a peek inside the fishbowl

08 Feb, 2012

Little white rabbits with pocket watches

Posted by andrea tomkins in: Misc. life|parenting

I don’t know where my hatred of being late began. When I was a kid I remember being extremely proud of the big zeros in the “days late” column on my report cards. And it was really important that it stay that way.

Fast forward 30 years. I still hate being late. It makes me physically ill to find myself rushing somewhere – an appointment, an interview, a flight, even a coffee date – and think that I might be late. As a result, this means that I am chronically early. Having ten or fifteen minutes to spare is no big deal, in fact I welcome it. Sometimes it’s inconvenient, it means that I’m sitting in my car checking my email, or at the airport with an hour to kill, but I’d rather be early than be tardy.

You can imagine what my gut feels like when I’m stuck in traffic and I’m going to be late.

I find it hard to be “fashionably late” for a party as well. I KNOW the invitation says 6:00 p.m. and that most people won’t arrive until 6:30, but if I’m asked to be somewhere at 6:00 I would ideally like to be there at that time. Suffice it to say that if my family is involved in any of this I get a little jumpy.

What does it say about us when we are late? Personally, I think it sends a message (intentionally or not) that we really don’t value the time of the person that is waiting for us.

When the girls were younger they both went to an “early start” school. This meant that school started at 8:00 a.m. instead of the usual 9:00. It was tough to get them out the door on time… especially for me. Neither Mark nor I are early morning people. I’m a mid-morning gal!

It meant we had to lay clothes out the night before, and set our alarms early enough so we had time for them to eat breakfast and make lunches, and most importantly, enough time for little dawdlers to get to school. (I wrote about some of the ways I got them to walk a little quicker this past post.)

In the winter it was doubly challenging because I had to wait around for a lot of this:

Afternoon walk

But somehow, we did it. We hated getting up so early (still do, in fact), but we did it. I can probably count the number of late days on my hand. What’s more, we walked to school every day, rain or shine, summer and winter. It has not been easy, but we did it, because we believe that getting to school on time is important.

Why? Well, I think teaching kids to get to school on time sets a good precedent and teaches them how to be cognizant of time. I wanted to teach our kids that Things Take Time and that it’s important to Make Time for Things. Like breakfast, for example, and putting our snowsuits on. I also think teaching the importance of punctuality early and establishing good habits – like how we teach them manners and grammar and basic hygiene – is a critical life skill. I don’t want to raise kids who arrive late for their university English class and piss off the teacher. I don’t want them to arrive late for dental appointments and job interviews. I don’t want them to destroy their chance of impressing a potential mother-in-law by arriving late for Christmas dinner. You know what I’m getting at? Teaching kids to understand time, respect other people’s time, and be on time is important.

Here’s a question, how does your children’s school deal with chronic tardiness?

Ours has had a never-ending issue with latecomers. I find it mildly shocking. It’s not the kid’s fault, it’s the parents. Can’t everyone just set their alarms 15 minutes earlier? I know it’s hard (heck, I’ve been there), but it’s not like they’re being asked to do something impossible or distasteful, like walk a tight-rope or eat raw liver for breakfast. If I can get up and get my kids to school on time, anyone can.

I remember my kindergarten fear of the teacher making a spectacle out of me for being late. Today, up until now, our daughter’s school wasn’t really doing anything other than making the late kids sign in. This is no biggie if you ask me. Kids don’t care if they need to sign in. I know that punishment isn’t PC anymore, but this is not enough of a deterrent.

As a result, notices came home in school newsletters, again and again, with the same old refrain: “Please be on time, it disrupts the class.” Yet I still saw the same people trudging to school late, again and again. Well, the school finally broke down. A recent newsletter mentioned something about calling in guidance counselors to speak to the families if children were late more than 25 times. (This number seems high to me, but I think at least it’s a step in the right direction.)

Do you agree with this action? Why or why not? What can an elementary school do to prevent chronic lateness? And do you think being late is a big deal or not? Surely I can’t be alone here…!

41 Responses to "Little white rabbits with pocket watches"

1 | Kat

February 8th, 2012 at 9:56 am


I agree 100%. When we’re late we tell people that their time is not as valuable as our own. Being late makes me anxious. I get short-tempered and flustered, so I am very rarely late. I would rather be early and wait in the car. I want my kids to understand this and it’s a topic we often repeat in our household.
At least the schools are making strides. In our daughter’s school we’ve seen notes come home for the opposite – please don’t pick up your child early from class unless there is an exceptional reason. I guess there are chronic early pick-up parents and they too disrupt class. It comes down to respect.

2 | Alison

February 8th, 2012 at 9:58 am


Your article resonated with me as a kid and a parent. Perhaps I am speaking out of turn, since the pressure is off for me now that my kids are living on their own. I think this issue, rather, is a function of ego. Since kids are not allowed to make their own way to school, the pressure is now on the parents. So a late child reflects poorly on the parent if they (like we all do) have an ego. A late child means an equally late parent to whatever else they have committed to (work, coffee date, dentist appointment). So there will be no relief to this “issue” unless we either let our kids make their own way to school (horrors) or temper our egos.

3 | Natalie

February 8th, 2012 at 10:01 am


I am so totally in agreement with you on this! While I concede that I find it crazy challenging to get my three kids out the door in time in the morning, I figure if I can do it, so can most other people. It irritates me no end when other kids arrive late and disrupt their classes because I feel they are (all – even the latecomers and teachers) being shortchanged. And since I have been back at school myself, I never cease to be amazed at how many students trudge in long after class has started, one after the other (never mind the use of technology in class, that is a whole other rant ;). This semester I even have a prof who has so far been late for more than half the lectures. So irritating! Oh Andrea, I think you have hit a nerve here, I might just have to go and make another cup of tea and settle down ;) Oh and yes, I am in full agreement with your school’s new policy although I think they are being far too lenient. I’d cap it at 5-10 occurrences myself. I think being on time shows respect for other people and I think it is an important lesson for our young ones to learn.

4 | Lorrie Douthwright

February 8th, 2012 at 10:23 am


ugh…we have ben late far too many times and I’m the only one having an aneurism about it. My husband and son have a lack of awareness about time. To a shocking degree. Seriously, shocking. My daughter has to be tricked into thinking I really don’t care about it, or she will resist my pressure. (She’s going to be such a fun teen.)

I get bent right crooked if I feel like I am making someone wait for me. I haaaaaate being late, and I too get crabby and crusty when trying to get people moving. Picture the mom from Malcome in the Middle, I’m sure that’s how I look.

To me, it is a sign of disrespect to be late, however there is a big span about how others feel on the subject. I worked with an international agency for a while and enjoyed some lively discussions about perceptions, and measurement of time. It was interesting to hear something that I perceive as linear, with clearly defined borders to be described in such a fuzzy, easily manipulatable way.

…and sometime I think people like the rush (no pun intended) in hurrying.

5 | kate s

February 8th, 2012 at 10:33 am


We are part of said early start school, and drive in from Osgoode to be so. The late thing is certainly controversial, strangely so. We have about a 90% on time rate (sometimes crazy traffic and other ‘unforeseens’ happen, and sometime we just can’t get out the door with 2 smalls – but, we own that, and always make a point of chatting with the boys about how we can do better next time)

I do find it amusing when we pass people living a few blocks away from school arriving when we are heading away after drop off – that sounds smugger than its meant, and you can all feel free to rub my face in it next time you see us running in late.

In the UK, where we are from, there is a different level of value placed on the individual freedoms of the family. I hear parents here outraged that a school would try and ‘tell’ them how they should plan their time management with their children. Where as in England, generally, the school is seen as the utmost authority for the time you are there and every effort is made to follow the rules.

All that said, boy 8am is early, especially on a chilly morning!

6 | kate s

February 8th, 2012 at 10:35 am


Oh, and Lorrie – yes, differing cultural norms on time and lateness are super interesting

7 | andrea

February 8th, 2012 at 10:38 am


Lorrie – I think you bring up a very good point. Time is a very cultural thing and we don’t even realize it.

I used to do a lot of work with people in Nunavut. Many of the residents I dealt with had a very different sense of time than I did, and so was their relationship with the concept of punctuality. Let’s just say it was very flexible. :) The idea of a M-F workweek and 9-5 days is a pretty new construct, and when you think of it, it is a very “southern” ideal. Take that ideal and try to impose it on a society that has lived on the land for many centuries, where the days aren’t measured in the same definitive way. As a result they may not have the same ideas of structured time, so sometimes it creates a conflict with those who do.

I used to know someone who worked in TV news up in Iqaluit. He told me stories of people who wouldn’t show up for interviews etc. He had one guy ditch a live interview once, leaving him stranded. Later he found out it was because the guy decided to go hunting. :)

8 | Lorrie Douthwright

February 8th, 2012 at 11:03 am


There is the culture thing…and (kettle of worms opening) there is also the fact that children that have a difficult time maintaining focus and attention often come from parents that have a difficult time maintaining focus and attention. :)

In our house, my son will have put his snow clothes on about 5 times before getting the order right. “Please stop putting your boots on first! You still need snow pants! How are you going to zipper your jacket with those big mitts on?” REPEAT DAILY
…and husband will hyperfocus and lacks the ability to multitask …must make coffee, can only make coffee…must separate laundry, can only separate laundry.

I have decided to just hug ’em and squeeze ’em and call them George. Otherwise I would be on time, but very lonely.

9 | Binki

February 8th, 2012 at 11:06 am


I like being on time and I appreciate when others are on time when I’m waiting. I think “sorry about the slooow kids” is an excuse that’s used way too often. I am shocked by folks who show up half hour (hour?!) late and don’t even apologize. We once attended a birthday party where the mom and birthday daughter were 20 minutes late (for their own party). They were out shopping and laughed it off. That was whacky.

I am a few minutes late about 15% of the time. Sh#t happens.

I think being a bit late (10 min) is not the end of the world. Don’t sweat the small stuff. But I resent folks who are always late for everything. That is just lack of respect. They think everyone has 15 minutes to waste waiting for them.

I think the school should have a meeting with parents after 10 late arrivals. I bet late arrivals would drop by 75% if this policy were implemented.

Oh and when I have a party that starts at 8, I fully expect the first person to show up no earlier than 8:15 and that most guests will arrive at 8:45. That’s just how it works.

10 | Erin

February 8th, 2012 at 11:24 am


Ooh, a topic close to my heart. I am always early – being late causes me no end of stress and I really do think that tardiness reflects a lack of respect.

My oldest is going through a period of morning dawdling…she has plenty of time to get ready for school and eat breakfast but she is able to find a million interesting things to distract her. She regularly misses the bus but knows that I will drive her and she won’t be late.
Yesterday I spoke with her teacher to let her know that next week, I won’t be nagging her to get ready on time…if she misses the bus, I will sit in the car and wait for her to finally get her things together. I know that she might be late for a few days but I need her to know that there are natural consequences for tardiness. I am happy that her teacher values punctuality and am hoping that together we can teach this lesson in grade 1….

11 | Sara

February 8th, 2012 at 12:16 pm


First let me say, I must be feeling too rushed these days, because I think I will play devil’s advocate and disagree (just a bit), sorry:)

Feels like there is just too much stress in our lives these days, and obsessing or becoming anxious about a few extra minutes is not something I’m interested in. Of course I can’t help but get a little anxious because being on time is deemed pretty important in our society, but I’m actually striving not to care so much. I’m finding I actually appreciate cultures who are a little more relaxed on the time thing.

There is only so much extra time I’m willing to plan into my day “just in case”. So when I do find myself behind a chatty person in line slowing down the teller, or driving slower than usual because of bad weather, or my toddler wants to put his own boots on and then insists on studying how our porch gate latch works for what seems like forever. I try not to get annoyed but rather appreciate someone being friendly, enjoy a little extra radio time, or embrace the never ending curiosity of a toddler.

If I’m on time and others are late, I try and give them the same relaxed benefit of the doubt. We are too hard on and judgmental of each other! All that being said, I’m not talking about being hours late here. Yes, learning to manage your time is an important skill but so is learning to relax.

As for those who are chronically late, it probably couldn’t hurt to have counselors check in and see how these families are doing. Make sure they’re not feeling overextended, offer creative tips on how to get the kids to happily move quicker. But please no spectacle, punishment, or extra stress. My four cents:)

12 | Lara C W

February 8th, 2012 at 12:22 pm


I think it’s really important to not judge people who are chronically late. You never know what they might be dealing with in their family. Take mine for instance. We’ve got one parent with ADHD, another with an acquired brain injury, and a child with sensory processing disorder. It doesn’t matter if you set your alarm 2 hours earlier, in our house, regardless of routines or well intentions, or planning, there is never consistency, because of our personal challenges in particular with our daughter. Clothes laid out the night before might feel like sandpaper the next morning, and result in 45 minutes to an hour straight of out of control screaming and hysteria. I never ever judge people. What matters is that they try their best with what they are given. Always.

13 | andrea

February 8th, 2012 at 12:23 pm


I hear ya Sara! And I’d like to say for the record that even though I’m uptight about my own punctuality I don’t ever feel upset if my coffee date is 5 or 10 minutes late. :)

As parents we have to pick our battles you know? And this is one that I think is pretty important. There are times to be “slow” … like when we chat with the cashier or a neighbour or at the dinner table, but also times we need to hurry it up. Toddlers are tough on this, because of all that learning and discovery time they need. That’s why I always tried to leave in a whole bunch of extra time for this. :)

14 | Lara C W

February 8th, 2012 at 12:26 pm


And I am the parent who might bring her child to school at 9:45, yes, half an hour late, still in her PJs. because what matters is we get to school and we learn, when we are in a space in our bodies that is calm, can function, and is not afraid. I think it’s our job as parents, not to set some arbitrary notion of being in sync with ‘the system’ but teaching our kids to respect, tolerate, accommodate and appreciate difference, and at the end of the day if we’ve learned and we are happy and well, that is all that matters.

15 | andrea

February 8th, 2012 at 12:27 pm


Laura, I totally sympathize. You have a challenging situation on your hands for sure, but the reality is that there are probably very few families like your own, don’t you think?

The fact was that 30-40 kids were late for school every day… I just can’t figure out why this number is so large.

16 | Ginger

February 8th, 2012 at 12:32 pm


In the last school district I taught in (in a Dallas, Texas suburb) being on time becomes an issue of the court system. 3 tardies equals an unexcused absence from school. After a certain number of unexcused absences (I can’t remember off the top of my head) the child is considered truant and the children and parents (if the child is under the age of 18) are given a date to appear in front of a judge of truancy court. It now falls back on the parent and child. If it is the first time the child and parents have ended up in court they are usually let off with a warning or a small fine. Subsequent visits result in high monetary fines for the parents and community service for the children. I am not sure when they start the community service part. I taught middle school grades and I had plenty of students who had community service and tutoring reports to fill out for the court due to being tardy/truant. Typically the judge ordered a certain amount of community service hours and a certain amount of tutoring hours to be completed. If the fines weren’t paid and the hours weren’t served parents can end up in jail.

Some parents think it is harsh. But it was ALWAYS the same kids late day after day. Instruction time is important and if the child is consistently missing first period math how will they ever learn math?

Does the court method work? I think the answer is, in most cases yes. I had plenty of kids who ended up in truancy court one time and never again…they found a way to be on time. Most of the middle school kids were in charge of walking to school. Plenty of stories have made the news about tardy students in elementary school. Parents are always so mad…but when asked what would happen to them if they were late every morning to work…if they would get to keep their job or not…most didn’t have an answer.

Anyway…I am an on-time person. I loathe being late or feeling late. We are early morning risers in our house so it helps. I always start getting the boys ready far in advance so we don’t run late. I know it takes time to get two 3-year-olds through their therapy brushing and dressed and last minute potty runs. Being on time is important.

When I was in high school marching band our director had a saying, “To be early is to be on time, to be on time is to be late, and to be late is to be cut from the show.”

17 | Lara C W

February 8th, 2012 at 12:41 pm


30 to 40 children? okay…that seems a little odd. At the same time, I feel the school handled it poorly. Sending a note home to ALL parents that they would start with family counselling for children who were chronically late is just bullying (well certainly a misbehaviour disincentive tactic) that can lead to gossip and judgmental chatter. Confidential personal phone calls to each family in question without letting the whole school community know about it would have been much more appropriate in my view.

18 | andrea

February 8th, 2012 at 2:54 pm


For what it’s worth, there’s no judgment implied here. I’m merely pointing out something I feel is a growing problem in our society. People who come late for movies, for theatre shows, for dates, for weddings, for interviews, for work, for lectures… are being disruptive and disrespectful to the people who made it to all those things on time. I want my kids to grow up to be punctual people, which is why I insist on being on time. It’s hard to lead by example sometimes (and I have been known to be late!) but I think it’s something we need to do in order to raise punctual kids.

19 | coffeewithjulie

February 8th, 2012 at 2:59 pm


Odds and ends on this topic:
– I’m with Lara C W that a school-wide note was probably not needed. Those that are chronically late could be dealing with something more chronic at home. And a one-on-one meeting with counselors is probably most considerate.
– I remember as a kid that I would be petrified — petrified! — of being late to my ballet class. At the start time, the door would be closed and you would not be allowed to enter. That was it, end of story. I tend to think that in most cases, this is a good policy. Let the people who are there and on time enjoy the class without interruption.
— As for my own house, my daughter has to be on time because otherwise she’ll miss the bus. And if she misses the bus, her mother will be mighty annoyed ;)
— In work meetings, I find it very grating to wait for 5-10 minutes for everyone to gather. It shouldn’t be like herding cats! We’re all busy and have other work to do, so let’s be efficient … please.
— In high school, I was late nearly every single day. I kid you not. I was terrible! And I would forge my parents signature on notes, and all sorts of naughty things to cover my tracks. When the report card would come home with double digit lates, I would shrug and say it must be a mistake. I had great marks, so my parents would instead tend to turn their focus over to my brother’s marks.

20 | Lorrie Douthwright

February 8th, 2012 at 3:22 pm


I do have to say the case of this school, I think the numbers are off. You’d be right in saying that it should be easy to count the late people by simply counting those that have signed in. But this is what we have run into…our kindergartener has two entrances into her class, one from the yard (where they play until school begins) and one from the main entrance, this one is locked. We have had days when we have watched the last child walk in from the yard entrance when we have entered from the inside and been asked to sign in, simply because we entered from the inside door. I signed in a couple times & then realized we weren’t even late and refused.
We have also signed in our son on days when the children entering in from the yard are still making their way up the stairs to the class room, again not really late. There are often others waiting their turn to sign in too.
Although this is certainly not every case, everyday I think signing in unnecessarily does make those “late” numbers higher than they actually are.

21 | sd161

February 8th, 2012 at 6:39 pm


Well, you can count me amongst the chronically guilty.

For some people it’s not as simple as waking up 15 minutes earlier. I do my best. I’m a single parent at said school, and my kids sign in late one or two days of any given week. One of my kids has extremely difficult mornings, whether she has 11 hours of sleep or 7 hours of sleep. To say she’s cranky and a dawdler is an understatement. We can get up at 6:00 a.m, and honestly, we have just as likely a chance of being late as if we woke up an hour later. Our house is a 15 minute walk from the school. No excuse, right? Sigh.

If I had a partner to help me in the mornings, life would be a lot easier. My more challenging kid needs someone prompting her at every step, it’s crazy-making. Just to get her physically out of bed is a struggle. All that, while I have to get ready myself. I work, I go to school part-time as well. I have some health issues. Like I said, I do my best. I mean no disrespect to the school environment, and I understand why it’s not socially acceptable to be chronically late. I work on it, and when we blow it as a family, we talk about it and try to come up with ideas on how we can do better.

This all means that some days, getting my kids to school on time means not only doing all the obvious things you mention like laying out the clothes the night before, making the lunches in advance, etc., but a lot of cajoling–>prodding–>yelling–>frustration–>anger–>tears. And honestly, I’m not sure that leads to a productive day for any of us. That’s not how all of our mornings are, but we have more than our fair share, and I slog it alone. On those day, my daughter has a lousy day learning, I have a lousy day at work, her brother is distracted and withdrawn. Frankly, I’d rather be 15 minutes late.

I saw the note about the social worker visiting families who were late more that 25 times. I’m sure we’ve hit that threshold. I’m not sure what this social worker/guidance counselor could do for us. Seriously.

22 | Carla

February 8th, 2012 at 10:27 pm


I used to be chronically late and am now usually on-time. But it has been quite a journey and certainly very context specific. I grew up in a country where being 20-30 minutes late is not uncommon. Then in my early twenties I was working in Prague and on my way to meet some British colleagues to go out for drinks. I was 11 minutes late, and they were gone! I was puzzled. I heard the next day they waited 10 minutes (they were feeling generous) and off they went. So began my education of being on time. But, then I lived in another country where lateness is even more pronounced, where work meetings could start 45min or over an hour late in the city, and well in the rural areas, it was anybody’s guess (the local language translation for ‘right now’ is something like’ any time from now’….). I now aim to be on time, and not having a car helped – when you have to be on time for the bus (never mind that sometimes it doesn’t show up) or you know it takes x minutes to walk somewhere makes it very black and white. Our eldest makes it to school on time because of the bus, she knows if we miss the bus, it’s a big pain to get to school and so sometimes we won’t take her (half day). But I shudder to think how we’ll manage next year with one in Grade 1 and one in full day JK when the bus comes by to our stop at 7:25! ouch.

23 | Iain Robson

February 9th, 2012 at 7:07 am


Bringing in Guidance Counselors my help a bit, however, I don’t think it will get rid of the problem. I think parents will find it just to be annoying more than anything else. As you mentioned, it is really up to the parents in order to instill the need to be on time.

Furthermore, perhaps having activities (ones that kids want to go to) before school would encourage kids to want to get there on time. For example, let’s say that your children really like basketball, the school could organize a pick up game before school, thus, encouraging kids to want to be there for that.

Is being late a big deal? I think it depends on how late one is. In North America it is reasonably acceptable to be 0-10 mins late, but does that make it right? No. I think if the time for a meeting is set for 0800h, one should be there at 0800h.

My two cents.

24 | andrea

February 9th, 2012 at 9:00 am


I think that guidance counsellors are most likely to help those in need of specific strategies. And who knows, maybe an outside person can talk to a kid and make them understand how important it is? Or help come up with some kind of routine or compromises that work for everyone?

This seems to be a pretty divisive issue isn’t it? I hope I haven’t offended anyone, but I think when you stand up for something you believe then you run the risk of doing that. :) I will say this, I’ve really enjoyed reading all these comments and hearing your perspectives. I learn something from you guys every day! Thank you as well for keeping the discussion civil too. I really appreciate that.

There will always be extenuating circumstances, like Laura’s or SD’s as above. My heart goes out to you both. It’s hard. But I think if you’re the kind of parent who, _at the very least_ explains to your children why being late is not okay then you’re doing your job. If that’s all you can do, that’s all you can do! Hopefully, some day down the road, everything you’ve tried to teach your kid will kick in. :)

It’s the parents who have a laissez-faire attitude towards punctuality that I worry about.

Kate made a very interesting point about British respect for school authority. Perhaps it’s just my own personal observations but it seems like there are a growing number of parents who take a “it’s my kid I’ll do whatever I want” attitude with little or no deference to what is right, while also slipping on the Respect for Others scale. Granted, this is highly subjective, and as we discussed, very much a cultural issue.

For example, should kids be able to run wild around restaurants? I say no, other may say yes. Should a preschooler be at a 9:00 showing of an adult film? I say no, others say yes.

For me, the issue of punctuality is one area where I think the idea of modeling behavior figures prominently. I think this is one of the responsibilities we sign up for when we become parents. I want my kids to grow up to be charitable, so I try to be charitable. I want my kids to love books, so we fill their lives with books and do lots of reading. I want my kids to love nature and be mindful of their environment, so we compost, take them on hikes, go camping etc. I want my kids to have healthy habits as it pertains to food, so I shop and cook with that in mind. Same goes for being on time. I want them to know this is important, so I do my best to show them in any way I can.

25 | Mary Lynn

February 9th, 2012 at 9:58 am


I’ve always hated being late, too. Even when I try to be fashionably late for something, I end up getting there right on time. And if I’m trying to be right on time, I end up getting there too early and then I have to find some way to kill time before I go wherever it is I’m going. On the odd occasion that I am late (due to a traffic problem or something like that) I feel positively panicky.

I’m not sure how much of a problem lateness is at my daughter’s school because she takes the bus there. Having to catch the bus at a certain time definitely helps us instill in the kids that we have to get somewhere at a certain time. If you’re not at the bus stop on time, you miss it. There’s no grey area there.

On the other hand, our kids go to a karate studio where, if kids arrive late for class, they are sometimes forced to do push-ups. In theory I agree that it’s important for people to be on time. In practice, I don’t agree with the humiliation tactic. Some kids don’t seem the least bit phased by having to do push-ups, but I know my daughter would be mortified to be singled out like that. This summer I was crazy busy at work, plus traffic in our city was an absolute mess of construction and there were several times we JUST made it to class on time. Whenever that happened I felt like a ball of anxiety, afraid that my kid would be punished. At least once we opted to skip the class to avoid the issue entirely, which is too bad.

26 | andrea

February 9th, 2012 at 10:23 am


Mary Lynn – you bring up another interesting question about this issue that’s been on my mind. How then to “punish” children when punishment is no longer politically correct?

Like Julie (above) and her ballet class, I lived in fear of being late when I was a little kid. I was deathly afraid of the consequences… mostly because I knew very well that there WOULD be consequences. Is there a solution here? If there’s a punishment handed out to kids, do we as parents have a responsibility to say “well, you’re late, so suck it up buttercup!” YKWIM? Perhaps this might help raise more responsible and resilient kids. Don’t know…

27 | andrea

February 9th, 2012 at 10:35 am


I was just talking to my mom on the phone about this. :)

To the latecomers she’d like to ask:
– do you like it when your coworkers are late for meetings?
– when the bus is late at the bus stop and keeps you waiting?
– when your kid’s swimming lessons start late and end late?

A lot of our lives depend upon our being on time, and other people too! :)

28 | Mandy from Nova Scotia

February 9th, 2012 at 10:40 am


I completely agree, our Elementary school has had the same issues, it would be good if they took the same action with the guidance counselors, I bet it’s the same children who are late for school that show up with no coats, hats or mittens in the winter, or proper foot wear/clothing for gym class, I feel sorry for those kids because they are the ones who get the heat from the teachers and maybe if the parents were spoken to about it they would put in the effort to make sure their kids have what they need which in turn could make my child’s day at school less interrupted! It must be really hard to be a teacher! I thank each and every one of them for the effort it must take to put in so much time with our children.

29 | andrea

February 9th, 2012 at 10:44 am


Yes! That needed to be said Mandy! Teachers work really hard, and as parents we should be doing whatever we can to make their lives a little easier.

30 | Sara

February 9th, 2012 at 11:38 am


Wow, I’m feeling pretty alone among your readers in regards to how important being on time is to me. I place far more importance on being relaxed. There are a lot of “I get anxious, I feel sick, it makes me crazy when I’m running late or my kids make us late comments.” What makes me more anxious is the thought that a kid could be made to do push ups or be locked out of class because they got there a bit late.

The problem may be more rampant than when I was little, and I don’t have school aged kids yet so maybe I’m not the best one to comment. But I will say I always worked better in school/ interest courses when I felt relaxed, welcomed and certainly not fearful of punishment.

As an adult, I have what I consider to be a very respectful work in part because no one is watching the clock to see when I arrive. If I arrive a little late, I work a little late, I work hard, and I get what needs done, done. I respect my office for giving me that flexibility and they have always been happy with my work. Obviously, I don’t have the type of job where someone is waiting for me to arrive so they can leave and there are certainly times when being on time is more important.

To answer your mom’s questions, generally those things really don’t bother me. But when they do, I would rather take a breath and change my perspective over wasting time being angry or judgmental of the latecomers.

31 | Sara

February 9th, 2012 at 11:46 am


This is the attitude I hope to instill in my children, along with a healthy dose of time management skills, of course.

32 | sd161

February 9th, 2012 at 12:17 pm


It’s funny how things can be so different from one day to the next, and so important to remember. I re-read my comment from yesterday and thought, wow, do I ever sound tired and worn down.

Especially on rough days, I try to always remember to remind my kids to approach each day with fresh eyes. We did so today, and- shocker of all shockers- got to school exactly 8 minutes early- no small feat for us. The shocker isn’ that we got there on time, but that we did it stress-free…good grief…what did I just do, I probably just jinxed myself by posting about it, ha!

33 | andrea

February 9th, 2012 at 12:25 pm


Like Anne Shirley used to say: “Tomorrow is always fresh with no mistakes in it.” :)

34 | binki

February 9th, 2012 at 4:30 pm


We used to have a little problem getting the kids to school on time (late a few times a month). The problem was that we were aiming for an arrival no later than 5 minutes before the bell rang. Too close, too risky. We backed up our morning to get us at school no later than 15 minutes before the bell rang. Now we are very rarely late for school, even if we slam into the unexpected.

And we had (still do once in a while) a problem with getting moving after breakfast. I recently made a list of what the kids need to do when I say “We are now getting ready to leave”. It’s posted by the door in nice big letters. Each item is checked off with their finger as they do it. Works like a hot dang!

35 | Ken

February 9th, 2012 at 10:14 pm


I have a wife and two girls who don’t even notice when they are late … for everything.
They leave for work/school late. They leave just enough time to get to guides/brownies and god forbid if there is traffic or parking issues. This, in their mind, isn’t their fault.
If I suggest leaving just a little earlier to be sure of getting there, I get razed and laughed at.
Even when they get called for dinner, twice, they still decide that NOW would be a good time to put the laundry on, make a phone call, start another game.
It causes HUGE tension for me.

I just don’t understand how anyone can live like that.
I always thought it was me who was different.

I tried the list on the door thing for a while, but if mom isn’t commited to it the kids won’t be either.

So its back to my life as the human cattle prod.
Hurry up put your boots on, where are your mitts, get in the car, buckle up, we’re supposed to have left 10 minutes ago!!!!! Arggggg!

36 | Tairy

February 10th, 2012 at 9:48 am


Back home (Venezuela) at the school I was going to, they were super strict:

– The 4th time in a month that you were late: you were not allowed in the school.
– The 4th month in a row that you had the above suspension: you were suspended for a week :S

If the parent had a good valid excuse, then the school would not count that time you were late, but they would still write it down on your record along with the reason why.

37 | andrea

February 10th, 2012 at 10:06 am


Someone mentioned the “lock the doors” idea to me but I seriously doubt it would be allowed here. It’s a liability issue. I have a feeling that once the kids are on school property the school is responsible for them. A kid that finds him/herself locked out of school might wander away, home to an empty house… might not have a key etc etc. This idea would not be a welcome one for sure.

38 | Tairy

February 10th, 2012 at 11:28 am


I wasn’t suggesting having it here at all! The reality of both countries is completely different!
It was simply a comment as to how it was back home :)
Also, back there kids would not have gone by themselves since the country doesn’t have the security/quality of life that we enjoy here in Canada ;)

39 | jennifer

February 10th, 2012 at 12:54 pm


Sara, don’t feel alone, I’m with you on this! Being late/early/on time is not something I consider of great importance and I have turned out to be a pretty well adjusted/functioning adult. Two things to consider: 1) I don’t think we can say “how hard is it to get up 15 minutes earlier”. I can think of a dozen reasons without much effort why it would be hard; worked a double shift the night before (because that’s the only job I can get), had to drive a sick parent/friend/child to a medical appt in the a.m. before school (because I have no family to help) bus was late (have to take bus because I can’t afford a car).. I think you see where I am going with this. So to say “how hard can it be?” really, many, many, many reason why it can be hard. Secondly I think it is better to teach our kids to be respectful of others schedule (to your mom’s questions/points), to be respectful of others commitment to us, to be empathetic to the group as a whole and realize we are all one piece of that group that counts and needs to be there. Instead of just indoctrinating kids into “tow the line”, “be on time”, “sit up straight”, “stand in line”.
I know Carla (from above) is laughing now as we have had similar conversations so many times!! Good post Andrea, love the conversation.

40 | andrea

February 13th, 2012 at 8:39 am


This has been a really interesting discussion. Thank you everyone!

Jennifer, I don’t think I said it was easy to get up 15 minutes earlier. It’s hard – especially for me – but I do it anyway. Whoever said that parenting was going to be easy? :)

I’ve been thinking a lot about the punctuality issue. I think there are definitely times it’s ok to be late. Our family is meeting another family at the beach and we’re 10 minutes late. That’s ok because it’s super casual and no one is probably looking at their watch anyway. Parents with little kids are especially empathetic. We know how tough it can be to get out the door.

BUT, sometimes it’s not ok to be late, and we do everything we can possibly do to get there on time: job interview, writing of an exam, first day at work. In these situations I don’t think it’s appropriate to be late at all – regardless of transportation issues or sleep deprivations – because it reflects poorly on you.

So where does elementary school fit into this? I stand by my earlier assertion that teaching children about time management is a lifelong skill that can only play in their favour in the long run. It’s not indoctrinating kids at all, it’s ultimately teaching them to respect others.

It seems that punctuality is very important for some people, and not important at all for others. That’s why, if I think I might be late meeting someone I will give a window of arrival time. For example, “we’ll meet you at the museum between 9:00 and 9:15.” I think that would satisfy pretty much everyone’s punctuality requirements and leaves a good window for unexpected situations.

41 | LO

February 15th, 2012 at 1:46 pm


I do not like to be inconvenienced by the lateness of others nor do I like to be late. I would rather circle the block or sit in a parking lot for half an hour than be late.
As for schools, so many issues and problems at school that are much more important than this……BUT they should deal with those that are late and not making random blanket statements to all….

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My name is Andrea and I live in the Westboro area of Ottawa with my husband Mark and our dog Piper who is kind of a big deal on Instagram. We also have two human offspring: Emma (23) and Sarah (21). During the day I work as a writer at The Royal Ottawa Mental Health Centre. I am a longtime Ottawa blogger and I've occupied this little corner of the WWW since 1999. The Fishbowl is my whiteboard, water cooler, and journal, all rolled into one. I'm passionate about healthy living, arts and culture, travel, great gear, good food, and sharing the best of Ottawa. I also love vegetables, photography, gadgets, and great design.

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