“Late Again!” Ensign, Jan. 1987, 63–64
I can see myself now—racing around the house hunting for my five-year-old’s Sunday shoes, a hair brush in one hand and the diaper bag slung over my shoulder—with two minutes left till church. Finally I’d rush off with my children all ready and discover I’d forgotten to comb my own hair. It seemed after all I could do, I nearly always arrived late for my meetings.
One frustrating Sunday morning, something in me snapped. How is it, I asked myself, that the sister in front of us manages to be on time—maybe even early, with four preschoolers looking serene and scrubbed, while our kids straggle in? I decided then that I was going to be on time or else. After interviewing several sisters and getting some ideas, I counseled with my husband and formed a plan.
We discovered that tardiness is an attitude as well as a habit. We may hate being late, even long to be early, but in order to do so we have to be willing to make a commitment, to sacrifice, and to persevere.
So I made a commitment and wrote it in my journal. I made it specific and short-ranged as well as long-ranged. Each week I recommitted. Instead of “I’ll never be late again,” I said, “This week I will be fifteen minutes early, no matter what.” I planned to have time to park to the car, herd the children across the parking lot, take off coats and find a seat. I reported back to myself each week, noting my success or failure.
Next I dealt with my Sunday morning activities. What was I doing that could be done the day before, the day after, or eliminated altogether? I set some priorities. I enjoyed a leisurely bath early in the morning when I seemed to have so much time. But time is an illusion on Sunday morning, so I took a quick bath.
I also did not want to leave the table uncleared, cornflakes sogging in the bowl to greet me on my return. To solve this problem I made the English muffin breakfast—scrambled eggs on a muffin heated for a few minutes in a hot oven with a little cheese melted on top. These could be fixed quickly and eaten whenever the children were ready, but left no dishes. Another breakfast is the “milk shake” breakfast which is milk, fruit or juice, and raw egg whipped in the blender. Served with a slice of toast, it’s a complete breakfast. Paper cups also help eliminate Sunday morning dishes.
I solved the problem of finding missing shoes by taking the children’s shoes after church and keeping them on a high shelf all week. I also hang the Sunday dresses, slips, socks, and ribbons together on one hanger as they are washed during the week. This helps the girls dress themselves and simplifies the task if an older child helps dress a younger one. My diaper bag is also kept fully equipped on a shelf between outings. I put my scriptures beside it on Saturday night.
My dawdling four-year-old was another problem. With him I try to minimize distractions by having him do only one thing at a time, making sure he has everything he needs, and allowing plenty of time.
The last hour before meeting is countdown time and must be treated seriously. I don’t do anything but start “heading out the door.” That means getting shoes on, checking faces and hair, getting coats out of the closet. I act as if it were the last five minutes for the whole hour and it works wonders.
As we go to the car, my husband stands at the door with a brush and a wash cloth to inspect for shoes, clean faces and combed hair, and then to carry the baby out to the car.
As I have learned to plan ahead, life has become much less harried for me. Although I still don’t always make it to church on time, I have broken my habit and feel much better about myself. My family seems happier, too.—Celestia Whitehead, Anchorage, Alaska