Sometimes I wonder what the neighbors must think. At least once a month, the Mendell Family implodes. One by one, we exit the house, each slamming the door behind us without any concern for who might be on our heels. Next the car doors slam as we all pile in and take off down the street, usually at a speed that is slightly above appropriate for our tiny lane. With the windows closed, the scene must resemble a silent movie where everyone is screaming at everyone else, brows furrowed, mouths turned down sharply, moving in angry staccato rhythms. The reason behind this family fury is inevitably the same: Our “family time” is off.
Translated: Our respective inner clocks are – and will forever be — out of sync. Here’s the basic math:
Mom Time: If an event is called for 11:00, I feel we should arrive at that time. That means you need to accurately assess travel time, allowing for traffic and
someone forgetting a cell phone unforeseen events. If said event is 15 minutes away, you give yourself 20. If everyone was on Mom-time, we would leave the house at 10:40.
Dad Time: If Dave had his druthers, we would never be the first to arrive. So, he is already about 15-20 minutes behind me. But he also understands the value of a
not bitchy happy wife. So he’ll shave a few minutes off his desired departure in the interest of family harmony. On Dad-time we leave the house at 10:45.
Noah Time: Noah has no strong opinions about when we arrive or depart. Like water, he flows to the path of least resistance which is never the one that I am on. He will be ready to go when asked, but runs into trouble when offering up his deep theories about our collective dysfunction at the precise moment we are all going completely loco. This input never ends well. Noah-time is generally Dad-time– 10:45 – but with attitude.
Chase Time: Not to place blame, but my youngest, my baby, my sweet boy has an inner clock that just blinks the same time over and over again with no rhyme or reason. He prefers to leave at the last minute, often arguing with us about the projected ETA to our destination. (Mom! It does NOT take 20 minutes to get there. It only takes 10!!) Yet, surprisingly he stresses when we are running late. Chase-time is 10:50, with an annoying degree of smugness when he successful holds us all back and his calculations are correct.
So as you can imagine, the tension in our house begins to build when its 10:30 and I’m ready to go, Dave and Noah are bringing up the rear, and Chase is half dressed, watching a YouTube video on how to tie a Trinity knot. I start pacing but Dave doesn’t engage until 10:40 at which time he moves immediately to YELLING that everyone needs to get OUT OF THE HOUSE NOW or Mom is going to blow. I yell at Dave to please STOP YELLING and then proceed to gather up the clothes that are not on my kid’s bodies and bring them out to the car. Noah calmly suggests that the stress level is all his brother’s fault at which point we all turn and tell him to SHUT UP!!! Chase insists that we still have plenty of time at which point my head spins around on its axis and the door slamming begins.
Such was the case yesterday as we piled into the car for my sister’s wedding. The more important the event, the greater the disparity in our clocks. To wit, heading to an event at our synagogue is a guaranteed DefCon 5 almost without exception. The only redeeming factor in this scenario is that it allows me to scream at my family that “GOD IS NOT HAPPY WITH US!” or “I AM GOING TO MAKE YOU APOLOGIZE TO THE RABBI AS SOON AS WE ARRIVE… LATE!!” I still haven’t decided if these are some of my best or worst parenting moments.
One would think that having run this gauntlet several hundred times in the last 10 years, we would have figured it out by now. Someone would have reset their internal clock to sync up with the rest of the crew. But you know what? These clocks are hardwired. And my guys aren’t ever going to be able to speed up anymore than I’m going to be able to slow down. It’s a genetic trait that gets very little attention. Blue Eyes. Brown Hair. On time. Or not.
Lucky for us, the “group screech” that regularly takes place in our van typically only lasts the distance of our tiny street. By the time we hit the open road, someone has turned on a favorite song and we all breathe a little easier. I look around, not with the wild crazy eyes of a Type A mother running late to something important, but with gratitude that we are together headed somewhere as a family. We may have all gotten to this moment at different speeds, but here we are. My sense of urgency is replaced with a sense of unity. Dave loosens his group on the wheel. Noah sings along to the radio, and Chase finishes getting dressed, shouting out a triumphant, “Got it!” as he completes the Trinity knot in his necktie.
And for a while, family time is in perfect sync.