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Playdate Punctuality (or the Lack Thereof)

Playdate Punctuality (or the Lack Thereof)

By Amalah

Dear Wise and All Knowing Amy,

So my child and I met this lovely mother and her child over a year ago. Our kids hit it off right away and the mom and I have a lot in common too. We typically see each other weekly for play-dates, sometimes at their house, sometimes at ours, sometimes at a play place. Here’s the thing though. They’re ALWAYS late. I will admit that I’m punctual to the point of being a few minutes early. And as anyone with kids knows, sometimes a kid can throw a monkey wrench into the business of getting out of the house on time. But this is all the time and at least 15-20 minutes late. It doesn’t seem to matter if it’s early in the day, afternoon or evening, near their house or ours. I try to hide my irritation from my kid, but the kid picks up on the fact that they’ve been playing for a while, and the friend isn’t there yet.

What should I do? I do find it annoying that a meeting at an agreed upon time isn’t happening. I also find myself reluctant to do more activities with them knowing that we’ll probably be cooling our heels for about 20 minutes waiting for them. I’ve met their other friends and they seem to have the same sort of time line, at least 20 minutes late, so I don’t think this has ever been an issue before. Do I say something, suck it up, or adjust my time accordingly?

Thanks,
Punctual

Oh, dear. As someone who really, REALLY has to work hard to get places on time, I have to admit I’m probably going to be more sympathetic to your chronically late friend than Smackdown-y. It’s a fundamental personality difference thing. You’re SUPER punctual and view lateness as rudeness, or a reflection on how she values your time together. It’s more likely that she just has lousy time management skills and in her mind, 15-20 minutes late is within her “acceptable” lateness time window.

I used to have a window like that too — if I could arrive somewhere within 10-15 minutes of when I was SUPPOSED to arrive, I felt it was a victory. And I can’t even blame having kids, though it certainly got worse after I had a baby. But even before that,  I was just one of those chronically late people who constantly underestimated how long it would take me to get ready or to drive somewhere. “Oh, it takes 15 minutes to get to X,” I’d think, while forgetting that my car was parked two blocks away or that there was construction or a delay on the Metro. Or I’d realize I forgot to leave time to hit the ATM, or get gas, or I’d just plain lose track of time while putzing around my house or doing my hair. And then I’d realize it wasn’t a 15-minute trip at all, but more like 25 minutes. It had NOTHING to do with the activity or destination — I had the same problem getting to an important appointment on time as I did meeting my best friends at the bar.

I’ve gotten much better, but it still takes a LOT of effort for me. Probably a lot more effort than people like you, the naturally punctual, would ever need to exert. I’m not saying this to make you feel bad or anything, or to negate the fact that you DO put effort into arriving places on time, but I think there’s just a different wiring of our brains. Your effort results in you arriving places a few minutes early. People like me (and your friend, probably) can try twice as hard and still end up five minutes late.

But I do understand that it’s an annoying pattern, which is why I did finally seek out tips and tricks for the chronically late and worked on it. Still do! I set clocks five minutes fast, I set a million reminders on my computer and phone, I log things in my calendars as starting 15 minutes earlier than they really do. I have to constantly fight my own lack of clock-fueled inertia — I look at the time and still tend to think “oh, I have time to do/finish what I’m doing or send an email.” And then the next time I look I’m suddenly 10 minutes late to pick up my kid from preschool.

(Luckily for me, my husband does not share my bad habit. We were once friends with a couple that were BOTH chronically late people, and it was completely normal and expected that they’d arrive at least an HOUR late. To everything. All the time. It was crazy. I really don’t know how they functioned.)

Point is, she CAN change, but it’s probably best for you to accept that she won’t, at least not for casual playdates. Stuff like work meetings, flights, doctor appointments tend to get the most effort from the chronically late, and until we screw those up regularly, we tend to downplay the fact that it’s a problem. Hence that “acceptable lateness window” I mentioned earlier, which I guess is more like a form of denial.

So ALL THAT SAID,  my suggestion for dealing with your friend is to simply tell her a time 15 minutes before you actually want the playdate to start. You arrive 15 minutes after that agreed-upon time. Then hopefully you’re only waiting for five before she arrives. If, by some Christmas miracle, she ACTUALLY shows up on time and ends up waiting for you…well, no big deal there, right? She owes you.

 

Amalah
About the Author

Amy Corbett Storch

Amalah

Amalah is a pseudonym of Amy Corbett Storch. She is the author of the Advice Smackdown and Bounce Back. You can follow Amy’s daily mothering adventures at Ama...

Amalah is a pseudonym of Amy Corbett Storch. She is the author of the Advice Smackdown and Bounce Back. You can follow Amy’s daily mothering adventures at Amalah. Also, it’s pronounced AIM-ah-lah.

If there is a question you would like answered on the Advice Smackdown, please submit it to amyadvice@gmail.com.

Amy also documented her second pregnancy (with Ezra) in our wildly popular Weekly Pregnancy Calendar, Zero to Forty.

Amy is mother to rising first-grader Noah, preschooler Ezra, and toddler Ike.

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Comments

  • Danielle

    That was some really good advice Amy!

  • Delora

    We do the same thing in our house any time we invite my mother over for an event. Her window was more like 45-60mins, so we started telling her times 30mins early (which would still technically make her 30mins late, but I’m usually 15mins late myself, so the math basically worked out).

    I also sympathize with your friend. As with parties, playdates aren’t a drop-dead start time for me (not like a dentist appointment), so I see no problem with being 15mins late. 15mins is a normal grace period, especially with kid(s) in tow. 

  • Alissa

    Lateness makes.  Me.  CRAZY.  So thank you for the perspective from the chronically late side of life.  I need to practice understanding that people are not being late AT me.  They are just being late, and I just happen to be there.  It’s not because they don’t like me.  But it makes my blood boil every single time that people can’t be on time.  Breathe in.  Breathe out.

    • heidi

      Me too. I don’t understand. Even reading what Amy just said? I don’t understand. It makes me crazy and anxious. SO ANXIOUS to think about being late or other people being late. Why would you be late? I mean, I know sometimes there is traffic or 17 extra potty breaks, but beyond that…I get so anxious when people are late. 

      • Corinne

        Lateness used to make me crazy.  I am an on-time person. I know how long it takes me to do things, I like to arrive about 5 minutes early to things in case there is traffic, I can’t find parking, etc.  And then I had a baby.  When he was a baby that I could cart around and move like a doll we were either 5 minutes early or 20 minutes late (usually meaning we had some sort of poop incident). Now he is 3. He is stubborn, he is strong, and he will fight me if I try to make him do something he doesn’t want to do.  Which means that if we MUST be on time for something I will hold him down and forceably diaper/dress/brush teeth/put in car seat etc.  It will take time, and I will get bruises, and he will be in a terrible mood and probably scream for the whole car ride, but I will do that if it is important. A play date? No. I refuse to endure that for a playdate or anything else that is supposed to be enjoyable.  So if he puts his little 3 year old foot down, I will try to convince him to cooperate, and I can usually get him to come of his own accord, but we will be running at least 20 minutes late at that point.  If at any point in the convincing he has to go potty, or get his diaper changed (wooo potty training….) you can just add about 20 extra minutes of fighting about that on top of it.  I will generally text the person I’m meeting and let them know, but really, at that point, the options are coming late, or not coming at all.  

        So I get it, I really really really do.  I was perpetually annoyed by my mom my whole life because she was incapable of getting out the door on time, and I would always be sitting, with my coat on, in the car, waiting and stewing about being late.  I try to be more forgiving now, because you don’t know what people are dealing with.  Maybe your friend has a difficult child.  Maybe your friend suffers from depression and often finds it difficult to get out of bed or even work up the energy to see people.  

  • Lindsay

    So as someone who gets anxious even thinking about being late, in the logical part of my head, I know it is good advice to tell others to be there 15 minutes before you really mean them to be and for me to arrive 15 minutes after that. But there is just still no way I could purposely arrive 15 minutes after an agreed upon time. My poor brain just can’t compute that! Ack!

  • Amelia

    My best friend is a scatterbrained, overly optimistic person who is usually late. Since she got married and had kids, it’s been even worse (e.g., an hour late to Thanksgiving dinner, and they showed up with Starbucks in hand– for them, not for us.)

    I have learned to take it into account, and only call her out in the most egregious cases.

    I’ve got an unspoken rule for close friends: you can be flaky, and you can be needy, but not both. If a friend is late or absentminded, but really solid in the good advice department and doesn’t bring a lot of drama, then they’ve got a place in my life. If a friend is going to spend our coffee dates complaining or weeping, I can manage that, as long as they respect my time and show up within a reasonable window. It just balances out, in my books.

  • Grammy

    Oh, dear. For what may be the very first time, I so disagree with Amalah that I can hardly contain myself. Her suggestion is for you to do all the work of trying to come up with a timeframe that everyone can live with, manipulating the agreed-upon time and adjusting your own schedule, instead of your chronically late friend deciding that maybe she needs to be the one to value your time enough to put forth the effort.

    I’m sitting here with Alissa, trying to Breathe In, Breathe Out, and let it be. But it’s not working.

    I know, Amalah says, “…but it still takes a LOT of effort for me. Probably a lot more effort than people like you, the naturally punctual, would ever need to exert.” Which indicates that she thinks it takes no effort for those of us who are on time to be that way.

    For the record — it DOES take effort to not be late, whether we make it look so or not. We just think it’s rude to treat others that way so we really, really work at it till it becomes habit. Too bad that the latecomers just think that we’re “naturally punctual” so that’s an excuse for them to never show up on time.

    • Mag

      Thank you. I agree completely.

      • E

        Agree with Grammy. It’s rude. Arriving on time to your commitments is just a basic responsibility of being a decent, functioning adult. Even kids get in trouble if they show up late to class. Doesn’t matter if it’s more “difficult” for some than others; that’s life. Saying you’re just not capable of being on time or that your brain is “wired differently” doesn’t cut it.

      • Heidi

        THIS. 

    • Ms. Tadpole

      Agreed that it is not polite to be late, but should Amalah have suggested that the OP terminate the friendship because of it?

      If she wants to maintain contact, then she’ll adjust to the vicissitudes of her friend. How practical would it be to suggest that the friend change??

      • Kathryne

        Well, the LW can’t manage her friend’s life for her, so her options were, “adjust to her lateness” or “drop the friendship.” I take it you think Amaleh should have told her to just never see this person again?

        • Kathryne

          Oops, that ended up in the wrong place–I think your comment is spot-on, Ms. Tadpole!

          • sorry, something is wrong with our comment threads. not sure I can have it fixed immediately. Please be patient with us.

    • JMH

      I completely agree. People who are chronically late drive me crazy.

    • Cherie

      I agree that it’s rude, but I look at this advice from a “you need to stop beating your head against a wall” perspective. I have a friend like this. I love her, my kids love her kids, she’s always late. I can’t change her. I can’t control her. I don’t want to kill the friendship. So I can either make myself crazy every time we get together or learn to adjust. I adjust. It works.

  • I’m soooo glad I’m not the only chronically late person around! I know it really drives the on-time and early people crazy, but thank you Amalah for pointing out that it’s not laziness or deliberate rudeness, but a different personality type/wiring issue. I try and try and I’m often still late. It stresses me out and I feel absolutely horrible (to the point where I have to tell myself that if this is the worst thing about me, I’m doing ok, because being late makes me feel so awful), but because I’m just not wired that way, it’s a constant battle, and one I don’t always win.

    That said, I have noticed that my very super always on time friends became more flexible and often late when they became parents. Just an observation!

  • S

    Yikes! I’m really surprised how irritating this is for so many people! I mean, it’s one thing to put in all the effort to get all the kids up and out the door to be at an appointment on time, but I never once would’ve considered a “oh hey let’s meet up at like 3” to be firm commitment. Getting to an appointment on time means waking the kids up early from naps, letting them crap in diapers, eating frozen waffles in the car, etc. I’m not gonna do that every day! I thought Amy’s advice was totally reasonable. If my friends feel as some of the commenters do though, I like the idea of balancing out flaky/needy/other friend negatives and maybe putting the friendship on hold. That feels so sad!! It’d obviously be my fault as the chronically late one. I was mostly on time pre-kids. And I do work my butt off getting this crew out of the house and moving. But we’re often late, so I’d rather not lose a friend forever over that and hope we could just take a break instead. Reluctantly. And sadly. 🙁

    • Bee

      I can really see both sides, but I prefer the middle to either side! Kind of a mix of punctuality and compassion, I guess. My mother modeled for me that if you aren’t early, you are late. On time was basically late. Until my mid-twenties I felt horribly, horribly guilty if I was even a couple of minutes late, and horribly, horribly offended if a friend was late, or a doctor didn’t see me on time, or a teacher conference started late. I felt righteous indignation! Even for the doctor who had to tend to an emergency! Ack! But, my mother was also a therapist who taught me that people have differences and that unless you discuss them it’s not fair to judge based on your perception of their life. I have really relaxed on the time factor. I let people know up front if I have something else before (that might make me late) or after (that might interfere if they are late) and generally just chill. I have friends who run chronically late and since I enjoy their company and want to spend time with them, I’m willing to deal with that. I don’t categorize it as “rude,” just different. With cell phones, we usually connect with a quick call or text so I don’t have to worry and know they are on the way, and I can play 2048 or check emails or make a shopping list while I wait. I don’t think it’s right to say if a friendship like this one was ended due to your tardiness “it would be my fault.” Why isn’t it her fault for being uptight and unforgiving? I’d just say it was an incompatible relationship. I still think this one has a chance if they can each talk about it with some empathy for the other person’s opinion. Perhaps the other mom would be less late, or could call when she’s actually ready to leave the house so the expectation is more realistic.

  • Melinda

    It’s incredibly rude to be consistently late. Once or twice? Okay! No problem! Every single time?! RUDE.

    if you know it will take longer to get somewhere because you have children START SOONER OR MAKE APPOINTMENTS FOR A LATER TIME!

    I work really hard to be places on time. I usually end up somewhere early because I’m scatterbrained and know I might need that extra ten minutes incase I get lost.

    Seriously, I’d just tell the friend “Hey, can you make more of an effort to be on time?” It’s disrespectful of the time I’ve taken to schedule something into my day and get there on time if someone else consistently arrives 20+ mins late.

    • Courtney

      This. Yes. I was thinking the entire time I was reading- that is incredibly rude. I’ve had friends like this, and I think the problem comes down to this: Late people rank what events are important to be on time to by the consequences for being late. Your dentist will move on with their day and send you the no-show bill; Your friend will patiently wait for you and pretend that it’s okay. But it’s not. I’m not early because it’s my nature, I’m early because I care about your time as much you apparently care about your dentist’s time. 

      • Lindsay

        Ack! Yes! THIS!!!!
        If you can show up on time for some appointments, you can put in that same effort to come meet me!

    • April_S

      I really like how you explained this. Yes, I manage to be on time to appointments but it’s truly at the expense of my family’s well being. It’ll be a quick applesauce pouch and granola bar as a meal, (which may leave her hungry – and I probably have a well rounded meal in the fridge that I prepped the night before that is just going to waste), and it’ll mean not washing our faces or brushing our teeth in the morning per usual. It’ll mean rushing everyone, frantically, instead of having time to help my daughter put on her own shoes, or stop and notice the plants outside on our way our the door. It means I probably won’t have enough toys to keep my daughter occupied, or I’ll forget to bring water for anyone. I’m not going to put everyone through that for just a play date. 

      It’s really weird to me that being 15 minutes late to a *play date* is considered rude. Is it that hard to be compassionate? It’s a play date. What is so important about those 15 minutes?

      I’m finding myself very grateful that the few mama friends I DO have all try to sympathize and be supportive of one another.  We are all simply happy to be together as friends and watch our kids play – no matter what time anyone rolls up to a play date. 

      • April_S

        OOPS! This was supposed to be in response to S (above).

  • Mag

    I also am in the “being consistently late is rude” camp. Like the others have said, it takes effort to be on time no matter what your personality. Yes, kids can throw a wrench into things but I plan for wrenches. I plan extra time in case of a toddler tantrum, a traffic jam, getting lost, a dirty diaper, etc. I don’t understand why other people cannot also put some thought into it.

  • Annie

    ooooh. wow. This one got to me. I am someone with a job and two small children, and I work very hard at being punctual. I usually am on time, and if I’m late (which does happen at times) I apologize because I do feel that being late is disrespectful. My sister in law is chronically late- and by so much that things like play dates were half-over by the time she arrived, or meals had gone cold and the kids were cranky. It made me SO ANGRY. So, this is what I did. I said things like “We’ll be at the park from 9am to 11:30 if you want to join us. We’ll head home at 11:30.” Then I left promptly at 11:30, even if she had just arrived 20 minutes prior to that. For meals, I said “We’ll be eating from 5:30 to 6pm. You can join us at 5:30, or just eat dinner on your own and come over later.” Then if she’s not there to eat with us, the meal started and ended without her. This past week we got together and had a bring-your-own-dinner sort of play date, which was flexible enough for both of us. Communicating my plans, with times, and inviting her to join in seems to work well for us. AND it has taken so much tension out of the relationship. I can remain punctual, stick to the schedule that works for my kids, and stay calm. She joins in as she is able. When we’re invited to her house I ask for a window of time that works for us to arrive, and I show up at the end of that window. I have learned that meals served at her house will be served later than I expect, so I bring food for my kids and an appetizer we can snack on while the meal is being cooked. As a punctual person with non-punctual in-laws, this works well for me!

    • Annie

      OK, having re-read that, I came off like a controlling schedule-freak. I meant that when I am the one inviting, I explain what the time schedule is, give options, and I stick to the time schedule. When my sister in law is the one inviting, I have learned to be flexible and plan for things to be later than I thought they would. THIS has taken the tension out of our relationship.

      • Meri

        I agree completely. Be consistent. I love the appetizer idea 🙂 I am still learning to relax but not waver. It does relieve a lot of tension though it breaks my heart when my MIL misses out on spending time / doing activities with grandchildren because of it. She lives out of state so we try to be more flexible but you can’t ask the zoo to stay open or your toddlers to skip naps.

      • Raquel

        Love this and I don’t think you sound like a control freak. I think a lot of time the timely friend feels like all of the control is given to the late friend. They are arrive when they want, completely happy and bothered and you are boiling on the inside.

    • Sam

      I also love this- and don’t think you sound like a control freak! I have chronically late friends and I am a chronically punctual person (even with a child). Lateness makes me insane. That insanity can get out of control for me- if I make an effort to be on time, it means that I have sacrificed all the things people above are talking about (plant watching and great food eating, etc) or that I have managed to do them in a timely manner and sacrificed work or something else. So when people are late, I feel cheated. You stopped to smell the flowers and I didn’t and that’s crap. However, I started just learning to let things go by doing what you are describing here: make plans if you’re a planner, ,invite people to join, but stick to your plans. That way, you don’t feel like your time and plans are being jerked around by someone else. It really works. And, everyone seems pretty happy.

  • KO

    I am on the punctual side of things and very much relate to the person who asked this question! When my son was 6 months old (he’s 3 years old now), we had twice-weekly walking dates with a group of girls who’d also just had babies. Problem was, I lived 20 minutes from the trail where we walked, and EVERY single time, most of the group would no-show and the others were late. It was so frustrating to do all the work of getting out of the house on time, and driving all that way, only to find everyone else flaking out on the things we’d planned. It was also frustrating, because I would turn down other invitations because I’d already committed. Eventually, we just stopped trying altogether.

    That’s sort of a first-cousin issue to the punctuality thing—not really the same, but it taught me a lot about setting expectations when making plans with other mom friends. I’d actually suggest a modified version of what Amalah suggests here: I’d communicate clearly with your friend about the lateness, in a kind and understanding way, and say something along the lines of, “I really love hanging out with you and am trying to squeeze the most out of my day as possible—could you let me know if you think you’ll be running late, so I can adjust my plan, too?” And, possibly, acknowledge out loud, “The absolute latest we can start our playdate is 10:30—can we plan to meet around 10:15, just in case the morning gets hectic? That way, we won’t have to miss out on any time together.” Just acknowledging it might help her make more of an effort to be punctual, especially if you do it in a way that assumes the best and empathizes with the very real issue of UGH STUFF HAPPENS NOW I’M LATE we all (even the most punctual among us!) face on occasion. 

  • S

    So as some one in the chronically late camp, I’m curious. . .  is there a cushion that’s acceptable for this sort of thing?  Cuz I’ll be honest.  I’m not sure I’d even think 10-15 min late to a playdate was a faux pas.  Anything more than about 15 min, I’d send a text or phone call.  It’s not because I don’t value your time, it’s just that I guess I see it as more of a casual thing.  If it’s just a playground or some place where my kids are just playing anyway, I don’t mind waiting so I assume others won’t either.  Same with my house, where it doesn’t seem like that much inconvenience.  Not trying to be rude, just wondering if nothing less than exact time will do.  For what it’s worth, I think I’m fairly conscious of time-sensitive things – dinner reservations (or even dinner at someone’s house, I don’t want to hold up hungry kids), movie start times, kids’ parties with specific windows, etc.  

    • Alissa

      My feeling, S, is that I got up, fed my kids, prepped snacks, made a pot of coffee, got dressed, got two kids dressed, cleaned up the house, and we are READY TO PLAY at said stated time.  15 minutes might not seem like a big deal, but if I put in the effort to be on time, why can’t you do the same?  If it’s stated that it’s kind of a drop-in play date at a park, cool.  Be late.  But if I invited you to a play date at my house, it makes me crazy that you think it’s no big deal to be late.  And please don’t take my “you” to actually mean YOU.  Just, you know – all you late folks who drive me nuts.  🙂

    • IrishCream

      I’m in the generally punctual but not OCD about it camp, and I don’t love being kept waiting by my chronically late friends, but I wouldn’t bat an eye at someone being 15 minutes late. If I say “Come over at 11:00,” and we’re talking a casual playdate, I would not be offended in the slightest if my friend got there at 11:15. Later than 15 minutes, and I’m antsy.

      I think there’s some regional variability to this, too. If I’m invited to a dinner party (with grownups, not hungry kids), I would never dream of showing up exactly at the appointed time. That would be rude. It’s expected that you give the hosts a little grace period to finish last minute prep. 

    • Heidi

      I agree that the window depends on the circumstances, which has to include the kids’ schedules.  I’ve found that my friends who have more flexible nap schedules than my kids are more casual about when things start and end. So I always schedule with the “we have to be eating/sleeping by XXX time. I’m happy to meet whenever, as long as we can leave by XXX-y” 
      But this means “time sensitive” isn’t just the dentist.

      Also, on a playground, my kid wants to be playing with other kids. If your kids are late, my kid will have found someone else to play with by then…fine, new friends, except we know there will be awkward “come play with us” moments. 

      And also, exactly what Alissa said below. 

      I disagree that it’s primarily a wiring thing. Procrastinating is awesome. We all love it. Being on time is hard. It’s also an important life skill. 

  • Helen

    other people’s lateness doesn’t bother me, but it seriously bothers my kids, who get all keyed up waiting for their friends to arrive and then have to wait an extra thirty minutes. Which is murder for all of us. Fortunately the solution is easy – I just tell my *kids* that the playdate is scheduled for half an hour later than it actually is!

  • Mary

    Here’s the thing, I can be late sometimes, but I communicate that. Text, call or whatever. Hey, on the way, be there in 10. I try not to make it a habit and when I am late I own it and I don’t leave the person meeting me wondering if I even remembered them.

  • I had a friend in grad school who was always 15-20 minutes late. She was French Canadian, so we’d always say she was on Montreal time. Anyway, once we figured this out, we just always met her 20 minutes later. Saved us all a whole lot of irritation. It’s funny what an easy fix that is. 

  • z

    Well, I am an on-time person and I do think it’s rude to be chronically late.  It really annoys me when I make the effort to be somewhere and I’m left standing on the street corner or in a restaurant like an idiot wondering if my friend has just ditched me.  And on top of it all, having to listen to their excuses with a straight face.  Getting gas, what a surprise that cars need gas.  Traffic, wow, that’s never happened to anyone before.  GRRRR.  Rude.  

    But in this particular situation, because it’s a playdate, I think it’s fine to be 15 minutes late.  Even though I am a very on-time person, I think the social norm is that the start time is not a firm expectation.  It isn’t an event with a set starting time like a movie.  You are somewhere that is comfortable and where your child is happy and easy to manage.  It’s not like you’re standing on the street corner or trying to catch a bus or something.  There is nothing other than your annoyance at stake here.  The only situation that’s different is if you go to her house and she’s not even at home yet and you are waiting outside– that is rude.  

    So if there is actually something at stake, like you can only play for a set time and then you have to leave, convey that clearly to your friend.  And if not, it’s better to just roll with it.  Being 15-20 minutes late to playdates is so generally accepted that you will not be able to change her behavior.

  • Caroline

    I am an on-timer too. Depending on the activity, especially play-date type stuff, 10-15 mins is not the end of the world, but when we start heading into 15-20, I start to get… antsy. It’s rude. I know, Amy makes the point well. It’s not being late ”at me”, but with chronically tardy people there is an assumption made that ”oh, they won’t mind waiting for me. Their time… is just not that important. Mine just gets away from me, they understand, they can wait”. To me, this is rude and whilst I’m pretty sure it’s totally unconscious, it’s arrogant. I was always taught that punctuality is courtesy. If someone is unavoidably delayed occasionally, as every single one of us is sometimes, then I am not unreasonable, but this ”oh you know little old ditzy me!” routine doesn’t work for me. I think the advice to arrange things for 15 mins earlier than you actually want them is a good one in this situation, and I have done this with chronically tardy friends in the past. With other chronically tardy people, I have left them standing once my 10 min grace period is up. I have really done this and there was CONSTERNATION. I mean, how DARE I? But I only had to do it once…

  • sassy

    If I had read this article before I got married I would have fumed that Amy would suggest that anyone should be understanding of the chronically late person. But then I started living with my husband and I realized how different his perception of time really is. I know it takes me exactly 15-18 minutes to get our son to school. I have had to tell him repeatedly to leave 30 minutes before they need to be there. He almost always under estimates how long it will take him to complete any task. So I realize it really is a brain wiring issue. But I still think it’s rude to not respect other’s time and I just don’t schedule play dates with people I know won’t show up within about 15 minutes of when we all agreed to be there. And if I’m late at all even by 2 minutes I’ll text everyone to let them know.

    • C

      I also married someone who is permanently late.  My husband drives me crazy with his tardiness!  I often tell him we need to be somewhere 30 minutes before we do, so that then we’re only 5 minutes late.  It’s helped me get over some of my judginess and anxiety, and I have realized that he honestly does not get why being a few minutes late for your average casual social gathering could be seen as rude, even though I’ve tried repeatedly to explain it.  The upside is that we’ve ended up with (mutual) friends who tend to be easygoing and accept us as is.
      For anyone else who is on time but with a late spouse (or who is the late spouse), any tips for arriving on time for family events, when I can’t just leave without him, and he knows what time the event actually starts so I can’t just fudge the time?

      • Jodie

        Honestly, we’ve both just had to move a bit.  I rush him a bit more than he’d like, and I’ve learned to loosen up.  I know when to pick the “this matters, we must get there on time” moments carefully and our family and good friends just expect us to be 30 mins late.  Letting go of the anxiety makes us happier with each other and honestly is teaching me to be more laid back.

  • Erica

    As an alternate perspective – I find it a bit of a challenge to find other moms I really enjoy spending time with and have kids the same age as my son. When I do, I am willing to adapt to little things like time or location preferences, etc, because I value the rarity of a good, honest connection on both counts.

    If this is a family that you and your children really do enjoy, then don’t let a bit of tardiness ruin that friendship for you.

  • Meri

    I can understand both perspectives here. Growing up we were ALWAYS 15 minutes early (30 if it were up to my Dad ) BUT -My MIL is perpetually 30-45 minutes late ! often HOURS. This makes me sick with anxiety. She made it to our wedding on time.
    Nothing makes her angrier than finding out someone lied to her about the actual starting time. I have seen her shake with anger over this. I agree with her ; a lie is a lie, plain and simple. In her case I don’t think she can help it. I believe that she has OCD to a point that she almost cannot function. Everything must be done carefully and methodically. A one week trip takes months of preparation. Please, just be gracious and don’t lie. 15 minutes is irritating but it’s not the end of the world.

    • Caroline

      Wow. So she thinks it’s perfectly acceptable to be deeply late to events but expects everyone to just accept it and not try and find work-arounds? To the whole ”a lie is a lie” thing, well, it’s quite nice to be able to pick and choose where being all moral and high-minded works for you but flatly ignore other aspects of decent behaviour (showing up for important events at the right time, just as an example, or, you know, respecting other people’s time!). I’m afraid the OCD thing doesn’t wash. Clearly she has issues, but she should factor the time taken to do stuff and get ready into it. If she can’t, then tough. I would make no apologies for telling her whatever it took to get the ball rolling. As your m-I-l it would be impossible to leave her out (which I categorically would do were she not a direct family member). Either she shapes up or has her little rage-shake tantrum somewhere else. Ideally somewhere a long way from me. 30-45 mins is LATE. It’s not a few minutes, it’s insulting and demeaning to the host and to people who are expected to ”be gracious” and sit there. Unacceptable. You are a far more tolerant person than I, and yes, she can help it. She must be aware it’s a problem, that she has trouble functioning and yet has chosen to do nothing about it. Fine, her choice, but the subsequent need to control everyone else’s behaviour (ie they must be above reproach and totally respectful and accepting of her rudeness) makes it appear as though her behaviour can completely be helped. You are enabling her, allowing yourself to be made sick with anxiety – she knows this and genuinely does not consider it a problem – and I think you have patience beyond what I could manage.

      • Angela

        As someone who has worked with those who are mentally ill, I can tell you that dealing with severe OCD is rarely as simple as you seem to think. For one thing, you assume that her MIL is doing nothing to treat her illness which may or may not be true. She could be on medication and going regularly to therapy and still have struggles. Then there’s the fact that anxiety disorders can be extremely difficult to plan around. Yes, I’m sure she’s aware that she needs extra time. But how much? Will she have a panic attack? If so, for how long? How many times will she miss a step in her rituals and need to start over again. And of course this is all compounded by the fact that OCD is anxiety-related, so the more anxious she is to be on time the worse her symptoms will get. She could spend all day preparing to go out and still arrive late and for some people the fact that they leave home at all is a major feat, regardless of the time.

        Also, I totally understand why her family is tempted to lie about starting times, but I also understand why she’s so upset by it. I imagine it’s just a reminder that she’s not healthy or “normal” and people don’t like being reminded of that. I have no idea what her MIL’s situation is. Sure it’s possible that she is capable of more, but it’s also possible that she’s not.

        • z

          Lying will not help someone with OCD or anxiety.  It will just make it worse.  Now she can’t believe what her family members tell her about times, so she has the added burden of trying to find out the true time and plan for that.  It’s just one more thing for her to be anxious about.  So I would not lie to her, I would tell her crystal clear that the event is starting at X time and we would love to have you there.  But if not, just come when you are able.

  • z

    OP, your son’s anxiety is a product of your own.  You can tell him calmly “They’ll be here in a little while” as if that were the plan all along, rather than letting him pick up on your stress.

    Try to think about why it bothers you so much.  For me, I think lateness is rude, but it also causes me social anxiety.  It makes me question whether my friend really likes me, or just considers me a fallback friend.  That’s one of the reasons that it’s rude by standard etiquette.  But I also have an above-average level of social anxiety, so it bothers me extra-much.  That’s my issue, not theirs.

    Finally, there is probably something about you that annoys your friend, that she is letting go for the sake of the friendship, right?  15 minutes every couple of weeks is a small price to pay for a good friend who puts up with your quirks.

  • Susan

    Yes, this is annoying (though you could possibly dial it back a bit for the sake of your kid).

    I suggest you talk to her in a non-judgey way and ask her to text you when they leave so you don’t arrive someplace too early and just sit there. Make it more a matter that you’re opposites when it comes to time than that she’s wrong. 

    Now that I have two kids to get ready, I’m consistently late (when with them) and I just text anyone and everyone that we’re meeting to let them know when I’m actually in the car. Plus I never make exact meeting times, it’s always 9-9:15. 

  • Kim

    I have a longtime friend who is roughly 20-30 min late for EVERY planned time together. Kids or no kids. And yes, I am wired to be on time, almost always early, because it makes me itch otherwise. I get that there’s different ways people are wired and it’s a personality thing… but when it’s 30 minutes late EVERY time, it’s a rudeness thing, bottom line. It just is.

    • Caroline

      Have you spoken to her about it? I have done that in a similar situation. I wasn’t mean or unfair, just said ”you know, when we make plans and I’m on time and you are consistently 1/2 an hour late, it really upsets me and makes me feel as though my time is not important”. Of course she’ll do the whole ”but MY life is SO MUCH harder to manage blah blah” but the point will be well-made. People do what they are allowed to do.

      • Kim

        OH YES she knows it irks me. She says ‘I have two boys to get out the door!!’ and I reply with ‘I DO TOO!’ I even sent her a pin on pinterest of how chronically late people can try to change.. it sounds callous, but it was actually a really well-worded article about intrinsically why late-comers are the way they are, and practical ways to change, and how it makes people feel when they are chronically late. Never heard a reply on that, but I didn’t figure I would, she brushes things under the rug whenever possible. So I just have minimized my plan-making with her, simple as that. 

  • S #1

    First S from the comments, not the second, but still a late S, here. I’m late because I haven’t yet figured out how to work more efficiently. It has nothing to do with you, I try. And it makes me feel crappy that you are so upset. And it’s totally true that I prioritize dentist appointment on-timeness over being on time with you. Yeah, it’s because I don’t think it’s that big of a deal. Not that it doesn’t bother me. And not because I don’t think YOU are a big deal. I care! I was usually on time before kids. (And no, I wouldn’t now leave you hanging outside a restaurant. And I’d text at about the 10-15 minute mark for a play date.) I can give my list of excuses … Special needs kid and unpredictable (hour-long) tantrums, two 2-year-olds still in diapers but trying the potty (sometimes they won’t, yay that’s faster, sometimes they want to, yay I need to encourage that and stay), feeding difficulties leaving me feeling extra feeding guilt and wanting to make them eat a good breakfast, dad comes home late so I put them down late at night compared to your kids so I won’t be waking them up early, my kids still need help eating/dressing/pottying/putting on shoes so by the time I get through that the other kid is naked again and has to go to the bathroom again and needs another snack … And then the truly lame excuses like I ALWAYS forget that it takes five minutes to get the gang strapped into the car, there’s always a last-minute rush to find my wallet or keys that I don’t keep in one obvious spot by the door because I haven’t figured that out yet. So while I completely agree with ugh annoyance about the truly chronically late who show up hours late and think schedules don’t matter (my kids need to nap! This is when we eat!), I just feel like the kid excuses are legit and surprise me every day. I mean, really, who barfs that much? And it sucks feeling like I don’t have it under control with a litter of toddlers, that going out to the library for a few minutes takes an hour prep and and an hour wind down back home, but that’s where I am and why it’s so important to connect with other parents of toddlers. So I hope we can come to a resolution, stick to public space play dates with somewhat of a loose start time, maybe make it a group event so there will be some overlap between different families. I’m struggling. I know you have the same excuses and are working hard to make it there and are better than me about getting there on time. I appreciate it and I admire your getting it all together. Kids are hard and you’re rocking it. I’ll get better!

    • April_S

      I’ve totally got your back. You’re the type of mama I need as a buddy. I’m the same way. I’m usually late, and I feel super guilty about it. And I guarantee that I spent my last 15 minutes at home rushing around trying to get out the door. I hate being late. I’d love to be on time all the time, even early. But I really don’t have a firm grasp of how long all the little kid & toddler prep takes. SO, I hear you. I’m in your camp. Don’t worry. We’ll find our like minded folk. 

    • Lauren

      Love this! You & I would get along quite well, sister! To all of you who are upset about our lateness: You are better at this stuff than me! We start early, I try my butt off, and clearly look, I fail. That doesn’t stop me from trying hard the next time, even though I fail over and over again (despite all of those tips & tricks to change). Getting upset at a chronically late person who is not otherwise a jerk is like getting upset at someone who is dyslexic who’s having a hard time reading. We’re trying! Seriously! We honestly have a time management disorder. It is stressful and makes us feel crappy about ourselves that we can’t manage to get places on time. We really do care about you & value your friendship, we really are working on it. Give us a helping hand up instead of pushing us down, you know? For the record, go ahead and lie to me about the actual starting time. Just don’t let me know you’re lying, or my internal clock will make me that much later because it will factor that in. It’s not ill will, it’s just the same reason why setting my own clocks ahead does not help me one bit in being more punctual.

  • Julia

    Living in a major metropolitan area, I feel like 10-15 mins late is pretty reasonable, given that traffic/parking/public transit is unpredictable.  I tend to err on the side of caution and leave earlier than needed, but often end up getting places early and being annoyed that I am wasting time waiting around.  That said, if I were meeting someone who lives very close to me, I would probably be annoyed if they were perpetually late.  

  • April_S

    Wow. This is so weird to me. I have play dates about twice a week, and we always specify that they’re “flex.” There’s always a beginning and ending range, and everyone shows up at some point, typically within the first 45 minutes. We also keep each other posted via text, about our general eta and then when we actually leave the house. I think our priority is being understanding of each other, and sympathetic to the unpredictable nature of kids.

    Granted, our plans are different than OP’s right off the bat – it’s a different arrangement. But I really wouldn’t think twice about a friend running 15 minutes late. It’s would even be on my radar. Maybe this mom is coming from a situation more like mine?

    I’m also a chronically late person, and I have a good deal of anxiety and stress about it. I’m always rushing to get places on time and I feel horrible for being late. It’s not uncommon for me to arrive at my inlaws with a terrible stress stomach ache, just because packing the diaper bag and getting my daughter dressed and ready always takes twice as long as I expect. And then I beat myself up on the whole drive over. 

  • C

    I agree with Sassy that finding a friend who you enjoy and your kids both get along is amazing and perhaps worth dealing with the tardiness. Friendships are hard. I sincerely don’t think people who are late intend to be late or intend to be rude. I’m very punctual but one of my best friends from grade school through high school was perpetually late. She was late to absolutely everything and it was frustrating and annoying. She was aware of her lateness but couldn’t seem to figure out how to get anywhere on time. I couldn’t change her behavior but I could change mine and I could change my reaction. Her being late wasn’t a reason to end the friendship. 20 years later we are still friends. A couple of years ago she was diagnosed with adult ADD. For her, this diagnosis has been so helpful in understanding things like being late and providing realistic tools for better time management. It wasn’t as simple as we are all on time so you should be on time too. As with anything a little understanding can go a long way. Just because some of us are wired one way doesn’t mean it is easy for everyone to be wired or focused in the same way.

    • rachel

      “I think our priority is being understanding of each other, and sympathetic to the unpredictable nature of kids.” Word.  I always assume that the start time for a playdate is a bit flexible because babies/little kids are unpredictable. 

  • Kim

    I have recently diagnosed ADD too.  If you think you’re upset with me being late, you have no idea the things I’ve been saying to myself  in the car all the way to the date.
    When Amalah says it takes a lot of work, I read it as “I don’t have good time management skills.”  If you are an on time person, you do.  You have figured out what it is you need to do to make sure you are on time, and you get it done.  I, otoh, need to work twice as hard to organize those tasks, estimate the time I need – which will invariably be too little – and then execute those tasks, and I’m likely to fail. I lack the foundational skills.  
    It’s a bit like some people can whip together four course meals without blinking, and others of us need a recipe to boil eggs.
    People who are chronically late are no more likely to be jerks than people who are chronically on time are likely to be uptight. Let’s be gentle with each other, shall we?

  • JMH

    Question: For those of you (with kids) who are always late, what are you going to do when they are school age?I teach in an elementary school, and after a certain amount of tardies, the kid get an after school detention.Just curious……

    • S

      One of the reasons things take me so long right now with toddlers is that I try to allow them to do things for themselves so that they learn to gain independence. So my hope is that by the time they’re 6, they will be able to pee (after we wake them up), change their own clothing (probably that we help them put out the night before), not require another change of clothing due to food/water/milk spills, and brush their own teeth. I also have dreams that we’ll have the special needs better understood and fewer meltdowns (I know, I know, that might be a huge joke to Future Me.)

      My own personal routine is quick and well organized. It takes approximately 5 minutes – I don’t do showers in the morning or makeup or primping of any sort. I make/drink coffee, scarf down breakfast, poop, throw on clean clothing and call it good. I guess if I’m getting fancy and I have a moment, I might brush my hair. So the more independent the kids become, the faster we’ll be because, at least in theory, we can each get dressed simultaneously. A 9 minute process becomes a 3-minute process! Or whatever.

      I know there will be new challenges in school, as well. I’m doing well with lunch packing for the moment and we are teachers, too, so I like to imagine we’ll have the backpack/homework/permission slips routine down.

      I have no concerns that our being 15-minutes late to playdates sometimes is going to become a life-long, detention-earning problem.

  • Jessy

    Some people just have trouble with punctuality. I’d say 15-20 minutes isn’t too bad. Just show up 15 after the time you stated or move up the time that you want to meet. My uncle and his family are always an hour late to every family get together. So we tell everyone that dinner is at 6, but we tell his family that it’s at 5. It all works out with everyone arriving about the same time:)

  • Frances

    Oh wow. I so very strongly disagree with Amy on this one. I am chronically on time, not because it comes easy to me, but because I make a concerted effort to be where I’m supposed to be, when I’m supposed to be there. I have 3 children, and of course it isn’t easy to get everyone out the door. But I do it, because it is rude to make people wait.
    In my opinion, the solution is simple. Talk to your friend. Something like “hey, I know it’s tough to get out the door on time with kids. But man, if we mess up nap time/eating schedule/whatever, even by half an hour, it throws our whole day out of whack. Can you please make an effort to be on time when we make plans?” Seems totally appropriate to me. And if you do that and she is still chronically late, then you get to decide if maybe you want to make these play dates less frequent.

    • Kim

      TOTALLY agree with you. It doesn’t come ‘easy’ to me either – even though I am chronically on time. It’s just a matter of planning backwards from the time you have to get out the door, and when crap happens, you either make-do or hustle. Because yes, it is RUDE. I would never expect perfection in that someone be on time every single time..  but to be late to every single meeting where a time was mutually agreed upon is just nuts! I just deal with it with a friend, I’d be really irked if it were family, and there was no option of distancing myself. 

  • Amy

    I grew up with a chronically late mother and the stress that it placed on situations and people. And I learned that there are two factors that contribute to lateness. Being prepared/organized and the ability to estimate time. My mother had neither skill and as a result being 30 minutes late was the norm and still is today. My husband does not understand her inability to manage time and she doesn’t understand why it should upset him.

    In my book you can’t change someone who doesn’t see a problem so you must adjust your outlook (and be late with them) or look for new like-minded friends. So mentioning it to your friend may make her more punctual for a few weeks but without changing her habits she will eventually return to being late. Hitting a meeting time precisely is difficult so you either have to attempt to be slightly early or have an acceptable lateness window. For me 10-15 minutes is acceptable in most situations and if I’m meeting a punctual friend then I shoot for being early. I have an overly punctual friend whose earliness makes me feel late when I’m on-time which drives me crazy (I hate to be late). But its not a deal breaker. If she were also a “last minute canceler” then we’d have a problem. That’s my ultimate in rudeness. For me punctuality is a personality trait, so I’d accept it as a simple truth and adjust my schedule accordingly.

  • Joanne

    No advice, just a sympathetic story.

    My husband and I were traveling and when we found out we’d be passing thru where my parents live I called and offered to meet them for lunch. They told us to call them when they were 15 minutes out. At 30 minutes out I pulled out my phone, looked at my husband and asked if I should call them now. His reply?

    “I like your pessimism!”

    Yes, I called them 30 minutes out. And we stopped for gas before heading to the restaurant. We pulled in the parking lot less than 30 seconds after they did.

  • june

    Wow, touchy subject.  I am in the ‘chronic lateness is rude’ camp.  On the one hand, OP could very easily just start telling her friend the play time is at 2, and then arriving at 2:15 herself.  But why should she have to do all the work here?  Assuming you have mentioned to your friend that the lateness bothers you, maybe she should be the one who needs to start marking it on her calendar as “1:45” and then you’ll both get there at 2.
    I don’t really buy the whole “wired differently” excuse.  It is work to get somewhere on time, we all agree on that.  I have 4 kids to get ready, and get in car seats, and pack snacks for, and get dressed and and and…and yet I still manage to be places on time.  
    For me, I think there is a grace period of about 5 min on either side of an agreed upon time.  Anything after 5 min deserves a texted reason of why you’re late and expected arrival.  On the flip side, getting early to a park is your own problem, but arriving at your friend’s house early is probably just as annoying to her as her being late is to you.  I’m always running around at the last second making sure the house is reasonably clean and laundry is put away or whatever.  People who show up 20 min early get in the way of all that.  So I think it works both ways.

    • Kimtoo

      You don’t buy the “wired differently’ thing? Do you not buy the need for corrective lenses either?  Maybe if I tried harder, I could see 20/20 on my own. 
      Not everybody who is chronically late all the time has ADD, fair enough.  Sometimes, they just lack time management skills. And sometimes on-time people really are just smug and self-righteous, and we all get to chosse which is harder to put up with.

      • IrishCream

        Some people are good at estimating quantities. They can measure a teaspoon or tablespoon without using the measuring spoons. They can look at a pot of leftovers and pick the right size tupperware to hold it. They can guess the dimensions of a room without measuring.

        Time is a quantity. Some people are good at estimating how long a task will take. Others simply aren’t. I am usually on time, but I have had enough instances in my life where something was way off and I ended up panicked, scrambling to beat the clock, that I can understand how things can go off the rails.

        Being punctual doesn’t make you inherently virtuous, either. There are plenty of jerks who have never been late a minute in their lives. Is your friend, aside from her scheduling issues, usually loving and considerate? OK, then…that’s a more accurate picture of her personality than focusing on her one annoying but not abhorrent character flaw.

        • Kat

          Thank you, IrishCream, for this analogy. I can only hope that more people are as kind and understanding as you are.

    • Corinne

      The hard thing is, especially for playdates with friends who live 30 minutes away on the other side of a major city, planning extra time for child defiance (I don’t want to go! – 10-15min), trying the potty or changing a poopy diaper (which always happens right as I’m strapping him in the car seat – 5-10 minutes), traffic (10 minutes), and a driving-related anxiety attack (5-10 minutes) means that if everything goes smoothly, we arrive 45 minutes early, which also isn’t ideal for anyone.  At some point, you just kind of have to play the averages and hope that if you give yourself an extra 20 minutes you won’t have everything go wrong.  And of course for a playdate, would you rather have a friend and child arrive 20 minutes late ready to play, or on time, but the child is in a terrible mood, due to being forced through a getting out the door routine, screaming the entire car ride, and just wants to hit, scream, and kick and has no interest in actually playing? Which one of those things would be more rude in your book?

  • june

    Sure, some people do have conditions, ADD or otherwise, that make them chronically late.  But for MOST people I think it’s a cop out to claim to be “wired differently” to excuse behavior that is clearly widely believed to be rude to those around you. 
    For a lot of people on this thread, it’s “just” a playdate or “only” 15 minutes or whatever, but for the people like me who think time commitments are important that is read as “sure I told you I’d meet you but checking my email/doing my hair/finishing up this work/stopping for gas is more important to me so you can just stand around waiting for whenever I decide to show up.”  
    If that makes me smug and self-righteous, fine.  But I still think it makes the other person rude and self-centered, especially once it has been pointed out to them that their being late is causing others irritation/inconvenience and yet they still can’t manage to show up anywhere on time.

  • Myriam

    I’m ponctual. If people are late, I always “panic” that on the wrong spot, wrong date, wrong time… I am compassionate when friends are late to something that is “out of the ordinary”. However, a weekly play date should, at one point, become part of the routine, and you should stop being late. My advice would be to tell your friend to text or call you when they are x minutes away from your meeting place, x being the number of minutes you need to get there. You’ll probably still be waiting for her call, but at least you’ll be home and be able to fill the waiting time comfortably, or by doing little chores around the house…

  • Myriam

    My other advice would be to give her not only a “let’s meet at 3” start time, but an “I have to leave at 4” end time, and respect it. Knowing she only has that one-hour window might “motivate” her to get there on time, rather than just “bumping” your whole schedule by her 15 minutes.

  • Melinda

    What’s really shocking to me is how many people in these comments are saying it’s “just a playdate,” so they don’t worry about time.

    Excuse you? I didn’t realize having children made my time and my appointments less valuable.

    If you’re chronically late, not once in awhile, took-me-forever-to-find-parking late, you are being extremely disrespectful of your friends. You’re expecting them to make concessions for you.

    So many of you are completely aware that you’re inconveniencing others, but it doesn’t matter because your kids are somehow more difficult than everyone else’s and it’s “just” your friend’s time?

    Why not try putting them first on occasion? If you’re late once, be on time next time. Afterall, it’s “just a playdate,” so whatever else you had going on must not be important.

  • Kesh

    I’m absolutely terrified now. Being from a large family where time is relative (start time is always stated as a range, “dinner around 5-6, let Mom know if you won’t make it, but we’ll start without you” kind of thing), I had a major life adjustment when I married a man from a small family of super punctual people. I learned to organize my time better, he learned that not being 10 min early doesn’t mean that we’re late. Now we have a 2 month old daughter and we’re both still adjusting. Again. And I think we’re doing okay. But I’m starting miss interacting with adults now that I’m a SAHM and it’s major disruption of any nap schedule to attempt to meet up with friends whether they have kids or not. I feel terrible making plans when I know that a single diaper blowout could set me back 20-40min. And arriving super early just to hang out and wait doesn’t work anymore – not with a nursing baby who is particular about her naps.

    So I guess what I’m saying is… Where is the grace? Can we all just cut some slack for each other? Decide that we probably have quirks that make the other person twitch too? Because if there’s no ability to flex and we have to treat every item on the calendar like it’s a set in stone “you will be fined for tardiness”… Then I’m not sure that having mom friends and playdates is worth the effort and anxiety. 

  • Jodie

    Wow – I don’t think I’ve ever seen such a contentious smack down.  Even about breast feeding!

    Actually, all the comments were super enlightening for me.  Chronic early bird here who is married to a chronic tardy person (who incidentally told me on our first date he HATED people who were late.  And then proceeded to be late to every.single.date.  Ha!)

    Anyway, I had the same reaction as many of the commenters.  It’s actually not easy for me to be on time.  In fact, being on time usually starts the day/night before.  I look at my calendar to see what’s coming.  I do the math on how much time it will take us all to get ready, pad it by a few minutes for unforeseen circumstances and then usually wake myself up a few minutes before that.  I’ve already decided what we are doing to wear and get the kiddos moving on time.  I consider where we are driving, what the parking situation is, what the traffic is likely to be, etc.  I write a to do list or to pack list the night before it’s an unusual event or place.  

    I do all these things because it seems respectful to do so.  As a fulltime working mom of three, time is literally my most precious commodity – I assume it is for others and would hate to waste it.  That’s why I go to such extraordinary lengths to avoid it.

    That said, my husband (and oldest daughter) just can’t do this.  I’ll admit to this annoying the ever loving crap out of me a time or two with him.  But, when I started thinking about this in terms of executive function from above I had this huge ah-ha! moment.  This really is likely not a value judgement on his part.  It’s not that he isn’t willing to go to the effort, it’s the his efforts likely don’t take him as far as mine do – it’s not as efficient.   Hugely helpful in thinking about my oldest who has similar struggles.

    Thanks all, this was super helpful!

    • I, too, have been surprised at how passionate the responses have been. I never would have thought this would be such a charged post and I have read EVERY smackdown.

    • Corinne

      I do all of those things (always have – and late people used to drive me nuts too), but I’m usually still late to anything I have to bring my child to if I expect him to be in a reasonable mood.  I still haven’t figured out the magic window of how long he will fight me over going anywhere at all, because he hates going anywhere and doing anything, and will fight with every ounce of force in his 30lb body to avoid leaving the house. Most days.  And then the day that he doesn’t, we’re half an hour early. 

  • IrishCream

    I’m really curious about the cultural aspect of this. Are there big differences by region? Living in New England and NYC, I’d be more taken aback by someone being exactly on time for a get-together at my house than I would be by someone arriving 15 minutes late. It’s understood when you invite someone over at 11:00 that the invite is really for “11ish,” e.g. 11:10 or 11:15. If someone were chronically extremely punctual, I’d start to think they were a little inconsiderate!

    • jodie

      Me too!  Actually there have been a couple of topics recently that I expected to be this charged.  There was one about an elective scheduled c and another about nursing that I was *sure* was going to get crazy.  But in fact the whole thread was so respectful and supportive!

  • Wow

    We all have flaws.  Every single person here, I imagine, has some bad habit or problem in their life that drives them or others crazy, that they make efforts to fix, but is just hard.  One-upping people in conversations.  Interrupting.  Uptalking.  Ignoring others’ financial status when you pick a restaurant.  Talking about your job/kid/house constantly.  Giving unasked for advice.  Whatever.  

    What’s really bothering me in this thread is the assumption from many of the on-time people that chronically late people are just a bunch of excuse-making liars who, I guess, just want to anger their friends and relations because they really don’t care about them at all.  

    Still, I imagine most of you on-timers hope others will try to understand, even if they don’t excuse, even if they hate, whatever flaw is in your life that you haven’t been able to completely rid yourself of.  You’d hope that if they call you on it, they’d do it from a place of good faith, understanding you aren’t trying to anger them and actually wanting to find a solution.  You’d hope they don’t just think you’re an awful person who is doing it because you don’t care about anyone but yourself.  You’d maybe hope they understand that even if you can get it under control occasionally, it’s still hard and won’t work every time.  

    Look.  When it comes to chronic flaws — of any sort — you get to decide if dealing with it is worth it or not.  If the friendship is worth working around that flaw.  For some people, it may not be. Which is fine.  You can make that choice!  Drop the chronically late people from your lives!  Stick to your start and stop times!  You do you, right?  

    But if you do have a flawed friend and you don’t want to lose the friendship, then it’s worth trying to understand from the other side and find ways to work with it.  It’s worth reading, for example, the posts from the chronically late from an open minded perspective rather than a dismissive and angry one.  Worth learning that it’s not about valuing you or your time in our minds, or that we feel awful but none of our efforts have helped, or whatever else can help to humanize the situation so you can work with it. (Whether working with it means having a conversation with the friend or arranging flex start times or planning to be ten minutes late or asking them to text if they’ll be more than five minutes late or whatever.)

    Because, yeah, if you’re working from a base assumption that the reason for the lateness is just that we don’t care about you and absolutely have the ability to completely fix it but are just choosing not to because, I guess, we just like to anger our friends and family no matter how many problems it’s caused us, well, then, yeah. We seem like horrible people.  Which is fine and dandy if you want to drop the friendship, but a horrible head space to be in if you’re hoping to keep it.  

  • B

    I have been on time. I have been late. I think I am one of the few who fall squarely in both camps, depending on the circumstances. I think there are times when things come up (oh no! my gas light is on and I forgot all about it, and then I I got stopped at a train, and my baby crapped all over the car seat, which I need to address before walking into the zoo). You crazy “always be on time” people need to understand that life gets in the way. But! The always late people? It is NOT easier for someone to be on time than you. It is exactly the same amount of hard. I have people in my life that are never, ever on time and I think it is rude. I am incredibly reasonable and understanding that things come up! But every time? Sorry. If I can rearrange my life, coordinate my children, schedule and cooking times, then you can too, absent extenuating circumstances. I hate this all or nothing attitude, with a flippant, “Oh, I’m late, I’m always late, oh well, accept me for who I am.”  Sorry, that is b.s. There are excuses and then there is rude. But equally annoying is the, “I am always on time, I plan for things such as thunder storms and car accidents and therefore I judge you and refuse to understand that life gets in the way.” OMG! As fellow moms especially, how about a little understanding?!? #endrant

    • Jodie

      Speaking as someone who does in fact get frustrated by consistent and excessive tardiness (and who also found this thread helpful in considering alternate thoughts), I think the reason this one can feel so hard to overlook compared to others is because of the value our whole society puts on time.  Of course that’s in the obvious addition to assuming our flaws are always much more minor than others 🙂

      In all seriousness though, I’ve literally had this conversation so many times with my husband in the 10+ years we’ve been married.  Why does he think that the task he decided to escalate over the time we agreed upon is ok to do?  Is his time more valuable than mine?  When I start from that place, it’s very easy to place values/judgment like selfishness on it.  

      That said, as I mentioned above, I had never considered the way that brain actually functions when considering this.  That perhaps, in fact, I am better able to predict out tasks needed and time spent in the way he is simply better at me in spatial awareness.

      I’m not a jerk and I think in general I’m pretty understanding and accepting of flaws.  I just needed this one reframed.  

      • Jodie

        Shoot – this was in response to the commenter above!  Sorry!

        • sorry, something is wrong with our comment threads. not sure I can have it fixed immediately. Please be patient with us.

  • Kate B

    In my circle of mom friends, the in-house playdate “start” time is the “please don’t arrive any earlier than this” time, with arrivals happening any time from then until the “end” time, usually just before the host’s kid(s) need a nap. Our kids range mostly within a year of each other, which means some families show up early and leave early for naps, while others show up after a nap and stay later. But we’ve all more or less talked about it, and everyone’s kind enough to send out an alert if the day’s schedule goes unexpectedly haywire. 

    • n

      I’ve been reading through the comments thinking about regional and other cultural differences in regard to timing!

      I used to live in New England too — and I agree with you that in my circles, arriving at the stated time would be odd if not outright inconsiderate. In the upper South and Midwest, though, arriving early seems to be very common. Once, traveling in Michigan, I arrived 3 minutes early for a shuttle only to find that it had already departed. What’s up with that? To me, that’s much more inconsiderate than showing up a few minutes late. I also think that showing up at my house early for dinner or whatever is extreme, because, as others have noted, I may have important last second clean-up plans for those final few minutes!

      Moving beyond US regions, I’ve had major time issues with friends coming from other cultural contexts. A friend from Zimbabwe is at least 1 hour late to everything, and we’ve talked about it, in a non-judgmental way, and she explains that she just can’t get out of what she calls “African Time.” 

      • n

        Sorry — This comment is showing up in reply to the wrong person.

        • sorry, something is wrong with our comment threads. not sure I can have it fixed immediately. Please be patient with us.

  • ras

    I see Amy’s point, but I have to say I disagree with her conclusion. We all struggle to get out of the house. We all forget that we need gas or cash. We all have the temptation to sit down and send one last email. But people who consistently do these things and expect their friends to understand and accommodate are being rude, whether or not they intend to be.

    I’m an extremely punctual person (and by that I mean I show up on time, not early). It’s not at all easy to get places on time but the idea of keeping someone waiting is absolutely horrifying to me. So I build large time cushions into my day. I add ten minutes onto all travel time to account for loading everyone into and out of the car. And if I forget I need gas but stopping for it will make me late, then I stop at the gas station AFTER my appointment (or, if it’s a dire emergency, I send an apologetic text). Bottom line, I think the onus is on me to be on time and if I make a mistake, I should deal with the consequences. My friends should not.

    That all said, I wouldn’t bat an eye if someone was 10 minutes late for an at-home playdate. I don’t start getting cranky until about 15 minutes in and even then I’d give a good friend a lot of leeway. But I have one friend who takes the cake — she has never been on time for a single activity, and usually she’s more than an hour late. She routinely texts at 10 minutes late to say she has left her house (five minutes away) and is on her way, only to show up 40 minutes later because she stopped to run an errand or to send a few emails. I love her and her kids but we don’t do playdates with her anymore. It’s not worth the stress.

  • n

    This is a fascinating conversation. It’s clearly an issue of tension for many people.

    My thought is that part of the issue is that people are “wired differently,” but perhaps more fundamentally, time is a more complex idea than we often recognize. We’re all acculturated to understand time in a particular way, but there is a lot of variation. Some of us wear a watch and watch every minute. In many contexts, that would have been impossible. 

    Basically, we do not all have the same understanding of time. It might help to think about time as a human construct. We use it to manage and organize, but time is not an absolute. It means different things to different people. 

    More practically, here’s a problem I have with the comments that assume that all you have to do is plan for emergencies and you’ll be exactly on time all the time. If I plan ahead enough for, say bad traffic and a hard time parking, and the traffic isn’t bad and there’s a great parking spot, oops, I’ve just arrived at your house 10 minutes early. I don’t feel great about that, as those last 10 minutes could be crucial prep time for you. Of course it depends on the contact: If I get to the park 10 minutes early, who cares. The fact is, though, that the realities of life should give everyone a bit of flexibility. I think it’s reasonable to be paranoid enough about a dentist appointment to risk showing up 10 minutes early (and all of the lost opportunity and hassle that entails) while being more relaxed about a play date. I can see that this thinking doesn’t really relate to the chronic lateness issue, though.

  • Leslie

    I’d say ditch the friend if it’s such a big issue to you. My experience with most people that are so pissy when other people aren’t holding up what “should” be their end of the social bargain is that they unconsciously seek out those kinds of friends because they find some kind of comfort in the upper hand that their timeliness and organization gives them. It’s a control issue, for sure. Maybe your friend really is much worse than the norm, but YOU wanted to be friends. It’s not fair to your friend for you to not just get the hell over it by doing some self-examination or decide to hang out with other moms with the same priorities. That’s fine, too. There’s just no excuse for bratty behavior about it.

  • Kate

    I figured out something that worked for my specific situation–I ask my perpetually-late friends to text me RIGHT as they’re leaving the door (this works for me because I live in a smallish town and travel times to the places my friends and I frequent don’t vary too much) and I don’t leave until then.
    I get my kids mostly ready to leave around the time we would normally leave if we were to be on time and then we all hang out doing our thing until I get that text. I just find hanging out at home, where I can be getting stuff done and my kids have stuff they can do on their own (even if it’s watching something on TV), much less stressful than waiting at the coffee shop/playground/library.

  • Alison

    I know why she is late because I worked with someone exactly like her.
    She would be on time for work, planes, or a specialist appointment. Everything else she would be 30 – 45 minutes late for. Everyone was sick of her shit so we asked her…. response was she doesn’t like to be waiting. She likes to arrive and everyone is already there waiting for her. So we then gave her start times a full hour before we actually planned on arriving. She got the pint pretty quickly. Your playdate friend has no respect.

  • heidi
  • Sarah

    What a fascinating discussion. And mostly because I don’t really understand the passion from either side of the fence. Personally I don’t consider 10-15min late for a social engagement to be late; and I only care about being late if I think the person waiting for me will. As a hostess I find people who arrive even a minute or two early perplexing and inconsiderate (they usually find me in the shower). I don’t consider myself to be either a punctual or a chronically late person; sometimes I’m early, sometimes on time and sometimes late; and I’m quite happy with my own company so if I arrive at a restaurant 15min ahead of the crowd I take pleasure in the people watching or the chance for a quiet coffee or wine on my own. 

    Certainly you can try communicating your frustration to your friend and perhaps she will put more effort in if she knows how important it is to you (I know I put more effort in to turn up on time for my punctual friends, or the ones who find it anxiety provoking to be in public on their own etc). But surely the ultimate question here is the same as it is in any relationship; accepting that nobody is perfect, do the benefits outweigh the flaws? if so, you need to accept her for the person she is and adjust your expectations, if not then of course you shouldn’t waste any more of your time (or hers) on continuing to meet up with someone who makes you irritated and upset. 

    All the best 🙂

  • Aetheria

    “African Time” reminds me of a church we used to go to. It’s largely Macedonian, but also happens to be where the Ethiopians of the area go. There was a funeral for one, and some other Ethiopians showed up for it late, but they were so late, the funeral was already over! Maybe it had started on Macedonian Time.

    I used to be not great about being on time, but not bad either. Not so much for social things and appointments, maybe just a few minutes occasionally, but late to work by 5 or 10 minutes often enough to get reprimanded sometimes. Yes, it would be troublesome to try to run a business when people show up late.

    I’m not good at estimating the time it takes to get ready or travel. It seems to be from personality type. Mine is INTP. It’s the P part especially that does it, also the N. So I ended up marrying an ISTJ who likes to be early to stuff. He also likes to do the scheduling and driving, so there’s even less time I have to think about: better for me. Eventually I discovered how to be early with him: I get ready (with the baby) to go really early, like at least a half hour extra, then just hang out doing fun stuff until he’s about to leave.

    Only time this doesn’t work out is going to church, since our baby (probably also an INTP!) won’t cooperate with any schedule (still at 13 months old, sleeps whenever she’s tired enough; eats around her sleeping ‘schedule’). She wakes up at sevenish (I don’t get up first because I’m exhausted, and by morning she can’t still sleep in her crib, and I have to keep her from tumbling out of bed), has to nurse a long time, tries to use the potty but usually won’t sit still for the long time it takes her to go, wets her training pants within 10 minutes (already outgrew diapers months ago), has to get changed, and has to have breakfast. I have to deal with short but frequent tantrums throughout the morning, eat something to not faint from all the nursing, feed and take out the dogs, get us both dressed, brush our teeth, and put her in her car seat. Then we’re running out the door at 9:15 when my husband wants to leave. The night before though, at least, I pack up her things and lay out our clothes. Helps some.

    P.S. I just realized what bothers me both about the lying about when something starts (besides the fact that lying is wrong) and setting clocks wrong: it’s disorienting. I don’t even have an alarm clock or any clock in the bedroom (except I have a laptop which of course has a clock on it) because if I looked at it at night when I couldn’t sleep, it would probably cause extra stress, because alarms startle me and cause me extra stress, and my baby wakes me up anyway. So I’m not sure what time it is in the middle of the night or as soon as I wake up, but at least I’m not looking at a wrong clock and thinking it’s a different time (is it even possible?), or calculating in my head the actual time from it. I don’t understand how you can trick yourself in the first place doing that anyway. When I was growing up, my usually-5-to-10-minutes-late mom set the clocks like that sometimes, and it seemed confusing and unproductive.