Is being late rude?
Mom of two, Tracey fervently hopes her teens will somehow grow into punctual people.
I grew up in a family that was late for everything. This may have been because there were four kids, so every outing required military-style organisation and vast quantities of kit, but still, I well remember the embarrassment I felt when we’d arrive somewhere and the host, with ill-concealed irritation, would say, ‘Aaah, the Hawthornes – at last!’

Perhaps as a result, I’m almost psychotic about being on time. Because of this preoccupation with punctuality, I was a fiercely organised mother of younger children. There was always a bag at the door, packed with small-person necessities: nappies, spare dummies, rusks, changes of clothes, jerseys, sunblock, juice boxes, the works.

When my children grew a little older, they became pretty good at being ready to go at a few moments’ notice – they knew better than to dilly-dally in the house while I sat in the car, impatiently gunning the engine.

And then they became teenagers, and overnight they completely lost the ability to be on time for anything. This had serious consequences when they were going to school, by bus, in another town, 40km away – when they missed the bus, I’d have to do the hour’s round-trip school drop-off, and it didn’t make for happy travelling.

Now my son, who’s 19, is working in his first fulltime job, and this morning we had yet another conversation about being on time. He’s supposed to start work at 7am – which is actually when he leaves the house (on good days). He’s fortunate that his place of work is only a short walk away, but this still means that he regularly gets to work at least 10 minutes late.

‘It’s only a matter of 10 minutes!’ I said to him this morning, yet again. ‘Just get up 10 minutes earlier and leave the house at 6.50. That way, you’ll get to work on time.’

‘Chill, ma,’ he said. ‘They only pay me from when I clock in.’

‘Yes, but you’re officially employed from 7am!’ I say through gritted teeth, barely able to believe that he doesn’t get it.

For me, lack of punctuality is a form of rudeness – it’s unprofessional when it happens in the workplace, and it’s bad manners when it happens socially. It implies that your time is simply more important than the other person’s (or your employer’s), and that you couldn’t give a toss about theirs.

Unfortunately, teenagers do believe that the world revolves around them, and that their time is, in fact, more important than anyone else’s. I can only hope that, like teenagers grow out of acne, poor communication skills and an utter inability to clean up after themselves, they also finally grow out of this total disregard for punctuality.

Are teens habitually late? Or does our society not value punctuality?

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