National Catholic Register

Culture of Life

Always Late

BY Tom and Caroline McDonald

September 7-13, 2008 Issue | Posted 9/2/08 at 12:42 PM

 

I am frustrated with my wife’s habitual tardiness. Everywhere we go, our family is 10 minutes late — including to Mass. She says it’s just how she is, but I am embarrassed. Advice?

Tom: We have good friends who are perennially late as well, but we don’t believe it can be condoned as merely a “personality trait.” Though we’re sure your wife — and our friends — don’t intend it, being perpetually tardy shows a lack of regard and respect toward others. And being late for Mass every Sunday sends your children the message that Mass is not that important (not to mention being distracting to the entire congregation).

Of course, with children it’s inevitable that things happen. All of us have had the experience of being completely dressed and ready to walk out the door in plenty of time for Sunday Mass, only to have to deal with the baby’s explosive diaper. But the norm for us families should be to arrive on time. It teaches our children important lessons about courtesy and responsibility.

Caroline: We think it would be a great idea to sit down with your wife and calmly explain how frustrating the situation is to you. Of course, discussing her tardiness when you’re on your way to a party that started an hour ago would not be fruitful. Frame the discussion in terms of your desire to raise dependable children who can be counted on — not as a personal attack on your wife.

Ask her to resolve with you to be on time for Mass every Sunday. Find out if there is anything you can do to help this happen. Perhaps you could volunteer to dress the little ones while she gets ready. When our children were younger, I would lay out all the Sunday clothes the night before -- socks, belts and those elusive dress shoes. It spared us from last-minute, frantic searches and enabled Tom to pitch in with the babies. He has many gifts, but selecting an appropriate church dress and matching accessories for a little girl can leave the best of husbands befuddled.

Then come up with a departure plan. If it takes 20 minutes to drive to church, plan to walk out the door 30 minutes before Mass begins. You can take on the role of timekeeper, which my own father did to get all five of us out the door on time. He would announce, “We’re leaving for Mass in 30 minutes. … We’re leaving for Mass in 15 minutes.” Continue until there’s one minute left.

Another easy way to help your wife would be to make sure her car is always filled with gas. Tom does this for me, and I’m so grateful. I don’t think I’m the only one to have been late because I forgot the needle was dangerously close to empty, and then had to spend valuable minutes frantically searching for a gas station. Taking care of that one thing for your wife is a wonderful little way to show your love. And it might just help her get the kids to school before the bell.

The McDonalds are

family-life coordinators

of the Archdiocese of Mobile, Alabama.