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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 [email protected].

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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Danielle
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Danielle

That was some really good advice Amy!

Delora
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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
Guest
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
Guest
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
Guest
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… Read more »

Lindsay
Guest
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
Guest
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… Read more »

Grammy
Guest
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… Read more »

Mag
Guest
Mag

Thank you. I agree completely.

E
Guest
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
Guest
Heidi

THIS. 

Ms. Tadpole
Guest
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
Guest
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
Guest
Kathryne

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

Isabel Kallman
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JMH
Guest
JMH

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

Cherie
Guest
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.

Margaret
Guest

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… Read more »

S
Guest
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… Read more »

Bee
Guest
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… Read more »

Melinda
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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… Read more »

Courtney
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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
Guest
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
Guest
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… Read more »

April_S
Guest
April_S

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

Mag
Guest
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
Guest
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… Read more »

Annie
Guest
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
Guest
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
Guest
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
Guest
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… Read more »

KO
Guest
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… Read more »

S
Guest
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… Read more »

Alissa
Guest
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… Read more »

IrishCream
Guest
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… Read more »

Heidi
Guest
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… Read more »

Helen
Guest
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
Guest
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.

Tammy Soong
Guest

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
Guest
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… Read more »

Caroline
Guest
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.… Read more »

sassy
Guest
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… Read more »

C
Guest
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… Read more »

Jodie
Guest
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
Guest
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
Guest
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… Read more »

Caroline
Guest
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… Read more »

Angela
Guest
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,… Read more »

z
Guest
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
Guest
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… Read more »

Susan
Guest
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… Read more »

Kim
Guest
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
Guest
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
Guest
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… Read more »

S #1
Guest
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… Read more »

April_S
Guest
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
Guest
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!… Read more »

Julia
Guest
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
Guest
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… Read more »

C
Guest
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… Read more »

rachel
Guest
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
Guest
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… Read more »

JMH
Guest
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
Guest
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… Read more »

Jessy
Guest
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
Guest
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… Read more »

Kim
Guest
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… Read more »

Amy
Guest
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)… Read more »

Joanne
Guest
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
Guest
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… Read more »

Kimtoo
Guest
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
Guest
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… Read more »

Kat
Guest
Kat

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

Corinne
Guest
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… Read more »

june
Guest
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… Read more »

Myriam
Guest
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… Read more »

Myriam
Guest
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
Guest
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… Read more »

Kesh
Guest
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… Read more »

Jodie
Guest
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… Read more »

Isabel Kallman
Admin

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
Guest
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… Read more »

IrishCream
Guest
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
Guest
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
Guest
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… Read more »

B
Guest
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… Read more »

Jodie
Guest
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… Read more »

Jodie
Guest
Jodie

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

Isabel Kallman
Admin

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

Kate B
Guest
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
Guest
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… Read more »

n
Guest
n

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

Isabel Kallman
Admin

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

ras
Guest
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… Read more »

n
Guest
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… Read more »

Leslie
Guest
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… Read more »

Kate
Guest
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… Read more »

Alison
Guest
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.