Dear Prudence Tells a Fearful Parent of a 12 year old to Chill

Let’s szynikyihy
hear it for Dear Prudence, the advice lady over at Slate, who was recently sent this letter:

Q. Negligence or Get Over It?

 Our child recently flew to overnight camp, and we arranged for my in-laws to pick him up from the airport. He is 12 years old and is technically allowed to fly unaccompanied but is still very much a minor, albeit a tall one! Having flown many times before, we were comfortable with the idea of our son walking alone from the gate to the baggage carousel and were very particular to tell my in-laws to be there waiting at the carousel in advance of his arrival. The arrangements seemed pretty ironclad and our son did not have a cellphone. My in-laws had several pressing errands to do and arrived 35 minutes after the arrival time, which left me terrified. I am incensed at the irresponsibility and negligence of my in-laws for leaving our child alone in a major airport. Their thinking is, “All’s well that ends well.” They are extremely responsible generally but can be late often. Clearly, this was not a time to be late!

Here’s the whole response of Prudence, all wonderful! But the most salient part is this:

I don’t quite understand your terror, Mom. Once your son realized he would have to cool his heels, he was hardly in any danger…Sure, he’s a minor, but at 12 years old he should be a competent enough one to entertain himself for a little while, while he waits for his chronically tardy but beloved grandparents to pick him up.

Lenore here: Frankly, mix-ups like this (someone not on time, no way to get in touch) do drive me crazy — with frustration, though, not fear. Kudos to Prudence (a.k.a. Emily Yoffe)  for keeping perspective! – L

Tweens are not like lost luggage.

Kids on their own are not like luggage. People don’t just pick them up at the airport. 


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84 Responses to Dear Prudence Tells a Fearful Parent of a 12 year old to Chill

  1. BMS July 9, 2014 at 9:28 am #

    My 12 and 13 year old kids recently walked from home to the commuter rail, bought themselves a ticket, and came into the city to meet me at work for lunch and general hanging out. Everyone I mention this to has been very impressed. My kids don’t think its a big deal at all. They haven’t been taught to think of train stations, cities, and people in general as scary things.

    This doesn’t mean that they are oblivious either. A few days later we went to a night baseball game and had to walk quite a distance back to where we had parked late at night. Part of our route went through an ill-lit park. The boys rightly asked if this was the best route. We looked around, saw that there were other groups of baseball fans also walking back that way, and decided that there was safety in numbers. I noticed as we were walking that the boys were looking around, aware of their surroundings, alert, but not paralyzed with fear. That’s what I want to see – awareness of and assessment of potential danger, but not automatic assumption of danger. This is the sort of skill that keeps you from being a victim in a lot of cases. Watching my boys in action, I would have no problem with putting them on a plane to go visit a relative, assuming that they would figure out how to read signs, stay together, and find their way. Train your kids and then chill, lady!

  2. kate July 9, 2014 at 9:37 am #

    I wouldn’t be worried, but I would be pissed. There is no excuse for being half an hour late at the airport, especially if you are picking up a kid. That being said, it sounds like this is not unexpected, so they should have let the son know that this is likely and he should just wait until they find him.

    As for cell phones, an airport probably has payphones if there should be a need to call home. You could also ask any of the people around to borrow a cell phone.

  3. MichaelF July 9, 2014 at 9:44 am #

    I’m sorry but the Mom here already knows the in-laws are late often, would she think this time is going to be different? Sure. Would it be unexpected if they were late? Shouldn’t be, if it’s as often as was stated in the letter. I’d probably be mad, but if my son could handle a flight by himself, and keep himself amused during the flight, I think a half hour more by the luggage carousel would not be that much different.

  4. Dirk July 9, 2014 at 9:54 am #

    No worse than a kid waiting for a bus. What a crazy mom.

  5. Ann in LA July 9, 2014 at 10:00 am #

    Airports were one of the places where we were able to trust our kids to go off leash the most. Where are they going to go? There’s the security checkpoint at one end, numbered gates to help them find your way back, and planes at the other end. Terminals are crowded with little chance for anyone to “take” them anywhere. The crowding meant they could get beyond our sight quickly, but once they could remember which gate we were at and find their way back, they could go off to get food or hit the restroom on their own. The only problem is with their complete lack of time sense. We could only do it when we had lots of time for them to stroll down the terminal, get distracted, then come back.

  6. Donna July 9, 2014 at 10:31 am #

    If the in-laws are often late, why exactly did the mother expect it to be different this time? No cell phone or frantic calls needed. Just tell the kid “you know grandma and grandpa are always late so just hang out at the baggage carousel until they get there.”

  7. anonymous mom July 9, 2014 at 10:41 am #

    I can understand being kind of annoyed with somebody being late for an airport pick-up, even if they are chronically late. People who are always late can be frustrating. However, I don’t think his being 12 makes it significantly worse, and I agree that, knowing that the grandparents are always late, they should have just prepared him for that possibility. When I’m dealing with chronically late people, I make sure I’ve got plenty of stuff to do with me so I don’t end up angrily watching the clock the entire time I’m waiting.

  8. E July 9, 2014 at 10:48 am #

    She has a right to be pissed or disappointed. It’s one thing to be late for work or later meeting someone for dinner, but most people (even people that are habitually late) would consider meeting or picking up someone from the airport a little differently.

    It’s not clear how the Mom knew they were late (maybe she called the grandparents when she knew his flight had landed and they admitted to not being there), but I can imagine it’s not a great feeling knowing your 12 year old is sitting in an airport alone not sure what’s going on and you can’t call them. I do give her big props for sending the kid off in that situation w/o feeling like he HAD to have a phone..a lot of 12 year olds have them.

    And I’m not sure what “advice” she’s asking Prudence for…there’s not a question in her submission.

  9. Maggie July 9, 2014 at 10:48 am #

    1-Airports are one of the safest places on earth, with all the various security checkpoints, guards, and docents.

    2-A cheap/minutes cell phone costs about $25. She could have purchased one for the kid and programmed in various family member phone #s. No worries, the kid can reach someone if needed.

    3-Prepare the kid “I asked your grandparents to be on time, but if they aren’t, wait by the baggage claim for them”.

    Problem solved.

  10. SOA July 9, 2014 at 10:59 am #

    Yes, the 12 year old should be capable enough to wait a little bit till they pick him up. However I will say showing up late is rude. There is no excuse for chronic tardiness and that part might make me mad and I would not be so keen to ask them for help again. But the 12 year old is not in danger so much as just being put out.

  11. J Boyd July 9, 2014 at 10:59 am #

    The biggest problem with inlays is when we expect them to be perfect, even when we know their shortcomings… My son is 12, and I taught him to be resourceful, with or without a cell phone, to be prepared for people who are late etc, and not to be afraid of strangers, to use common sense and to ask for help when needed. He has had to wait alone for some people, and I get impatient way before he ever does! Plus he’s much more forgiving than I am.

  12. Dirk July 9, 2014 at 11:17 am #

    Hey…I have a real question. Often we, people, parents put out the comment that they know best for their child etc. And don’t get me wrong I think each parent knows their kid better than anyone else of course and that parents should make the decisions. A given. But if soooo many parents are like the one in this blog entry. If the common inclination these days is that the world is unsafe and that all children need to be supervised at all times…doesn’t that mean that if not most then a bunch of parents are actually out of touch with reality and don’t know what is actually best? Free range-ish-ism I think is indeed best. Articles like this one really lay it on the line. But if most parents think free range is crazy or society does and acts like the world is more dangerous than ever and all children need supervision all the time…doesn’t that mean most parents are doing something wrong? Posts like Fear of Predators Can Make Us Less Safe and Free-Range Kids Better at Structuring Time & Meeting Goals, Study Says got me thinking this. That if FR is the minority then most parents aren’t doing “what’s best.” Not sure how I feel about that thought really. It is almost like we’ve replaced one set of “just another thing to make parents feel bad” with yet a different thing? What do you think of this line of thought?

  13. marie July 9, 2014 at 11:21 am #

    An extra half hour at the airport, with its endless parade of people and things to see, is a bonus, isn’t it?

  14. Julie Colwell July 9, 2014 at 11:27 am #

    I have two boys, ages 13 and 14. Both have flown as unaccompanied minors cross country. At 13, my older one got lost at Sea-Tac for 1.5 hours because he misheard his flight’s baggage carousel and then misheard the PA system telling him to meet us his terminal. I was worried. He was fine. My younger one had to change planes at O’Hare when he was 12. He thought it was a great opportunity to try Chicago pizza. And he still managed to make his connection.

    Independence and competence breeds confidence. It’s no good for our kids when we let our fear interfere with their development.

  15. lollipoplover July 9, 2014 at 11:46 am #


    He waited 35 minutes *alone* in probably the safest place in the country! She’s just pissed because her perfect plan was not followed.

    *Ironclad* and *travel arrangements* should never be used in the same sentence. Delays, traffic, weather, and human imperfection will mess up the best laid plans. Especially when you know the previous history of these in-laws (mine are the same way- totally drives me crazy but I accept that I cannot change their behavior and just lie about times). If she was *very particular* about her son being met on time, she should hire a driver or car service. When you ask someone for a favor, you have to accept it may not be done exactly as you requested and learn to be adaptable.
    Not terrified. Sheesh.

  16. Lisa Reale July 9, 2014 at 11:49 am #

    Doesn’t getting luggage from baggage claim often TAKE 30 minutes (or more) from actual arrival time? Heck, sometimes I find it’s 5-10 minutes after arrival before I even make it off the plane! My 12 year old will be flying as an unaccompanied minor next month (long story, but it was actually less expensive to pay the fee than to book the flight on an airline that would let her fly as an adult), so I will have to be at the gate on time to meet her… but our original plan was to meet at baggage claim, and while I am certain we would have been early (my fiancee is *always* early picking me and/or her up at the airport, even when I’ve told him to just pull up to the curb and I’d come out), I don’t think it would have been a big deal if she had to wait a little while. I would just think it makes sense to have a plan: if the kid had gotten to baggage claim, waited there, and gotten his luggage and still didn’t see his ride, was he supposed to just sit near the carousel? Find a pay phone and give them a call? Wait outside in the pickup area? The lack of cell phone does not make it dangerous, just possibly more challenging logistically when things don’t go according to plans, and parents who don’t want their kids to have phones should plan in advance for how to handle uncertainties.

  17. Warren July 9, 2014 at 11:51 am #

    Not rude, not irresponsible, not anything but oh well crap happens.

    The inlaws were doing this mom a favour, and by the sounds of it had previous appointments already scheduled for that day. So they were late, big flippin deal.

    Personally, I would have had my kid make her way to the pick up area, so Grandpa wouldn’t have to pay for parking, then find his way over to baggage and so on. Just pull up, she hops in and off they go.

  18. SOA July 9, 2014 at 11:53 am #

    I agree Lollipop lover but what goes around comes around. If the inlaws are too rude to show up on time ever then next time they ask me for a favor, the answer might be “No” or at the very least I will show up late to help them. I don’t put myself out for people who won’t help me in a respectful way. Showing up late all the time is just poor character. If anything it is setting a bad example for their grandson.

    I don’t think it was a huge deal they were late. Many times my parents were late picking me up too from dance or where ever but still did not make it polite.

  19. Brian July 9, 2014 at 11:59 am #

    I’ve posted this before, but it fits better for this story. When I was about 15, I went on a group trip to Israel. But to get to the group, I had to fly from Cleveland to Newark by myself. Apparently, we were instructed to go to the baggage claim and wait for an adult with the group, who would take us over to the El Al ticket counter. I forgot that I was supposed to wait for an adult (and I didn’t see an adult when I landed), so I just grabbed my bag, took the Airtrain over to the terminal with El Al, found the group waiting by the ticket counter, and started making friends.

    What I didn’t know at the time was that the adult with the group was waiting at Continental baggage claim, thought I had gotten lost, and there were frantic calls between group organizers and my mom trying to figure out what happened. Somehow, it took about 2 hours for someone to think that just maybe, I had found my own way to the El Al counter.

    Airports are very safe places for teens and preteens. The in-laws may have been rude, but no one was in any danger.

  20. E July 9, 2014 at 12:02 pm #

    @Dirk, I don’t think the woman is anti-free range…she sent her kid unaccompanied on a plane flight and w/o a cell phone.

    I do get your broader point, are FR parents imposing just another ‘standard’ that parents ‘should’ follow? Valid question I suppose, but I doubt they are too worried about it. Most of us gravitate toward what makes sense to us and to people who don’t make us feel bad about our life choices.

    @Lisa – you bring up a good point. I presume the kid had checked luggage since he was going away to camp. I guess it all depends on what the grandparents told the parents and what they told the kid.

    It also could be that the Mom is pretty annoyed at her in-laws and wants someone to validate that feeling. I can certainly empathize with that kind of emotion, lol. If I were getting picked up from the airport by a family member who is often late, I can still be annoyed at their doing it. You can either chalk it up to “well that’s how Grandma is” or you can say “can’t they for ONCE be on time”? It probably depends on the day for most of us.

    I’ve adopted the strategy that if I’m not in a hurry, that I don’t have to get annoyed when things take longer than they should. When I’m in a store or business or restaurant and an employee apologizes for something taking long or another patron has a complicated transaction that delays me, I always say “don’t worry about it, I’m not in a hurry”. I’ve found that it’s a much more pleasant way to interact with people (who probably get complaints all day). Sometimes it’s easier to do that with strangers than family though!

  21. marie July 9, 2014 at 12:02 pm #

    I don’t put myself out for people who won’t help me in a respectful way. Showing up late all the time is just poor character. If anything it is setting a bad example for their grandson.

    I put myself out for people I love. I figure my kids will learn from that example, as well.

  22. SOA July 9, 2014 at 12:07 pm #

    Marie: I help the people I love if they show me that same respect. I won’t be a doormat. If I show up on time for you and you always show up late for me, there is a showing of disrespect there. I don’t think that is a good lesson to teach kids. Punctuality is super important in our society. You have to show up on time for school and work in most places. If you are late for a job interview you are not getting the job.

    My kids know being late is never an option in this family barring a true several emergency like a flat tire or someone throwing up or a car wreck. Otherwise we are expected to be there when we said we would be there.

    We are doing our kids no favors teaching them by example or by practice that showing up late is okay.

  23. Michelle July 9, 2014 at 12:07 pm #

    This is why my husband always asks his mom to show up half an hour before he actually expects her — then she’s on time. She knows he’s doing it, but it works anyway! 😉

    I wonder if there’s more to it. Personally, how annoyed I’d be by a mistake like this is directly proportional to how much I dislike the person who committed it. If it was my mother-in-law, I’d brush it off, because I adore her. If a certain aunt, I’d be ticked off for days.

  24. Emily Morris July 9, 2014 at 12:10 pm #

    I too am a lover of punctuality and found myself annoyed with the grandparents even as I read the letter… but I never felt afraid for the kid. Indeed, all is well that ends well.

  25. pentamom July 9, 2014 at 12:11 pm #

    I’m not sure “not asking them to do a favor again” is more practical than learning to live with their chronic lateness. When your kid is flying into a different city and not going to visit specific people, your options for arranging to have someone meet him are limited to people who live in that city, whom you know.

    Is it objectively a good thing that they’re always late? No. Is it probably going to change as a result of fussing, not letting the kid visit, pointedly “making other arrangements whenever possible,” or anything else? No. As someone else said, you have the in-laws you have. If they are going to be involved in your life, you’re going to have to plan around their lateness — just pretend that everything you do with them starts half an hour earlier/later and lasts an hour longer than it really does.

    The bottom line here is that the kid was fine. Who has the moral high ground is usually not relevant in any situation unless it’s your *own* behavior that’s in question, because that’s what you can control.

  26. Donna July 9, 2014 at 12:13 pm #

    I don’t think anyone is saying that the mom shouldn’t be annoyed at her in-laws. My mother is frequently late and it is annoying as hell. But “terrified” and “negligence” are very different than being annoyed.

    I find it hard to believe that a mother who was sending her child to an overnight camp far enough away that he needs to fly, lets him fly by himself and lets him walk to baggage claim by himself is really “terrified” about her child being in an airport alone for a few minutes. My guess is that this is really just a lot of in-law drama and she was pissed off and not terrified.

  27. Donna July 9, 2014 at 12:25 pm #

    Dolly – Believe it or not children can actually learn punctuality despite grandma and grandpa being late all the time. In fact, I think my daughter has a BETTER grasp of timeliness BECAUSE grandma is late all the time and she knows how annoying it is to wait for someone.

    Personally, I’d rather teach my child that we can show compassion to those that we love, even if they are imperfect humans, and not the petty, tit-for-tat behavior that you want to teach yours. My mother hasn’t learned to be on time in 62 years. I can be a bitch about it and ruin our relationship or I can accept who she is and work around it, but I absolutely cannot make her change.

  28. Reziac July 9, 2014 at 12:36 pm #

    Uh, negligence? People being late to meetings is a fact of life. I’m sure a 12YO mature enough to fly by himself is also mature enough to cool his heels for half an hour or so without losing it. In fact, it’s good training in finding some harmless way to occupy himself while he waits. If he was pissed or panicked, well, now he has practice at figuring out that not every glitch in life is a disaster worthy of an emergency response.

    I think lollipoplover touches the truth — it’s not that he had to spend half an hour on his own at OMG-Airport, it’s that the slightest failure of a parent’s Plan For Their Child is now regarded as cause to panic.

  29. John July 9, 2014 at 12:41 pm #

    First of all this mother should realize that an airport is NOT a bus station where any creep can walk in right off the street. In most cases, you need to drive or take some type of public transportation in order to gain access to an airport; therefore, you’re not going to see street people, alcoholics and drug addicts (people we traditionally don’t want around our kids) park themselves in an airport like they would a bus station. Most people in airports are there for a legitimate purpose and have no reason or interest in abducting a tall 12-year-old kid. In fact, most street people, alcoholics and drug addicts are more interested in people handing them money so they can feed their addiction than they are abducting a tall 12-year-old boy! So with that said, I think some common sense is in order for this mother and other helicopter moms.

    The importance of allowing your child independence and UNsupervision at the earliest age possible and in as many situations as possible, cannot be stressed enough and can prepare him for predicaments like this! At least, in MY opinion it can.

  30. anonymous mom July 9, 2014 at 1:08 pm #

    I think Donna is right that this is more about an in-law conflict. The problem seems to be that the mother felt that her in-laws would be on time for this, and she’s mad that they weren’t. And, I can see her point there: if she really did have an “iron-clad” agreement with her ILs that they’d be at the carousel in time to meet him, it would be very frustrating that they were late yet again. But it seems like she wants to justify dragging on some kind of family feud, instead of just moving on.

  31. Nadine July 9, 2014 at 1:12 pm #

    If you let your kid do things on his or her own things can go not acording to plan. Free range is making sure your kid can cope with that. That the kid knows that there are people in uniform around he or she can ask for help. That there is a information desk, payphones, sodamachines and magazine stands.

    What if for any reason the inlaws didnt show up at all ( yeah worst thinking, i know) what does the kid need to know to manage for him or herself?

  32. E July 9, 2014 at 1:32 pm #

    Maybe in today’s society we are all SO used to being able to send off of a txt for any/every/no reason, that when she realized the kid would wait and had no way to tell him, it just annoyed and freaked her out. Sure, she probably (and should have) told him what to do if he didn’t see them (no guarantee they’d all end up at the correct carousel even if they were on time), but I guess her knowing that he was going to have to wait another 30 minutes had her wondering how he’d react.

    We don’t know if she was worried about abduction (doubtful I’d think) or stress on the kid (easy enough to recover from even if stressed/scared) or just plain pissed (likely).

    The mom got to vent to the person at slate, probably better than going off on Grandma/Grandpa, lol.

  33. EricS July 9, 2014 at 1:40 pm #

    My take is this, if your going to trust your child, TRUST your child. In this situation, their 12 year old has flown other times before, with no issues. Even if he was being met at his destination. I’d like to think, that this mom thinks her son is smart and responsible (for a kid his age). So whether someone was there to meet him or not, that should NOT change how much you think your child is smart and responsible.

    I think many parents fear, because they lack the confidence in their own parenting skills (consciously or subconsciously). So not so much an issue with the child, but rather the parents. Like we say often, let not our own fears, be the fear of our children. And hinder them from growing up.

    By the age of 10, I was already staying at home by myself. Making my own dinner, if my parents were going to be late from work. I was already traversing a major city in Canada. Taking public transit, or walking. That was very common back in the 70s and 80s. A reminder, crime rate was much higher back then. 😉 Yet, people were more relaxed when it came to their children. Because parents taught their kids very early, how to fend for themselves. And it worked out just fine for us.

    If it helps to make you feel better, and if you haven’t already done so, teach him what he should do, should his grandparents be late meeting him at the airport. I’m pretty sure he’ll be just fine. Most are, regardless of what others feel, what the media says, and what your influenced in thinking. Those are just fear based opinions. And most fear based thinking is illogical, and lacks common sense.

  34. Sharon Davids July 9, 2014 at 1:41 pm #

    My 12 year old would have loved that adventure. She would have given the grandparents grief and then said it was a lot of fun. Her only problem is that she looks about 9 and a lot of people would have asked the “little girl” where her mom was.

    I gave my daughter a cell phone this year because she was traveling alone and no adult would be around when she got home. I had one call the entire year just telling me she would be a little late because her original bus did not make it school. She got on the replacement bus and was home a few minutes late and started her afternoon routine. At school the security guard and the principal stayed with sixth thru eighth graders until the bus arrived.

  35. anonymous mom July 9, 2014 at 2:03 pm #

    @EricS, I think the problem here is less trusting the child than trusting the in-laws. I don’t think it’s unreasonable to assume that if somebody promises to be somewhere at a certain time, they’ll be there. Now, since she *knows* her in-laws are chronically late, she should have at least prepared both herself and her son for that possibility, instead of assuming that this time they’d be on time. But, it sounds like she’s more upset that her ILs violated her trust.

  36. J.T. Wenting July 9, 2014 at 2:41 pm #

    let’s get this straight. There’s nothing wrong with sending your child out alone to fly possibly halfway across the country, spending hours in airport terminals waiting for security checks, TSA fondling, delays, then the flight itself, and then again waiting for luggage and more TSA fondling.
    But then having to wait in the arrivals hall for half an hour because the people who were to pick you up were late arriving is so unnerving to you as parents that you blow a gasket?

    Something’s not right in that equation…

  37. Ann in L.A. July 9, 2014 at 2:55 pm #

    J.T. Wenting

    Exactly. Part of the determination–and I would think the *major* part of the determination–of whether your kid is ready to fly solo is whether they can handle it if things go very wrong. You should also talk things through with your kids before a trip: do they know what to do if they miss a connection? What if their bag doesn’t arrive? What if there is no one on the other end to pick them up?

    That’s all part of preparing your kid to go alone.

  38. SOA July 9, 2014 at 3:03 pm #

    I think she was probably just venting and wanting validation to be mad at her in laws. Dear Prudence gets a lot of in law drama questions on the regular. And yes, I do validate her that they suck they cannot show up at an agreed upon time. They were not even a few minutes late. They were verging on being ridiculously late.

    I always had to pick up my husband at the airport after he came back from a work trip. Sure he is fine if I was late. He could wait. But he would be pissed if I was 35 minutes late and I would not blame him. Be there when you are supposed to be there.

    I was raised that early is on time, on time is late and late is left. It has served me well many times in my life.

    So her 12 year old was fine and it did not hurt him. But if she wants validation for her inlaws sucking, she gets it from me in spades. Why should the on time person have to overcompensate and adjust for the late person? The on time person is the person that is in the right.

    I guarantee my husband comes into a work meeting 35 minutes late he is getting reprimanded and/or fired

  39. anonymous mom July 9, 2014 at 3:25 pm #

    I agree with SOA that there’s more to this than just “The kid was fine so who cares?” I mean, yes, the kid was fine. And, I certainly wouldn’t personally be worried about kidnappings or abuse or whatever other horror the mother might have been worried about in a situation like that. However, if my parents or my ILs promised me they’d be somewhere to pick up my kids and they were 35 minutes late, I would be very unhappy. For me, 35 minutes crosses the line from running a bit late to so late that you start to wonder if somebody even remembered they were supposed to be coming, and if you don’t have any way to contact them, that’s not a fun position to be in.

    Plus, airport baggage claims are not fun places. We don’t know how long his flight was, but I know that, in general, the last thing I want to do after a flight is spend extra time in the airport, and if the person who agreed to pick me up was over half an hour late without a good reason, I’d be annoyed. Again, not terrified, not frantic, not mad for the rest of my life, but not very happy at all.

    Being that late for something like this is rude. It doesn’t matter if her son was perfectly capable of handling it. It sounds like she’s frustrated that, instead of apologizing, her ILs are taking the attitude that it’s no big deal since he was fine, and that would frustrate me, too. I don’t think it’s worth holding a grudge over, and she’s going to have to get over this and move on, but the ILs were in the wrong here, and it’s not unreasonable for her to want them to apologize rather than just take the attitude that being 35 minutes late to get their grandson from the airport didn’t really matter at all. Sure, in the larger, cosmic scheme of things, it doesn’t matter, but in the actual day-to-dayness of life and relationships, things like that do matter, and saying you are sorry if you are significantly late rather than just making excuses for yourself can go a very long way.

  40. pentamom July 9, 2014 at 3:30 pm #

    Yes, just for the record, it’s legitimately annoying. The in-laws were in the wrong.

    But there’s nowhere to go from here, with that. Let them know you’re unhappy, sure, because it was a breach of a commitment, but unless you’re willing to ruin a family relationship over it, the live option is to learn to live with behavior that is evidently, based on experience, not going to change.

  41. SOA July 9, 2014 at 3:54 pm #

    I agree with anonymous mom. They own her and her son a sincere apology for being that late. If they keep brushing it off and not being sorry, personally I would pull way back from them relationship wise for the future.

  42. Warren July 9, 2014 at 4:37 pm #

    Just how important do you think you are? Help you in a respectful way? If anyone was to put that to me, it would be the last friggin time they ever got help. People should just be grateful for the assistance.

    No apology, and you would back away from the relationship? Talk about ego!!!!!!

    What the hell has happened to people? If someone is helping you out, doing you a favour, or anything like it, you should be bending over and kissing their butt, not the other way around.

    Even according to the letter writer, the inlaws had previous commitments. She should be extremely grateful that they took on the airport pickup in the first place.

  43. SOA July 9, 2014 at 4:42 pm #

    Yes, it was nice of them to help. But my guess is there are plenty of times the letter writer helped her in laws out too. Most relationships involve give and take.

  44. Donna July 9, 2014 at 5:22 pm #

    The thing is that the letter specifically stated that the in-laws arrived 35 minutes after the ARRIVAL TIME. Arrival time is wheels down at the airport. As anyone who has ever flown knows, it then takes another 5-10 minutes to taxi to the gate, get the doors open, etc.; it then takes another 5-10 minutes to get off the plane unless you are riding in 1st class; depending on the size of the airport and whether you have to stop to pee, it will take another 5-20 minutes to get to baggage claim. Then you still have to wait for your bags. They probably arrived at baggage claim within minutes of each other, not 35 minutes apart.

  45. anonymous mom July 9, 2014 at 5:31 pm #

    @Warren, that’s silly and you know it. If you agree to help somebody out–especially when that somebody is your grandchild–you be where you say you will be on time, or you let them know you have too many other errands to run and can do it but will be late, or say you can’t do it. You don’t show up 35 minutes late and then expect to have your ass kissed because, hey, you helped somebody out.

    I took “several pressing errands” to be a bit tongue-in-cheek. If the in-laws are chronically late, as seems to be the case, they may *always* find pressing things to do that keep them from being on time.

    I often help out friends by watching their kids, because I have younger children than most of my friends do and so am home more. If I tell a friend I’ll be home at noon and they can bring their kid over then, and it turns out that I don’t get home until 12:30, I will apologize, and mean it. I certainly don’t think that because I’m doing somebody a favor I get to do whatever I want and have my butt kissed for it. If I agreed to be home at noon, I should have been home at noon, and they deserve an apology if I wasn’t. Because being where you say you will be when you say you will be there is basic courtesy.

    Do I think you should break a relationship because of it? No. You need to forgive and move on when it happens. But, it’s certainly extremely frustrating and rude to be that late for something you promised you’d do.

  46. Jenna K. July 9, 2014 at 5:36 pm #

    Frankly, I am tired of the notion that a kid (especially a 12-year-old) can’t wait for a short amount of time anywhere without it turning into some sort of story of a kid being in danger. I remember waiting to be picked up by late parents when I was as young as eight at times.

  47. Warren July 9, 2014 at 5:49 pm #


    Well you may expect the world to revolve around you, but reasonable people do not.

    Like I said, if you cannot just simpley be grateful for the assistance, then don’t ever asked for it.

    If I am paying someone to do a job I expect punctuality. If I am asking a friend or family member to do me a favour, I do not put expectations on them, and I am grateful for the help.

    If anyone is owed an apology it is the inlaws. For their daughter inlaw being such an ungrateful witch.

    Don’t know how many times you have gone to the airport, but being half an hour late can be just not having the traffic lights go in your favour, construction on the way and a whole bunch of other things. And if this mother’s attitude is anything like her letter, I wouldn’t be to eager to explain myself to her either. More likely “Hey, the kid is okay, let it go and shut up. Oh and by the way, you’re welcome.”

  48. Donna July 9, 2014 at 5:49 pm #

    anonymous mom – I never even plan to show up to pick someone up at the airport until about 30 minutes after arrival time. It takes that long to get to baggage claim!!! If you then bitched at me because I wasn’t there at your arrival time (despite the fact that you weren’t there either), I also wouldn’t apologize. I wouldn’t agree to pick you up at the airport again either.

    It is very possible that the in-laws never intended to arrive earlier than they did and believed that that time to be reasonable considering the time it takes to get from plane to baggage claim.

  49. Warren July 9, 2014 at 5:51 pm #

    And the whole “help me in a respectful way” statement is so wrong on so many levels. No wonder SOA’s neighbours want nothing to do with her.

  50. SOA July 9, 2014 at 6:10 pm #

    If I help out others in a respectful way by doing favors for them and showing up on time and being pleasant and doing a good job, I expect the same from others if I ask them to do a favor for me in return. I don’t ask favors from people often and I only ask them of people who I have helped out numerous times.

    For all you know, the letter writer could have been sending money to the in laws every month to help them pay their bills and so yeah she is going to be pissed when they show up late.

    I am NEVER 35 minutes late anywhere. You use your brain and account for traffic before you leave. I always give myself about 15 minutes leeway so that even if I catch every light or run into traffic or construction I still get there on time.

    When I picked my husband up from the airport I was always on time and just brought a book and sat there and read till he showed up.

  51. Donna July 9, 2014 at 6:36 pm #

    Dolly, you spend much time analyzing people’s interaction with you and finding it lacking. Maybe you need to look inward for the answer as to why so many people fail to meet the great Dolly standard.

    If someone does me the HUGE favor of picking me, or my loved one, up at the airport, all I care about is whether that they show up. They don’t need to have a smile on their face or even be particularly pleasant. They certainly don’t need to show up before my plane even arrives at the airport and then sit around for 30 minutes while I make my way to baggage claim and then sit around for another 20 minutes while I collect my baggage. Airports are a royal pain in the ass and time drain. Only one of us needs to be inconvenienced by that and it is absolutely NOT the person doing the favor.

  52. lollipoplover July 9, 2014 at 6:55 pm #

    My sisters and I returned from vacation and were picked up at the airport by my niece a few months ago. Unfortunately, the airport was under construction. She came on time to meet us at the arrivals but the stupid construction had our plane landing in the departure area. She was over an hour late due to the ridiculous bad airport organization. We were all frustrated and annoyed.

    Was she rude? Should she have offered an apology?
    No!!! We apologized to her! We took her out to dinner to thank her for picking us up amid the confusion. Picking travelers up from the airport has to be up there with one of the worst tasks ever. It takes forever, you can’t park anywhere, and luggage rarely arrives in a timely fashion. I’d rather have bees in my hair.

    My In-laws also have issues with lateness. It used to bother me, but as I’ve known them for over 20 years now, it is such a minor flaw. They are probably the kindest, most generous and loving grandparents my kids could ever have (and the only ones as my parents are both dead). If I shot them down for their *rudeness* and closed them out of our lives for such petty reasons like lateness it would truly be my loss (and my children’s). I would prefer chronic lateness over judgmental and sanctimonious any day.

  53. anonymous mom July 9, 2014 at 7:56 pm #

    @Warren: Yes, I’m aware that the world does not revolve around me. That’s why, in my example, *I* was the one who was late. The point is that, if I tell somebody I will be home at noon to watch their kid, and something comes up–or I just manage my time poorly–and I’m not home until 12:30, I will apologize. Because the world does not revolve around me, the needs of the person I’d told I’d be home at noon matter, too (whether they are paying me or not–if I didn’t want to help them out for free, I should have turned them down; helping somebody out for free does not give you an excuse to blow them off or be irresponsible about it).

    Now, if somebody is late for something they told me they’d do, I suck it up and not make a big deal at all, and thank them for being willing to help me at all. But, it doesn’t change the fact that I would NOT expect somebody to kiss my ass for helping them even if I were late, or mean that somehow we have no obligation to keep our word if we’re not getting paid to do so. If I decided that, unless somebody was paying me, it didn’t really matter if I did what I’d told them I’d do or not, I’d be a pretty crappy person.

  54. anonymous mom July 9, 2014 at 8:03 pm #

    @lollipoplover: I agree that being late isn’t the worst habit a person can have, by any means. But, it’s annoying. Let’s not pretend it’s not.

    My best friend all through grad school is the most chronically late person I’ve ever met. She is routinely an hour late for things. It used to drive me completely insane. (And, somehow, if I told her to get there an hour earlier than she needed to, it was like she sensed it and would *still* be 30-60 minutes late!) She is a great person and has many awesome qualities, but her chronic lateness is a bad habit, and kind of rude. That’s okay; nobody is perfect (I have HORRIBLE at returning texts and phone calls, something she is great about, and I know that drives her crazy, and I totally understand why, because it’s a bad, rude habit of mine). I can live with it. But, it’s certainly not a particularly endearing quality for a person to have. Especially if you have no way to getting in touch with somebody, having them show up more than half an hour late (if that’s what happened) is a frustrating experience.

  55. Warren July 9, 2014 at 9:46 pm #

    You really need to get yourself into therapy.

    Enough said.

  56. Warren July 9, 2014 at 9:49 pm #

    Wow maybe you should join Dolly.

    I was making the point that even in here people need to be more grateful, and less bitchy.

  57. Donna July 9, 2014 at 9:59 pm #

    anon mom – But this wasn’t agreeing to meet someone at 12 and not showing up until 12:30. Neither party was at the meeting location at 12.

    I am not sure why everyone has this boy sitting around baggage claim for 35 minutes. Nowhere in the letter does the mother state that the boy waited in baggage claim for 35 minutes … or actually that he waited any time at all. She states that the parents arrived 35 minutes after the ARRIVAL TIME, which is the time the plane was scheduled to land. Depending on the airport, there can be a good 30-45 minutes between arrival time and arrival at baggage claim and then you still have to wait to get your bags. Arriving prior to the plane arrival time, which is what this mother appears to wanted, is a complete waste of the grandparents’ time. I wouldn’t apologize for not being willing to do this either. Now if the person who I was picking up had truly been waiting outside (I refuse to park and go to baggage claim) for 35 minutes, I would apologize, but I am not going to apologize for not getting there before the plane even lands.

  58. J.T. Wenting July 9, 2014 at 11:49 pm #

    “And yes, I do validate her that they suck they cannot show up at an agreed upon time.”

    If that airport is anything like the one here, it’s very easy to be late, very late, getting to it.
    Traffic can be highly unpredictable, train outages happen with annoying regularity.

    While it’s supposed to be (for me) a 40 minute trip to get there, I’ve at times needed up to 5 hours.
    And while I do always plan in at least half an hour delay when going anywhere at all, nothing can compensate for such long potential delays.
    I’m lucky I’ve never been delayed long enough to miss a flight, but every year exactly that happens to tens of thousands of people who’re stuck in a train that suddenly decides to stop for no apparent reason and just sit there on a siding for hours waiting for someone to decide it’s ok to go on.

  59. J.T. Wenting July 9, 2014 at 11:53 pm #

    @Donna exactly. And given the accuracy of published arrival times…
    Planes often arrive early or late, what if they’d been there at the scheduled arrival time and the aircraft had been an hour early?
    They’d have been angry that the in laws hadn’t foreseen that and been at the airport 90 minutes early no doubt.

  60. Virginia July 10, 2014 at 12:38 am #

    This is why no child should travel alone without a cell phone. I don’t care if you think cell phones are an unnecessary indulgence for children. I don’t care if the camp they’re going to says “no phones.” Remember this story from two years ago about a 10-year-old who basically got abandoned by United Airlines at Chicago O’Hare when the person whom the airline had hired to transfer her to another flight never showed up?

    The girl was not allowed to use an airport phone for hours, and she didn’t have a cell phone with her — most likely because the camp she was going to had a “no phones” policy. The hell with that. Even when my daughter went on school trips where she was told not to bring a phone because the adults in charge thought it would be “too distracting,” I had her turn it off and put it in the bottom of her backpack. Ooh, I’m such a scofflaw!

    BTW, my daughter never used — or needed — her phone on any of those trips. But we were both much happier knowing she had it.

  61. Andrew July 10, 2014 at 6:21 am #

    I entirely support the parent’s right to decide for themselves when their child is ready to travel alone (within reason – abandoning a 5 year old at the airport unaccompanied would be silly) but it is not unknown for planes to be cancelled, delayed, diverted, arrive early, for baggage to go missing, and for any number of other major or minor problems to occur. If the child was not prepared for and able to deal with any of those occurrences, then they were not ready to travel on their own.

    I understand the parent’s disappointment – they made good plans, which unfortunately did not go entirely as expected – but an airport is a pretty safe place to wait. What was the plan if the plane arrived early and the grandparents arrived on time?

  62. Andrew July 10, 2014 at 6:30 am #

    I entirely support the parent’s right to decide for themselves when their child is ready to travel alone (within reason – abandoning a 5 year old at the airport unaccompanied would be silly) but it is not unknown for planes to be cancelled, delayed, diverted, arrive early, for baggage to go missing, and for any number of other major or minor problems to occur. If the child was not prepared for and able to deal with any of those occurrences, then they were not ready to travel on their own.

    I understand the parent’s disappointment – they made good plans, which unfortunately did not go entirely as expected – but an airport is a pretty safe place to wait.

  63. Andrew July 10, 2014 at 6:38 am #

    Oh, sorry about the double post.

  64. pentamom July 10, 2014 at 8:57 am #

    Again, Dolly, depending on the circumstances, perhaps they “ought to apologize.”

    But “oughts” aren’t always what happens. If you’d really deprive your kids of an unstrained relationship with their grandparents because of your hierarchy of who owes whom apologies for doing what with what overtly demonstrated degree of respect, you are the one off base.

  65. SOA July 10, 2014 at 9:06 am #

    Pentamom: so grandparents can be as rude as they want and it will always be ignored…good to know. I guess I can plan on giving my poor future daughter in laws hell and just know that they have to take it no matter what.

    Nah thats bull. Family should have HIGHER standards to treat each other, not lower.

  66. lollipoplover July 10, 2014 at 9:26 am #

    “If they keep brushing it off and not being sorry, personally I would pull way back from them relationship wise for the future.”

    These are the boy’s GRANDPARENTS. To pull back from such an important relationship to your children because of your personal need for an apology is shallow and egotistical. It is about your need to control what you cannot and making others feel they are wrong so you can feel right.
    It is also a horrible way to raise children.

    As my children grow older (and so do their grandparents), I no longer strive for perfection and *ironclad* plans. I guess I have learned to accept family members and elders with respect and knowledge that they are imperfect beings who have so much they can teach my children, even about lateness. If I pulled back from key relationships in my children’s lives for each time I felt slighted or due an apology, what a lonely, vapid life I would lead and what a poor example of forgiveness and acceptance I would be demonstrating to my children.

  67. Jill July 10, 2014 at 9:33 am #

    But someone could have taken him, or offered him drugs or forced him to eat a non-gluten-free sandwich, or showed him their naughty bits! The mind boggles. There’s so much danger out there!

  68. Warren July 10, 2014 at 9:41 am #

    I wouldn’t expect any daughter in law. Once the girlfriend meets you I am sure they will want nothing more to do with your family.
    You act like it is an honor to do you a favor.
    I know given your attitude, you would never get help from most sane people.

  69. Buffy July 10, 2014 at 10:04 am #

    “then again waiting for luggage and more TSA fondling.”

    I have never had any contact with TSA after getting my luggage from baggage claim. Does this happen with international flights maybe? I’ve only flown domestic.

  70. Emily July 10, 2014 at 10:57 am #

    Some thoughts, in point form:

    1. Did the boy know that his in-laws were late picking him up? If it took between 30 and 40 minutes for him to get from the airplane to the baggage claim, then he’d have arrived there at the same time the in-laws did, so there’d be nothing to be upset about.

    2. Did the mother make her anger known to her son? It seems a bit silly, if he wouldn’t otherwise even know there was a problem.

    3. Did the mother express her anger outwardly to the in-laws, or to anyone else, apart from writing anonymously to Dear Prudence? If not, then I’d hardly call that “bitchy.” People have less-than-charitable thoughts every day. I know that I get upset when I’m, say, in line at the store, and the person in front of me keeps running back and forth to fetch things they forgot, and taking longer, or if I’m in yoga class, and the person in front of me sets up their mat directly in my field of vision, so I can’t see the mirror or the teacher. However, I don’t say anything–I’ll put on my headphones and zone out to some music in the checkout line, or scoot my mat over to one side in yoga, and move on with life. That’s because I’m not really a “tempest in a teacup” kind of person–I’ll speak up if something really is a problem, but not for little things.

    4. “Backing away from a relationship” doesn’t necessarily mean terminating it altogether. There are plenty of shades of grey in between “BFF’s” and “persona non grata.” Maybe the mother meant that, by “backing away,” she’d still get together with the in-laws, but at open-ended places, like parks and museums, but she wouldn’t do anything time-sensitive with them, like movies, plays, sporting events, etc. Maybe she meant the same for favours. So, she could still help them with things (within reason), but she’d stop asking them for time-sensitive favours. So, asking the in-laws, “Could you please help me with my taxes at some point this week?” would be okay, but asking them, “Could you please pick up Jimmy at X location at Y time?” wouldn’t be, because the in-laws aren’t good at being on time. It’s possible to do that without resentment, too–I mean, you wouldn’t ask your math-challenged friend to help your kid with algebra, would you? Or, to make it a little less personal, you wouldn’t go to the skating rink if you really wanted to swim, right? This is kind of the same thing. The in-laws have shown, through their actions, that they can offer “Practical assistance, but nothing time-specific.” So, knowing that, she’ll keep her expectations in line with that, and ask someone more punctual when she needs something to be done at a certain time–whether that’s a favour, or a fun activity. Family gatherings and “important” things might be tricky, but that’s one time where you can pointedly NOT adapt. My uncle and his (former) boyfriend used to be chronically late, but my mom broke them of the habit by serving them microwaved leftovers when they were late for Thanksgiving and Christmas dinner.

    4. I’m really over this whole “Dolly versus Warren” thing, because it usually turns into either “Dolly versus Everyone,” or “Warren versus Everyone,” and either way, it derails the entire discussion.

  71. Emily July 10, 2014 at 11:02 am #

    Edited to add: The second #4 should be #5. I forgot how many points I’d written previously, but I hope that this doesn’t detract any credibility from what I said.

  72. Donna July 10, 2014 at 2:05 pm #

    Buffy – You have to go through customs on international flights and they will sometimes go through your luggage.

    Even more invasive is the countries where you have to go through agriculture control too. New Zealand even confiscated my hiking boots and made us wait while they cleaned them. You have to go through agriculture control when you go to Hawaii too.

  73. Maegan July 10, 2014 at 5:24 pm #

    UGH. Tardiness kills me. Especially in situations where people are WAITING. But certainly there was no reason to be terrified. 12 year olds can read the newspaper or watch the people. Airports are my favorite places to gawk at passerby. He probably had a good time.

  74. hineata July 11, 2014 at 4:23 am #

    @Donna – you were probably lucky you got them back, LOL! Though actually I’ve never had to bring muddy boots back in, so wouldn’t know definitively :-).

    What a lucky kid to get to travel like that….but I agree with those who say mum was probably just venting to Prudence. Hopefully she wasn’t rude enough to complain to the in-laws.

    Gee, am sort-of glad I have almost no direct in-law problems…hard to argue when you can barely speak the same language :-). Learnt just to let them do their thing, and I do mine….

    And my in-laws were kind enough to drive to another whole country to pick up my son recently, wonderful people that they are (even though the countries are only a km apart, it’s still a big hassle!).

  75. Donna July 11, 2014 at 7:07 am #

    Hineata – The boots weren’t even muddy! But they had recently been used in A. Samoa so off they went to the shoe cleaner. It was very strange. I did not understand the obsession with the hiking boots and no interest in the sneakers on my feet that walked in A. Samoa every day (not really since we mostly wore flip flops but the sneakers were worn far more than the hiking boots in the hot tropical A. Samoa).

  76. Megan Jordan July 11, 2014 at 1:08 pm #

    When my sister was young, around 10 or 11, she was traveling unaccompanied and her connecting flight was cancelled. This was in the pre-cell phone days (about 1994 or so) and she called my parents via pay phone and they helped her get a hotel voucher and transport to and from the hotel with airport staff. My mom was understandably worried, but my sister managed to get it all accomplished, slept in a hotel room by herself, and got herself to the airport for her flight in the morning. She thought the whole incident was incredibly cool and a grand adventure, and no doubt she felt very proud and grown up to have done it all herself. After all that she made it home just fine! I see nothing more than an extreme overreaction from a parent who thinks their 12 year old is incapable of waiting 30 minutes for a pickup from the airport.

  77. pentamom July 12, 2014 at 4:44 pm #

    Dolly, I didn’t say you should ignore it. In fact, I explicitly said you should let them know if it bothers you. But you don’t get to control whether you actually get an apology; only the other person can do that.

    You just shouldn’t predicate your children’s relationship with THEIR OWN GRANDPARENTS on whether you get every apology for everything you think requires one, every time. People don’t always apologize when they should. That’s life. You can have your kids have a good relationship with their grandparents, or you can insist that your getting an apology every time you think you are owed one is the MOST important thing. Only one thing can be the MOST important, and I wouldn’t opt for having my personal apology score kept pristine, personally.

  78. katie July 13, 2014 at 8:59 am #

    I’m remembering the last time my husband was late meeting me at the airport. I was a little annoyed. Than I thought about what I did. I called him, got on the subway and went home meeting him along the way instead of standing around at the airport waiting. Sounds like a good plan for a 12 year old with late relatives too.

  79. katie July 13, 2014 at 9:03 am #

    @Virginia Yes, because before the days of cell phones none of us ever made it to our final destinations. No a kid doesn’t need a cell phone. What they need is to not be treated at age 10 as if they are incompetent and can do nothing for themselves but be babysat by an airline employee. Teach them that if they are confused to ask a customer service representative. Teach them how to read a flight board. Show them in advance of their trip a map of the layout of the airport.

  80. katie July 13, 2014 at 9:07 am #

    @Dirk I completely agree with both of your posts. Yeah a lot of parents really don’t know what is best for their kids. In fact, I think it is much less about the kids for them,and much more about their own sense of anxiety. Thus the parents I know who claim to be the post selfless are actually the most selfish.

  81. Warren July 13, 2014 at 9:33 am #

    My great grandmother had the best advice for kids. “As long as you have a tongue in your mouth, you will never be lost. “

  82. Amanda Matthews July 13, 2014 at 1:00 pm #

    “I’m not sure “not asking them to do a favor again” is more practical than learning to live with their chronic lateness. When your kid is flying into a different city and not going to visit specific people, your options for arranging to have someone meet him are limited to people who live in that city, whom you know.”

    Give the kid some cab fare and teach him some self-sufficiency.

  83. hineata July 13, 2014 at 6:40 pm #

    @Donna….late, but hmm, I wonder why then? Did they ask you where you last wore them? Am no expert at all, but if you had last worn your hiking boots on the American mainland, they might be more of a worry. Maybe a farm expert could tell us, but am not sure that foot and mouth, the main concern behind inspections etc. of muddy footwear, has ever happened in American Samoa, whereas mainland North America might be more of an issue?

    This is a country almost more stringent (for fairly good reason) about food, mud etc at its customs points than Malaysia etc are about drugs…though we have yet to execute anyone for mud. If foot and mouth were to arrive though, who knows?

  84. Nic July 13, 2014 at 11:31 pm #

    I can imagine through all of the accusations they failed to give their child a pat on the back for managing.