaper change after everyone was buckled in, another child hid because they hate going wherever we are going (today, at this moment, they’ll want to be there tomorrow when we’re not going), yet another one had a complete meltdown because they are hungry even though we ate 30 minutes prior, there was the turning around after we were finally on the road because somebody (and yes, it could have been me) forgot something crucial to the outing (i.e. the diaper bag hanging on the door knob), and the one child that couldn’t find whatever they HAD to wear for the event which very possibly could be the “only” shoes they have that fit.

Sister hugs

Yes, I could rush them and hurry my children along but then we’d miss so much wonder and delight in life and replace it with anxiety about the clock.  I could have interrupted the sisters when they paused for a hug together and told them there was no time for such silliness.  The toddler that was fascinated with the light play of the sun filtering through the branches onto our hardwood floors so that she stubbornly refused to put her shoes on while she examined this phenomenon happening right before her could have been forced and shoed into our time constraints and missed this moment of fascination and learning that I cut short as it was.  Or yes, we could have buckled the baby into her seat and left her to sit in her own poop for the 15 minute drive to where you were waiting so you wouldn’t be uncomfortable.  Ignoring the 6 year old’s question and barking at her to get out the door was also an option but responding with genuine care and gentle encouragement could be the difference in our relationship being based on respect and trust rather than fear.  The 4 year old could go to our appointment hungry because I had just fed them but considering that would mean our event would be overshadowed by the wails of a child convinced she was starving to death, feeding her felt like the right thing to do.  Yes, I do get impatient and sometimes frustrated at the slow but determined steps of a little one who is insisting on getting to the van or location on their own two legs, pitching a fit of exasperation when I attempt to thwart their practice efforts and first real independence by carrying them but if you could see her proud expression of accomplishment you would probably understand why I keep my steps slow and walk with her.  Dismissing the cries of how she doesn’t want to go from the child that struggles with social interactions and would rather just stay home surrounded only by the people and things she knows well and loves sometimes is tempting but helping her develop the strategies she will need later in life to navigate such settings as well as to respond with grace so she feels secure in setting her own pace without feeling forced are matters of great importance to me.  There is an intense juggling of all the activities and responsibilities we have to manage and sometimes things overlap, no, I will not tell the preteen or teen that their events are less important than mine or yours, I respect that their interests have value and they aren’t always the one setting their practice/rehearsal/event schedules and so we attempt to catch all the scheduling balls as they come but can’t always manage when they pile up.  It wasn’t out of a lack of respect for you that we were held up, it was out of respect for my family.

Slow Steps
I am genuinely sorry you were left waiting for us, your time and your presence matters to us, I respect you and your time and feel terrible that we weren’t there at the appointed time.  We’ve done every strategy in the book to make getting out the door easier and sometimes it works, sometimes it doesn’t, but the fact remains that there are children in the picture and they don’t operate like adults or robots.  Children who, like you, I respect.  Whose sense of time and urgency is defined by interacting with the world at their own pace, not by the ticking of seconds going by.  Thank you for understanding and for waiting when I’m sure you had better things to do.  These children will be in relationship with me for the rest of their lives, or at least, I certainly hope so.  Respecting them and journeying with them is one of the ways I seek to build a relationship that lasts.  So sometimes, like a film release or stage show opening date, we run late. And in my head there’s a little standing ovation that we made it at all.

~ Jessica

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