This is a letter to the perennial latecomer. Ehm, me. Fact is, for some time I used to drop my children off to school few minutes after the bell rang – to be honest, we rarely made it before that. And I didn’t like it.
I felt guilty and angry at myself for being always late for school. It was all my fault – put your shoes on honey, don’t forget your jacket pumpkin, and no, not a wee now – then, down the stairs, two at a time, where is your school bag? – go up again, take the school bag, maybe the umbrella, then run all the way to school (we could have walked, but running was a healthier option in the circumstances).
We would have briskly walked our 10 minutes walk with my boy beside me complaining about pretty much everything, and my girl not uttering a single word but struggling to keep the pace with a curled bottom lip, unhappy, her long plaits swishing. I would have typically said: “If you two had been quicker… If you’d have listened to me when I said it was time to go… We are late, again! The other children are probably already in class by now”.
Then one day my watch stopped working and I had to send it to repair. I quickly glimpsed at the oven’s clock in the kitchen, before clearing the table after breakfast, and it was still pretty much early. Wash teeth, put on school uniforms, check all the books are in the bags. By the time we were outside, I had no idea whatsoever of the time.
Sense of panic. Maybe it’s awfully late. But the children were cheerful, they kept asking sweet questions while rambling along and the sun was shining. I felt relaxed and happy in spite of being late. And I took my resolution now and then.
Never be late again.
And I didn’t actually mean to promise myself to be more aware of the time from that day on – rather the opposite. I decided not to mind too much. I took the resolution not to speed my children to be quicker, with an anxious voice that would have spoiled their (and mine) day. Not to walk leaving slightly behind my daughter because the school bell is about to ring. Not to be upset with my son if he forgot his book and to give him the time to look for it without commenting about organizational skills (me, of all people!). Not to share with them my anxiety of being late.
If we were slightly late, I decided not to let them be aware of it, and walk as if we had all the time in the world.
And the magic happened. Since then, my children don’t care too much about the time. They are too young to realize by themselves when it is late, so if I am not the one that makes them over-conscious about it, they would be happily doing what needs to be done without stress or anxiety.
At their pace, which is the right pace for them. And in the long term, you wouldn’t believe it! we are no longer as late as we used to.
In the so called school run, we now walk slooowly and chat and sing and imagine things and hold hands. We occasionally take detours. We stop to do our shoe laces. We smell the occasional flower or look closely at the passing ladybird. Even when I know it is late. I don’t need my watch for that. If in the street there is just a flow of mothers coming the opposite direction (worst case scenario is no mother in sight, with or without children. This means they are long gone), I know we are late.
I don’t mind because I came to the conclusion that the same concept of being late is an adult conception. Children cannot be late: they are growing, they are learning, they are savoring life and life is never late not early, is always just right on time.
My previous idea of being late for school was simply a projection of my fears and stresses into my innocent children and I took a step to free myself and them from it.
No, the solution is not running faster, multi-tasking more and lowering down our standards. Feeling constantly busy and overwhelmed does not serve us nor our children.