Dear Charlie and Jack,

Every day it’s the same.

At 8:15, I would start my search for my car keys and glasses while hollering, “Come on, boys, COME ON! We’re late!” I’d glare at you both to chase you out of the kitchen and into the car.

Jack would always whine. His mouth and fingers would still be smeared with his favorite strawberry jam as he’d clamber up his carseat.

Charlie would zip along, his open backpack flapping against his back. He’d be barefoot but energized, liking the adrenaline rush.

Without traffic, it usually takes us 5 minutes to drive to Charlie’s school. During drop-off time, however, it can take an extra five minutes to crawl down the last block. We have learned to let Charlie jump out of the car while we’re stopped at a light. “Go, Charlie! Run like the wind!” I would cheer him on. Totally not safe but he would  make it to his room before the bell rang at 8:25.

One morning, I managed to snag a precious parking spot right in front of the school. I looked at my Iphone and saw we had 5 minutes to spare. I couldn’t control the giddy smile that spread through my face.

“What’s going on, Mama? Why is your face like that?” Charlie asked.

“My face? Nothing. I’m just smiling!” I smiled at Charlie and gave him a good bye hug.

“Oh. I didn’t know you’re smiling. Usually you’re mad at me,” he replied.

My heart contracted when I heard that. Of course I didn’t want either one of you to think that I was mad at you because we were late.  I promised myself I was going to be better after that. And I was. For a few days. But then it was back to being late again.

I had this dream a few months ago. I forget the details but the general feeling was one of anxiety. In my dreams, I was trying to drop off Charlie. He was already late. The principal’s assistant stopped me and told me I was the worst mother ever because I could never get it together to drop Charlie off on time. I woke up sad and guilty. When we gathered for our morning hug on the bed, I told you and your Papa about my dream. You all reassured me, “That was just a silly dream. You’re the best mom ever!”

Just last week, when I dropped Charlie off, again running late, he asked me why I get so upset about him being late. I told him it was because if he was late, I’d have to go in and get him a late slip and I didn’t like that. He then told me not to worry because “the good thing, Mama, is that now I can go and do it by myself, you don’t need to go to the principal’s office and she can’t tell you you’re the worst mother ever.” I had to appreciate the sentiment.  “That’s very thoughtful of you, Charlie,” I said. “Thank you.”

Why are we always late? I have no answer.

As far back as I can remember, I have always been a habitual latecomer. All throughout elementary and high school, I lived right in front of my school. It was practically our front yard. But that didn’t matter. I was still late, more often than not, though not by much, maybe only by five minutes, just enough to miss the beginning of the flag ceremony. The security guards would not allow anyone in until the solemn flag ceremony finished. Afterwards, the latecomers would have to pick up trash and fallen leaves as their punishment. In high school, being late meant being listed down by the bossy senior CAT trainees (we had mandatory Citizens Army Training) and then made to “beat” (i.e. conduct) the Pambansang Awit to the (usually big) group of late comers. Except for a few show-offs and thick skinned folks, most of us did not want to go in front of the group and sing the national and Bukidnon anthems while flailing our arms around for several minutes.

I guess the punishment worked for some but, apparently, it didn’t for me. These days, I still run late but I’m also pretty good at managing performance anxiety. And I’m still a wonderful human being.

It takes us forever to get from point A to B. You both always want to stay longer. Just five more minutes, please, Mama, you’d beg. Five more minutes so that you can continue the game you’ve been playing for the last couple of hours. So that you can keep on telling each other stories. So that you can laugh some more. Please.

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(Doing what you do best:  fooling around.  At the Fisherman’s Wharf.)

And me being the way I am, I give you the five extra minutes. If we have appointments where we have to be at by a certain time, we “run like the wind.” If we don’t have appointments, we saunter to our car, look at the bugs and ants along the way, and eventually make it back to the house.

I’m trying really hard to get you boys to school on time. But I’ll have to admit it’s not in my nature to be on time and, apparently, I haven’t learned it, either. We just might be doomed!

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