“Where have you been?
I was worried!
I called… [list of 3 people]…for a ride home.
I almost started walking.
And so my daughter assailed me when I was 13 minutes late to pick her up. I texted her twice and called by phone once during those 13 minutes to let her know when I was on my way.
Earlier that afternoon, I dropped my daughter off at the clinic for a physical. Calculating that her appointment would take about an hour, I told her that I would be driving to the bank to run an errand. When she finished ahead of schedule, she texted me. My muted cell phone stayed in my purse as I spoke with the bank representative. With the representative out of the room at the one hour mark, I pulled my phone out to check the time and to text my daughter that I would be five minutes late. After two more phone updates telling my daughter that I was on my way, I later picked her up at the clinic.
There was comfortable indoor seating, there was no threat of infectious disease, my daughter was not injured or in pain, the clinic was not under siege, and she had wireless access at the clinic. As a healthy teenager, she had already eaten two meals that day.
Yet she was ready to report me for parental neglect because I was delayed in picking her up.
This was a child who learned to self-soothe. As a baby, she easily soothed herself to sleep. I did not deprive her of the chance to learn how to fall asleep on her own, provided she was fed, dry, comfortable, and not anxious. She learned independence at every step, often before I was ready to let her go. As a teenager, she is a self-assured young lady who thrives on outdoor adventure challenges. As a young adult, my daughter has mastered many intellectual and logistical pursuits. I am proud and amazed at her incredible accomplishments. Yet waiting for me for 40 minutes overall, 13 of them beyond the one hour anticipated appointment time, was too much for her.
In my day, I waited up to an hour for my mother to pick me up. If she said she was picking me up after an event, I knew she was coming. I had no way to contact her, but I trusted that she would come as soon as she could. I knew that I was important to her, but I also realized that she had other obligations. In the cold Minnesota weather, I was lucky if I could wait inside for my ride. Never did I question my mother’s schedule, what she did before picking me up, or why she came when she did. I did not complain when she came; I was just glad for the ride.
As much as I adore and prioritize my kids on my list of responsibilities, I have a life and other obligations beyond parenting. I have the right to ignore my cell phone during a business appointment. (Sometimes I turn it off even when nothing else is going on!)
I hope to teach my children how to wait patiently and pass the time without immersing themselves in a screen, but I don’t know if that is possible for this generation.
[Originally posted June 2015]