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We are the tardy people...don't hate us

My kids are tardy, frequently.

It is a source of daily stress and distress. I start every single day unhappy.

You are going to judge me. Tell me it's rude and disrespectful. It disrespects the school, the teacher, the class, the other kids, and my own kids' access to learning. Tell me it is undisciplined. A necessary life skill, failed.

You think I do not know this?

You are going to assume I do not know what to do or how to fix it. You are going to tell me about sticker charts, incentives, punishments, egg timers, consequences, school talks, how you fixed it (therefore you understand but you also know it CAN and SHOULD be fixed), how your neighbor's mother's cousin's daughter fixed it.

You think I do not wish I had the magic fix?

You are going to think you know what our deal is. You are going to suggest I put my kids to bed earlier or wake them earlier. You will tell me we ought to make lunches the night before. Create schedules. You may offer websites, books, magazine articles, or what your child's teacher told you.

You'll express some kindness, maybe, try to get at what is happening, how and why it is not working. You'll suggest that perhaps expectations are too high or we're trying to do too much. You'll offer advice about shifting this and that and altering the schedule.

You might dissect us. Tell me how this is open rebellion on my kids' part, a reflection of something inherently wrong in our family and relationship or in the school or life in general. You'll figure this is a symptom of a bigger problem. You'll let me know how this is reflective of my own lack of discipline or how I am doing it all wrong or how my kids have been let loose to go awry.

You think I do not want to understand why it happens, no matter what?

Trust me. I've heard, seen, read, had it said, and been told it all. At least four times.

There is nothing you can say to me that is worse than what I have already said to myself, and to my kids.

Whatever you are thinking is the solution is probably something I've already tried. At least twice.

And yes, I did it right.

I have tried sticker charts, incentives big and small, consequences minor and dire, egg timers, shifted schedules, buying lunch, making lunch the night before, organizing charts, talks by the school and so on and so on and so on.

We've been dealing with this for the five years of school.

We've tried something to work it out constantly.

Each time we try something, it works for a bit and then the kids backslide. So we try it again and it fails, so we try something new.

We don't like it. We know it is rude. We know everyone hates tardy people. We know everyone thinks poorly of us. We hear it all the time, in general. Not to us directly, but about late people, in general.

I am tired of hating myself. Hating my kids. Hating time.

I wish we fit better into this construct.

But we do not.


All I want you to know do not know, not really, all that we do; but we do try, hard.

All I want to know do not hate me, or us, or judge me or us, and that you think that being late is not the worst thing a person can be--there is much, much worse a person can be. You know I try.

But somehow, something always happens on the way to the forum.


Donna said…
How late are you? Are we talking 10 minutes - or 60?

I have no advice other than the platitude that this will eventually work itself out. And a sigh at how regimented we've all become.
Julie Pippert said…
Usually, 5-10 minutes late, max 15ish.

Say school bell rings at 8:15 (which it does). Ideal is to be in class by 8:05 putting away bag and lunch, and at desk by 8:10 settling in. Okay to arrive between 8:10 and 8:15 but you're losing that "before the bell" time to settle in before class starts at 8:15. The class usually sits and does an exercise such as reading or mental math until about 8:30, so you lose the full time to do that, too, the later you arrive (of course, technically, you are not late until 8:16). But you lose that ramp up time and bigger swath of time to do this work.

We regularly squeal in to the school at 8:15. On a bad day, like today, it is 8:25, which is REALLY late. Not just racing to beat the bell at 8:15.

So even though we are possibly beating officially tardy most days, it is a stressful, strained, drill sergeant effort to achieve that.
annie said…
I was actually one of the few teachers I knew who thought that habitual tardy students were most likely never to be reformed and that it took more time/energy to figuratively beat them with detention and disdain than it did to simply accept and find more productive ways to lessen the impact.

Not surprisingly, no one agreed or listened to my suggestions.

Being tardy is a problem that your kids are going to have to learn to deal with more and more as they age. It's their problem and as harsh as that sounds, you would probably benefit from simply letting them figure it out for themselves.

I taught my perennial late arrivers how to slip into my classroom and get up to speed with a minimum of disruption. They knew that the only thing that would raise my ire was making an "entrance" and forgetting to let me know (later) why they were late. They knew that it was better to be late and get to work than to not show up at all. Consequently, I seldom had to fail a kid for non-attendance while my co-workers cursed the heavens about doing just that.

When they are young, I doubt it's as big a deal as you might feel it is. Everyone in the office knows the tardy families. All the teachers know them. I got my dd to kindergarten late 9/10 times every single day. It was the year we'd moved to Canada. We were adjusting to a lot of things. We got better. Mostly because I forced the issue being a perpetually early arriver faced with a family full of tardy ppl - dd's and husband. I am not always successful, but I have decided that since 100 years from now it won't matter one bit, I am simply not going to worry what others think or how it makes them grit their teeth. After all, it's their choice to get upset about it. Just like my co-workers of old would rather stew and make work for themselves instead of work out some middle ground.

Some ppl are early (we don't make the best party guests) while some are on time. Some get there late. Better to show up than not at all. Be easier on yourself.
Julie Pippert said…
Annie thank you for that. I have tried, so hard, literally everything there is to try. This is who and how they are: they are not morning people, they do not like to rush (especially in the morning), and they are hard to transition. You are spot on: this is who they are, and they will have to deal with it. I have done all i can to give them tools. Now they have to use them or deal.

This post is my letting it go. I'm finished.

Que sera, sera.

I upped my ante worried about middle school.

But if my daughter gets repercussions there, she will perhaps figure out a solution.
Spacemom said…
I'll be up front in saying that school is the one place I do NOT allow us to be late. Other than that, we are ALWAYS late to things. I don't know why. We have the same issues of yes, we tried that, yes, we did it right.

Other than the fact that I insist that the girls will make the bus, I would bet that we would be late to school too.

Julie Pippert said…
Spacemom, yeah we are your polar opposite, lol. Our problem is really the mornings. We otherwise do okay although they do tend to have a nasty habit of "oops, one last thing" as we try to walk out the door.
Vanessa said…
I feel your pain. We were chronically late all through elementary school, and I too tried everything to no avail. The year she was in sixth grade, I actually got a letter from the school district threatening legal action if I didn't improve her attendance (she was always there unless she was sick, just late by that 5-10 minute margin). The problem was that there were no consequences for her at school, and nothing I could do at home motivated her enough to make her want to get up and get moving. It all turned around like magic when she started junior high, for a couple of reasons: first, she finished her major growth spurt and stopped sleeping so long and heavily that an alarm wouldn't wake her, and second, she knew she would get detention if she was tardy too many times. Now she's ready before I am most mornings, and she hasn't been late once all year long. I can hardly believe it's the same kid! I'd love to claim credit for this success, but I had nothing to do with it; the motivation ultimately had to come from her.
Emily said…
Actually, I'm jealous. Because my eldest cannot emotionally handle being late -- which, in his book means "not early" -- I've had to be early for everything for the past 7 years. You cannot imagine the stress that puts on me. Or maybe you can :)
~TigereyeSal~ said…

This is me! And quite possibly my daughter. Tardy is who I have been, my whole life. Since I was about 6 years of age. It sucks to be never "good enough".

I decided a while back to cultivate the attitude of "Accept me as I am, or find someone else to have in your life. I have many fantastic qualities, and if those don't balance out the tardiness for you, then let's part without hard feelings."

Since then, that attitude has varied again.

Interestingly, now that I am self-employed, I am waaaay less tardy. Somehow, working for someone else created some kind of resistance and rebellion that I couldn't recognize until after it didn't exist. I am way more timely, and way more happy.

I bet it will happen that way for your girls, too. When they find their place in the world, tardiness will cease to be an issue, and possibly a even a fact.

Good luck to all of you. Time is an artificial construct, and keeping in step with it really, really doesn't matter.

Who we are inside is way more important than being timely. I promise.
jeanie said…
ha ha - I have just come from a forum where there have been over 350 posts arguing the toss on lateness and whether it is a form of rudeness, a mental health issue or something to not get your knickers in a twist about.

That is a very early start to a school day! Over here, 8.30 is the earliest we have had the bell.

When we got a squeaky clean new principal at our last primary school, he put up some rules that were the cornerstones of his school policy - they were Respect, Responsibility, Safety and something else (ha ha - he went on a bit).

Anyhow, he asked parents to please get kids to class on time for a variety of reasons - but the one that stuck in my head is that each child coming in to the classroom after it starts means a disruption - especially with the younger classes - that can take up to 10 minutes to settle, and this means that the teacher cannot perform her or his work in the manner that they had planned, which is an issue of respect.

I have the opposite problem to you - my children are rarely still in bed past 6 by their own choice, I have to be at work at 8am on most days AND I was brought up by people who were OCD about always being on time or early (have to allow 30 minutes in case of a flat tyre), so I start to stress if we don't have any "give" in our getting ready routine.

When I was in high school, we had a Japanese teacher who, if you were late, would leave you outside the door until she was ready to hear your apology - which was to be spoken in Japanese and if you did that perfectly enough, she would accede to your attendance - if not, you spent up to the whole lesson in the corridor.

After reading that other thread, I understand more about the chronically late - but it is a sort of academic understanding than an "I have been in your shoes" understanding.
MARY G said…
I stayed the night at my almost forty-five-year-old daughter's house last night.
She was late for work.

Not sure you wanted to hear that.

She has never been in serious trouble for it. In high school, the band leader fired her from a group for being late but asked her back a week later because the group was lost without her. I can't figure it.

All I know is, she manages.
Julie Pippert said…
Vanessa, you give me hope. I admit that I am letting go because my kids are who they are across the board and the motivation needs to come from them. I have to hand them the reins.

Emily, I don't know -- could be two sides to the same coin.

Sal it is so wonderful to hear your perspective, seriously.

Jeanie, all I can ask and hope for is understanding. One person said it was a sign of mental illness and being a jerk. Another said self-indulgent and thoughtless. That? Not what we need. Understanding is marvelous.

Mary, I hope we manage. :)
I both loved this post and winced while reading it, especially the end. I really hope that people are not judging you as harshly as you believe or feel.

My son is late for school at least a few times a month, because he's also not a morning person. Like your girls, Julie, he has to motivate himself and it's very hard for us to do it. I also hate yelling and upset in the morning, I don't want my little guy going off to school upset so we just kind of arrive late more often than I'd like.

One thing I have done lately to motivate him is to tell him that the turtles are waiting for him to get up and turn on their light. We just got the turtles two weeks ago so who knows how long it will last as a motivator, but it's worked well for a few days now to get him out of bed and moving.

I am SO not a morning person, most days I arrive at the office between 9-9:30, sometimes closer to 10. I used to feel guilty about this but I don't anymore; I do a lot of work from home in my off time, as long as my work is getting done my boss doesn't seem to care. Thank God or I'd be miserable. Call me a slacker but I don't think that being in the office is a big deal as long as the work gets done.

Hope your girls get more motivated to get to school on time as they get older. I remember morning being the most stressful part of the day when I was a single mom; my husband mostly deals with it now, so I'm lucky. Don't be so hard on yourself. You sound like a wonderful mother to me.
Julie Pippert said…
Kat, thanks.

First, the harder point. Yes, I do imagine I am judged harshly. People say the most horrible, cruel, judgmental things about lateness. They say it because they mean it. They say it because they feel it. It ranges everywhere from "thoughtless, rude, inconsiderate" to "mental illness." And really harsh stuff in between. Even from this post I got some really harsh feedback. Anyway, in general, one of the most common cultural things is a total intolerance for lateness, perception it is undisciplined behavior from self-centered and rude people. People want harsh punishments for it. In a PTO board meeting, a person brought it up, tardiness, and wanted to fine parents money and fine kids letter grades for it. She had some strong words about people who are late -- but none of it was new. I objected; punishment is not going to solve my problem -- it's not because we are not motivated or choose to goof off. She quickly said, oh I don't mean you, I don't ever think of you as late (and that's because in general I am not, and in general the kids are not officially tardy but only because we squeak in last minute). But we are late sometimes so how can she not mean me? KWIM? I hear what people say and it has shaped and directed me and my behavior and how I treat my kids. I have to let go of it. I have to understand there are much worse things than this, such as berating us all, shaming us all, defeating us all every morning.

Second, thank you so much for sharing your experience and extending understanding. I also really hope my girls get motivated or I magically find the currency that works. At the very least, laying off of them has meant smoother mornings, and as it happens, we end up leaving about the same time as when I tried all the stuff, including yelling. So, it's a draw, but at least less stress.
I am glad to be a somewhat oblivious person at times...I hurt for you that you've experienced this kind of reaction and heard these kind of sentiments expressed about something like being a few minutes late. I am not fond of the PTO/PTA crowd, I volunteer at school and sometimes go to the meetings, but people are always trying to put a damn rule around something. PTO/PTA has a lot more important issues to deal with than kids being a few minutes late to school.
Jardinero1 said…
Hello Julie, I am familiar with the office at your school. Two years ago, I got tired of trudging into it to get the red tardy slip when we were five minutes late on a daily basis. I turned the process upside down and was never bothered again.

I told my daughter that every time she brought a red tardy slip to her teacher that I would reward her with a bag of skittles. I bought her skittles three days in a row and her classmates were hearing about it. On the fourth day, when I walked in late, they waved me by and I never got a red tardy slip again. Sometimes, if you are being harassed you just have to do something dickish to get them to leave you alone.

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