Mom Late for School Pick-Up is Terrified her Son Will Feel She Doesn’t Love Him

Let’s stop beating ourselves up for not being perfect parents!

The mom who wrote this iynstitdnb
in The Week believes that being late to pick up her teen son a single time will make him feel as unloved as she did back when her parents were routinely late:

I waited at the doctor’s office staring at nothing in particular trying not to watch the clock. A vision of my teenage son exiting school looking for me flashed through my mind. I saw his face, sagging with disappointment. Not quite in possession of his driver’s license, he normally biked to school. Today, I was his ride. His classmates would be elbowing past him, leaping into their cars and peeling out of the parking lot. Others would board parents’ vehicles as they pulled through the pickup line.

I read his imaginary text: “Where are you?” and pictured him clear as day standing there alone, waiting, stranded and frustrated. I felt stranded and frustrated, too. The doctor’s lengthy delay would produce a ripple effect, causing me to be late for pickup. I took no joy in having a valid excuse.

When a nurse appeared, I cut the small talk and explained my hurry. To her glib Oh it’ll be okay, honey. Why don’t you text him? I responded: “I told him I’d be there. I made a promise.”

Her head jerked. We locked eyes. She felt the weight of my words. She had kids, too.

 It’s nice when people recognize that our time is valuable, but even people who are not picking up kids have obligations.

Of all the phrases that come out of my kids’ mouths, “You’re late!” makes me wither the most. It’s a loaded accusation. And for me, it brings back memories. I was that kid. My parents were both creatures of late, a pattern so normalized it wouldn’t have struck them as an issue worth examining.

When I was under their roof, I also normalized their serial tardiness. They were late taking us to school and late to pick us up. Even after I got my driver’s license, we carpooled since my dad worked near my high school. I was about my son’s age when, slouched against the wall of the school after volleyball practice, I waited for the family car to pull into the empty parking lot. The school’s cleaning crew had locked the doors. I was stuck outside. In the age before cell phones, I had no way of contacting anyone. I don’t remember the explanations offered for their delay any more than I remember my reaction. The whole scene was both predictable and tiresome.

The mom then flashes back on a moment of imperfection that she can’t stop beating herself up about — the time she was going to pick up her son on his last day of first grade and found she couldn’t get there on time:

Scrambling, I arranged for a parent of one of my kid’s friends to meet him when school released. They would play on the playground until I could get there. He wouldn’t even notice my absence with the heightened stimulation from the last day of school, I reasoned.

When I arrived, the schoolyard teemed with wild, exuberant children, embracing the freedom that summer represented. But my son stuck out: He was the only sad kid there. Even now, I see his little face wracked with disappointment, his sweet puppy dog eyes fighting back tears. I had missed the incomparable hoopla known as the last moment of the last day of school. Armed with cameras, all the other parents had shown up to catch their children flying out the school doors. Congratulations! balloons. You made it! cupcakes. I missed the hugging, the screaming hooray-summer-is-here moment.

He’s 16 now, but he still remembers that day. When my kid hurts, I hurt myself, too. My absence at the end of the school day didn’t match my words at the beginning when I said I’d be waiting for him when school let out and summer began. This experience crystalized for me that punctuality is essentially making good on a promise. I was accountable to my 7-year-old, and it crushed him when another mom instead of his own showed up. My actions had inadvertently communicated that he was less important than my work, when in fact, my noblest work is wrapped up in being his mother.

Here’s where I must point out a few things:

1 – Just because a parent has to prioritize work sometimes does not mean that they love their work more than their kids.

2 – Kids get that.

3 - Kids are resilient. Not that this justifies cruelty — nothing does. Just that kids will inevitably experience some pain and frustration, and they will recover.

4 – Parents have never been perfect, and that’s fine. It’s not a role that demands perfection.

This mom is right that actions speak louder than words. But the action of trying to get there on time speaks of love. Her son understands that she wasn’t trying to abandon him.

And he probably understands that about the first grade pick-up, too. – L.


Mom, I guess you are leaving me here to die, since you were late for pick-up.




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75 Responses to Mom Late for School Pick-Up is Terrified her Son Will Feel She Doesn’t Love Him

  1. Marie July 12, 2017 at 9:02 am #

    Wow. I just don’t know where to begin. I spent a lot of time waiting for my parents to finish what they were doing and come pick me up. Looking back, that time strikes me as some of my happiest time as a kid. Not because I liked waiting but because that time was MINE to use as i liked: extra time on the playground, time to read library books, time to talk with friends who were also waiting, time to daydream. It never occurred to my parents to apologize, nor to me to expect an apology. My parents had stuff to do and they knew I wasn’t helpless.

    Part of the problem for this mom seems to be that kids now (kids these days! ) expect that parents lives should revolve around the kids’ schedules. This panicky parent seems to think that’s the way it should be, too.

    This story makes me wish my own kids had had to wait for me more often.

  2. Marie July 12, 2017 at 9:06 am #

    …but if I had been late to pick them up, the school would have brought the kids inside where they would have had to join the after school program and I would have been charged for it. Kids waiting for parents is now seen as a problem to solve, instead of an opportunity to enjoy.

  3. Jessica July 12, 2017 at 9:18 am #

    This is a shame. We are all affected (in some cases, warped!) by our own childhoods. It sounds like she really DID get the impression that her parents didn’t care about her, because they were constantly late and distracted. That is really sad. And she hasn’t managed to process that enough to recognize good, normal parenting.

    It reminds me of this: some people who were physically abused as a child become anti-spanking activists. Because of their trauma, they can’t distinguish chronic abuse from an occasional swat on the rear.

  4. AmyP July 12, 2017 at 9:45 am #

    I have beat myself up about being late, but not for the same reason. I have noticed that people feel differently about punctuality (I’m a manager with over 100 traveling employees so I see the different types of attitudes a lot). Some people (including me) see being late as disprespectful of people’s time and therefore when we take action to be punctual and when we are late, either by mistake or by something beyond our control, it can initiate guilt and anxiety. Some people, on the other hand, don’t think being late is a big deal at all and don’t even think of being a few minutes past expected time as being late at all. These people annoy the people on the other side of spectrum (lack of punctuality is by far my worst pet peeve), but sometimes I admire their laid back attitude. So I would feel bad if I was late for my kids, but not to the extent I would think they were traumatized, rather to the extent that I would not be setting a good example about punctuality or value of their time. I have a friend whose mother was habitually late picking him up and he was always annoyed (not traumatized) by this. A better option if there may be something to hold you up would be to just say “Hang out after school and I’ll pick you up when I’m able to.” I learned this when my kids started school. I would just say if I’m not home when you get home (my hours are kind of flexible so when they were younger I would try to meet them after school) let yourself in and I’ll be home after work. That way if I got held up they weren’t expecting me at a certain time and I didn’t have that anxiety of not being punctual. By no means did I ever think they would be traumatized or think I didn’t love them though. But I do understand the feeling anxiety about not meeting time commitments.

  5. SKL July 12, 2017 at 9:58 am #

    Really? She was scarred for life because her parents were kind enough to cart her around albeit not super promptly?

    My parents were never late picking me up because they never picked me up. 😛 I was on my way to get around since I was in KG. If my parents had been supposed to pick me up and were late, I would have understood that they have other considerations and my being picked up at an exact time was never that important. It’s not like I was gonna be late with an insulin shot or something like that.

    And furthermore, if I’d had unexpected free time from my parents, I’d have been delighted for the freedom. I would have pulled out a book or tried some creative acrobatics on the grounds while waiting – assuming there was nobody to talk to.

    Now I must admit that I do cart my kids around, and I have heard the “you’re late” because it embarrasses my kid to be the last picked up. Which is stupid, but I suppose it results from how things are done these days – e.g. the coaches are not allowed to go home until every last child is picked up, so it gets noticed if I’m 1 minute late. This freaking annoys me, but it does not make me feel guilty or sorry for my kids. 😛

    In the above story, I can’t believe they’re talking about a teenager who has a cell phone that can receive a text “doctor visit ran over, see you around ___ at ___.” With my kids, starting at age 6 or 7 (long before they had cell phones), I’d tell them if I had something to do that might delay me, and I’d tell them what to do if I wasn’t at the expected place at the expected time. For example, sit at __ and wait for me / walk to __ and wait for me.

  6. Theresa Hall July 12, 2017 at 10:00 am #

    Though I think trying to keep promises is important life does say your time is mine. You think something will take only few minutes when suddenly it taking a lot longer than expected. What would the kid say if traffic is horrible and mom can’t make on time?.

  7. Dienne July 12, 2017 at 10:02 am #

    I’m sorry, but if a 16 year old is pining for his mother when she’s a few minutes late picking him up after school, he has bigger problems even than she does, and she seems to have mighty big ones. Does he not have a single friend he could hang with for a few minutes? He doesn’t have a phone he could plug into? Not even a book to read? I’d recommend some intensive therapy for both.

  8. Dienne July 12, 2017 at 10:05 am #

    Jessica – the occasional “swat on the rear” *is* abuse. It would be a crime if you did it to an adult. Why is it acceptable to do it to someone a third or a fourth your size? Can you think of no other way to communicate with a child than physical violence?

  9. SKL July 12, 2017 at 10:05 am #

    I would like to clarify that there’s a difference between being on time to get to a place, vs. on time to leave a place. I do feel guilty if I’m late arriving / dropping off. Late picking up is only a guilt thing if it inconveniences someone outside of my “casual relationships” circle. If it’s my kids, there is a lot more flexibility. Obviously it’s not unlimited, but they can deal with not being the top priority of every moment of the day.

    Kids need to understand that flexibility is a life skill, real life is messy, and empathy is more important than getting what I want when I want it. Who better to teach it than their mom, and how better than to have them experience it in safe situations like a late pickup….

  10. mer July 12, 2017 at 10:07 am #

    Doesn’t he have two feet and shoes on them to start walking?

  11. AmyO July 12, 2017 at 10:34 am #

    I had to read this article for myself, and was groaning the whole time. The punchline of the entire story is that she speeds down the highway and squeals into the parking lot (“Sorry officer, I promised my son–“**we lock eyes–he has kids too**) and ISN’T EVEN LATE. This WHOLE THING was in her mind.

    My seven year old teases me about the one time I was late getting her from a club because I went to the wrong door and it took me 10 minutes to figure out where to go. Meanwhile, she has a plan if she gets off the bus and no one is there, or gets to the pickup line and no one is there. It’s not a big deal because we didn’t make it a big deal.

  12. Angela July 12, 2017 at 10:35 am #

    I remember when my now-21 y.o. daughter was in Kindergarten. She and her brother, 1st grade at the time, went to school together and my work schedule allowed me to get home about 15 minutes before them. Well, you know how many days schools take off, and sometimes for no discernible reason. They had just had a half day followed by a day off the week before. Don’t know how I initially missed it, and since they had just had time off I didn’t think to look at a calendar, but they had another half day in the middle of the week in question.

    They were dropped off at a locked, empty house. About half an hour later, I got a call at work from a neighbor (who I had never spoken with before) letting me know they were home from school. So, they knew to find a safe adult (assuming, of course, that 99% of adults are safe, they went to a neighbor instead of the bar a block and a half away) and they were able to give the neighbor the name of the company I work for as well as my full name (the company employs thousands… a first name would not have been sufficient).

    When I got home, they were playing happily in the neighbor’s front yard. No police, no charges, and no physical or psychological damage done (as far as I can tell).

  13. aebhel July 12, 2017 at 10:37 am #

    I actually did freak out about my mom being late to pick me up (pretty minimally late–like 15-20 minutes) when I was 12 or so. But I was a really anxious kid who needed a routine and a contingency plan for everything; I don’t think the average kid is going to have a panic attack over something like this, let alone think his parents don’t love him. Mom here needs to work out her issues.

    (Re: spanking–I was rarely spanked as a kid, and I’m not really a zealot about it, but I don’t get why some people are so attached to the practice. I’ve never encountered a disciplinary situation with my kid that seemed like it would be improved by a swat on the rear.)

  14. Workshop July 12, 2017 at 11:01 am #

    I think I might encourage my children to become psychiatrists, because the number of neuroses these children will have pretty much ensure my kids will have a valid form of employment.

  15. WendyW July 12, 2017 at 11:30 am #

    Wow, that mom has issues, so does her kid if he’s upset by this.

    I was late picking up my eldest when she was in first grade. Normally she rode the bus home, but if I had things to do in town I would pick her up. There was a 15min gap between the end of the school day and the arrival of the buses, and I always arrived during that time. The kids played on the playground. On that particular day, she had been told to watch for me after school. My husband had come home at lunch time and unexpectedly needed the car for the afternoon (usually rode a motorcycle) so I called the school and told them to tell her to ride the bus home. About 20min after school was out, I got a phone call from my daughter- NOT the school personnel- crying as she asked me where I was. Turned out the school secretary had not taken the message to her classroom put had put it in the teacher’s mailbox, not noticing that the teacher had already picked up her mail for the day. They had reprimanded my daughter for not getting on her bus, and for not having a note for the change in routine (which she never did because I was always there before the buses.) My 6yo was distraught- that is not an exaggeration- but I think it was more because of the harsh reaction from the staff than from the situation. I had to borrow a car from a friend to go pick her up. I was SOOO mad when I walked in there. I don’t remember a bit of what was said, but I was NOT happy with them! This situation did teach me a lesson about having back-up plans with kids.

    We actually had a plan in place for if she arrived home on the bus and I wasn’t there. We had a windsock that I would hang by the front door if I had to leave the house and might not make it home before she did. She could see it from the bus stop across the street. If it was out, she would turn around and walk to the house of a friend who did home day care. Worked like a charm, with no stress on anyone’s part.

  16. Backroads July 12, 2017 at 11:52 am #

    Wow. Um, wow.

    He’s a teenager. He will live. He will find something to occupy his time while waiting for you.

    A couple of years ago, a school in the area had an 8-year-old no one picked up. Turned out his entire family had been murdered while he was at school–hence, no one came to pick him up. That’s traumatizing. Not Mom at the doctor’s office when many of your age have a driver’s license and after school jobs.

    I teach 2nd grade. I get the little ones being worried if so-n-so doesn’t pick them up in a timely manner. I’m more sympathetic to them. Not the big lugs who often pick up my little ones to walk them home sans parents–or at least to the other end of the random field where my fairly freerange principal encourages pick-ups in order to reduce traffic.

  17. AmyP July 12, 2017 at 11:58 am #

    I wanted to weigh in on the spanking. It is wrong to hurt people either with our words or our actions. Children are people, too. With that being said, it happens. I, being a human being who makes mistakes sometimes, have spanked my kids. It was during a period in life where I was going through some very troubling things. Were my kids traumatized? Did they question my love? Did I cause lasting damage? Did I or they deserve for us to be separated? No, none of that. But I won’t justify that it was right either. They received an apology and I reiterated that it is not ok to hurt people and that when we do we have to do our best to make it right. When our kids hurt people smaller than them, we call that bullying. Why should we accept it’s okay for adults to do it? They accepted that it didn’t mean I was a bad person, but that it was out of character for me and I made a mistake. I look at it kind of like if a good friend was having a bad day and said something hurtful. Most people are forgiving and with an apology would accept that their friend had a lapse in character and move on. So, if I see parents spank their kids I tend to take into account that as human beings sometimes we have bad days and do things that aren’t good and can still be loving parents. So, I would never look at somebody in contempt if I were to see this. Also, I recognize that I don’t by default have the beliefs that are “true.” I just have the beliefs I have, so outside of gross misconduct (in this case severely injuring a child) I tend to mind my own business. I just think that anybody that does think spanking is okay, should take a look at why they were doing it. In my case, times I have said hurtful things or taken hurtful actions, it was my issue not the other persons. There are many forms consequence based discipline that are effective and convey what can happen when we make a mistake that do not involve hitting people or saying hurtful things.

  18. Melissa July 12, 2017 at 12:17 pm #

    Dienne, that is a high horse and a slippery slope you are on. So the model of how we handle our kids should be, “Only if it’s OK to do to an adult”? If I take another adult’s tablet away, that is stealing. So I guess I can’t take one away from my kid for misbehaving. If I have a guest at my house and refuse to let them eat dessert because they said something at dinner I did not care for, that is being a snarky host. So I guess I can’t take dessert from my kid because he is inappropriate during dinner. If an adult breaks a rule in my home, I can’t send her to a room in my house for as many minutes as her age. So I guess I can’t do that to my child.

    By your definition, we really can’t give any consequence to our children, simply because it could not be rightfully done to a fellow adult. Occasional spanking is NOT abuse! Spare the rod and spoil the child. Spanking is my last resort but it IS a valid option.

  19. Free range kid, free range mom July 12, 2017 at 12:18 pm #

    ha ha ha ha ha ha ha OMG.

    And people tell *me* I sweat the small stuff. No way. Oh man does that mom have too much time on her hands.

    Once I was 1.5 hours late to pick up my kids form gymnastics because of several sequential minor disasters. First, the gymnastics staff was terrific about it (for which I’m grateful). When I arrived my boys were in the waiting area watching another kid’s ipad. It didn’t even register on them really that there was a problem with me being “late”.

    So, I’ve been late more than I’d like to be because I’m a single mom and I juggle alot. My kids just occupy themselves, find other kids to play with or use their charms to entice grownups to talk to them.

    My main concern with being casually late is, as AmyP noted, that I don’t want to annoy the caregivers and other adults, since I want their good will when an emergency strikes.

    Or as Marie said, my boys will be put in the ASP and I’m charged for it — so that’s a win for everyone, because the ASP gets money, the kids have fun in ASP and I don’t feel that I inconvenienced the staff followings.

  20. test July 12, 2017 at 12:21 pm #

    @Jessica I agree. This seems to be someone who was affected by parents behavior trying too hard to not to do the same. I think it is pretty normal for 7 years old to be disappointed when he is unexpectedly last kid waiting, through the moms far reaching conclusions about work vs family life are primary projection of her childhood.

    When people try to not be like their parents, they often overdo it and this seems to be the case.

  21. Jessica July 12, 2017 at 12:38 pm #

    Great, now let’s have 80 or 90 comments about spanking! My fault guys– sorry I started it. It was just the first thing that came to mind when I read the story.

    I am sure that all of us have thougtful, impressive insights about spanking that have never been discussed anywhere on the internet before. We all believe so strongly in our opinion that if we just type enough, we will make each come around to our side! Let’s get to it!

  22. Dienne July 12, 2017 at 12:43 pm #

    Melissa – Being a “snarky host” is a far cry from committing a crime, which is what striking another human being is.

    But that’s a red herring. The point is, as AmyP said, it’s not okay to hurt someone, regardless of age, whether with words or actions. Yes, it happens and it’s a shame when it does, but, as Amy said, it can be corrected with an apology and doing better going forward so that the kid knows that it was wrong even though it was a parent who did it. Parenting is about raising young human beings, not about power and control. It’s not about “do it my way or I’ll hurt you”. It’s about teaching, protecting and loving. Spanking falls nowhere within teaching, protecting or loving. Somehow we understand that when a man hits a woman, there’s nothing loving about it, no matter what he says. But for some reason we can’t seem to understand that the same applies when a parent hits a child.

  23. John B. July 12, 2017 at 12:57 pm #

    This is getting a bit ridiculous. Any mother who feels emotionally guilty because she was late in picking up her 16-year-old because of job demands and any 16-year-old who feels unloved because his mother was late in picking him up, make up an extremely hypersensitive family. I’d recommend counseling for this family.

  24. Theresa Hall July 12, 2017 at 1:20 pm #

    She thinks because her parents couldn’t be bother to on time she’ll be a bad parent if fails to on time. From I read I she seems to be doing fine as a parent. Her parents should have at least tried to be on time. I get life getting in the way and sometimes you just can’t be on time but when someone is expecting you it is rude not attempt to be on time. And it the opposite of caring to always be late. But I think the kids should get when life gets in the way.

  25. Judas Peckerwood July 12, 2017 at 1:24 pm #

    Re: Spanking. The only time it is appropriate to hit anyone of any age is if they present an imminent physical threat to you or someone else.

  26. James Pollock July 12, 2017 at 1:27 pm #

    “Being a “snarky host” is a far cry from committing a crime, which is what striking another human being is.”

    Striking another person IS a crime… except for when it isn’t. It’s also a tort… except for when it isn’t.
    As an extremely relevant example, when a law-enforcement officer has to strike a suspected criminal in order to subdue them, it is NOT a crime when they do so.

  27. Momof8 July 12, 2017 at 1:29 pm #

    Drama queen.

  28. Michelle July 12, 2017 at 1:31 pm #

    I actually think it’s understandable that the kid felt sad and disappointed when his mom was late the first time (when he was in 1st grade). If all the other kids were being met at the schoolhouse door with balloons, cupcakes, and celebrations, it would suck to be the only kid who wasn’t. But to extrapolate from there that being a few minutes late to pick him up from anything, EVER, is absolutely ridiculous. Almost as ridiculous as parents meeting their kids at the end of school with balloons, cupcakes, and over-the-top celebrations.

    I don’t have to pick my kids up from anything very frequently. They either get places themselves, or we are going together. But if I am occasionally late, it’s not a big deal. They might text to make sure I haven’t forgotten. (Once, I thought my husband was picking our son up, and he thought I was, and an hour later we both got texts wanting to know where we were!) I do agree that punctuality is keeping a promise, and therefore important, but not end-of-the-world important.

    @Free range kid, free range mom said, “Or as Marie said, my boys will be put in the ASP and I’m charged for it — so that’s a win for everyone, because the ASP gets money, the kids have fun in ASP and I don’t feel that I inconvenienced the staff followings.”

    Ha, that reminds me of my kids’ music school. I used to be very concerned about paying tuition on time, and if I absolutely had to pay late, I’d feel terrible. Then they started charging a $25 late fee, and I feel like I can pay late whenever it’s convenient. They are literally being paid to accommodate my schedule now.

  29. E July 12, 2017 at 1:31 pm #

    Probably the weirdest shit I’ve read here.

    “This experience crystalized for me that punctuality is essentially making good on a promise. I was accountable to my 7-year-old, and it crushed him when another mom instead of his own showed up. My actions had inadvertently communicated that he was less important than my work, when in fact, my noblest work is wrapped up in being his mother.”

    I get it — last day of school ends on a big bummer, but goodness there are explanations and teachable moments. Get some ice cream to celebrate and move on!

    Reading this made me uncomfortable!

  30. Michelle July 12, 2017 at 1:33 pm #

    Edit: “But to extrapolate from there that being a few minutes late to pick him up from anything, EVER, means she doesn’t value him, is absolutely ridiculous.”

  31. Neil M July 12, 2017 at 1:37 pm #

    I can’t be hard on Streeter–she does a better job of beating herself up than anyone ever could.

  32. Kimberly Albertson July 12, 2017 at 2:09 pm #

    Along the same lines as AmyO, I went and read the article for myself.

    I’m surprised that Lenore didn’t include this gem that was in reference to when she was late picking up her kid from 1st grade:

    “After that one major lapse of judgment, it took years of getting it right to make amends.”


    Should this be filed under “1st world problems”? Or maybe “1%er problems”? I mean…seriously?

    When my daughter was 3 or 4, she woke up in the middle of the night and decided that she had left a toy in the car and decided to go get it. She unlocked the deadbolt and went outside. Unfortunately, the doorknob also had a lock that, when engaged, could still be opened from the inside, but ended up locking her out of the house. In the middle of the night. Her dad and I were woken up to the newspaper delivery man knocking on our bedroom window. She was frozen to the bone and scared to death.

    It was a lapse in judgement that we never considered that possibility, but I wouldn’t categorize it as a “major lapse of judgement”. We did, however, install a chain at the top of the door to help prevent a repeat.

  33. Kenny Felder July 12, 2017 at 2:23 pm #

    Boy, does that headline sound like The Onion.

  34. Eric S July 12, 2017 at 2:55 pm #


    Kids will only learn what you teach them. So if you spoil and enable them to appease them (some believe this is how they show their “love”), sure, that’s what they’ll get used to. So the second you stop, they will stat to think less of you. The fix, STOP DOING IT. Kids will GET OVER IT. Even better, don’t do it from the very beginning. Just think how your parents were with you (I’m pretty sure many had strict, no b.s. parents), what happened to you? Did you die? Did you get kidnapped. Did you get abused? Wasn’t provided for? Did you stop loving your parents? I wager the answers are all “no”. Trust, the answers for your kids as they get older will be the same. Do what is best for THEM. NOT YOU. You’re the parent, what you say goes. Stop trying to be a “friend”. They will learn that if you teach it to them. They won’t hate you. They’ll thank you when they learn the lessons you are trying to impart.

  35. shdd July 12, 2017 at 2:56 pm #

    My husband promised our daughter he would pick her up from camp and they would have a little time together before she went to celebrate a friends birthday. However, he picked his Mom up for lunch and she needed to go to the hospital. He texted my daughter (who is 15) and said sorry I can’t pick you up today. She wasn’t upset, she had her keys, made her snack, changed, and was ready to be picked up. A couple of years earlier she would have been upset but now she changed with the circumstances and was ready for any possibility.

  36. Emily July 12, 2017 at 3:25 pm #

    >>Dienne, that is a high horse and a slippery slope you are on. So the model of how we handle our kids should be, “Only if it’s OK to do to an adult”? If I take another adult’s tablet away, that is stealing. So I guess I can’t take one away from my kid for misbehaving. If I have a guest at my house and refuse to let them eat dessert because they said something at dinner I did not care for, that is being a snarky host. So I guess I can’t take dessert from my kid because he is inappropriate during dinner. If an adult breaks a rule in my home, I can’t send her to a room in my house for as many minutes as her age. So I guess I can’t do that to my child.

    By your definition, we really can’t give any consequence to our children, simply because it could not be rightfully done to a fellow adult. Occasional spanking is NOT abuse! Spare the rod and spoil the child. Spanking is my last resort but it IS a valid option.<<

    I disagree. If an adult drives under the influence, or over the speed limit, or otherwise unsafely, then a police officer can suspend that person's license. If an adult guest is rude, then the (presumably adult) host can not invite that person to their house again. If an adult is repeatedly late for work, then they might have to stay overtime to make up missed work, or have their pay docked, et cetera. So, I'd put taking a child's iPad away (if they're using it inappropriately) on the same level as any of those scenarios–logical consequences, as opposed to punishments that cause pain and humiliation.

  37. SKL July 12, 2017 at 3:32 pm #

    I must be a bad mom – I don’t pick my kids up on the last day of school, even though school dismisses an hour early. They either take the bus or go to aftercare, depending on what options are available at that time.

    I might have done it the first year (when they were 6), hoping it would be a “special moment,” but the pickup line is so annoying that I never intend to go through that again if I can avoid it.

    My kids know better than to go all drama queen about it. Also, they appreciate the little bit of extra time with their friends whom they won’t see again for 10 weeks.

  38. SKL July 12, 2017 at 3:34 pm #

    As for the spanking discussion, I’ve heard my kids say they’d rather have a spanking than deal with lectures etc. 😛

    People fight over silly things. Carry on.

  39. Stacey July 12, 2017 at 3:54 pm #

    Oh FFS!

  40. Barbara July 12, 2017 at 4:35 pm #

    Good grief! Mom needs to get a grip.

  41. elizabeth July 12, 2017 at 4:39 pm #

    On spanking: i got the paddle once. Just once. What i did, i know i didnt ever do again because i was never paddled again. So its effective in the right situation at the right age with certain kids. But it should always be an absolute last resort when other disciplinary measures have been used to echaustion. And not on teens or toddlers. Between five and eleven is when its most effective. This mom is oversensitive, too, and is likely giving her child mental issues he wont grow out of. Ugh.

  42. Jen July 12, 2017 at 4:40 pm #

    I saw this article when it first came out and almost forwarded it to Lenore — then I thought that this was just too ridiculous.

    The kid is in high school. He can be annoyed but seriously, if he is going to suffer emotional distress because his mom is late — there are much larger problems going on in that family. I remember leaving elementary school and waiting for a pick-up…and waiting, until i was the last one left on the front apron of the school. I would have enjoyed company but no one stuck around to make sure someone was coming for me. Things happen, people get held up. If anything, it’s good to develop that — things didn’t go as planned and i was fine muscle.

  43. Robin July 12, 2017 at 4:51 pm #

    Like Marie, I don’t know where to begin with this. My conclusion is that this poor boy who is nearly an adult, is being turned by his mother into one of the entitled young adults who expects the world to revolve around him. She is not doing him a favour with this.

  44. Peter July 12, 2017 at 5:43 pm #

    Actually, Elizabeth, I’m not sure I agree regarding toddlers…

    Years ago, My roommate and I went to Vietnam to visit some of her old friends. One of her best friends was now married with a 4 year old kid. Now while my roommate and her friend settled down to chat about old times and such in Vietnamese, I was left with the kid (since I didn’t understand Vietnamese, it was certainly better than sitting there like a bump on a log). Which was fine–we sat and played and had fun.

    Of course, as kids are wont to do, things started to get loud. Her Mom told her to quiet down (I assume) and she did. For a little while. But then she got loud again and her Mom said something else. And she quieted down. But here’s this neat weird-looking guy with funny colored hair and eyes who makes funny faces and silly noises and is playing with me! So things ended up getting a bit loud again. Mom got up and walked over to the mantlepiece and took down about a foot-long leather strap. The kid, seeing this, immediately quieted down. But over time, the volume went back up. Mom–barely breaking the conversation–took the strap and slapped her own hand making a very scary and unpleasant sound.

    Yup. The kid quieted right down. And she stayed quiet for the rest of the evening. She knew that there would be no “next time.” She was at the end.

    Later I asked my roommate about it. She said that her friend had used it on her daughter once–one smack with it. Since then, all she really had to do was threaten.

    Pain is the universal language. In later years, you can explain and discuss things with your kid. But when the kid is 2 or 3? A moment of pain can explain a lot more than a lecture.

    I don’t ever remember being spanked as a kid–but I’m the youngest and I had my older sisters to warn me. And there were various signs that Mom was getting more and more displeased and you learned to keep an eye out for those signs and adjust your attitude–or else. I never learned what the “or else” was–my sisters let me know that it was not something I wanted to experience.

    To spank or not to spank, to me, is one of those elements of parenting that is left to the parents. I have friends who spanked their kids and friends who absolutely would not. And it didn’t seem to make that much difference in the kids’ lives–some were fine, some were obnoxious. The spanking or not spanking didn’t seem to make any difference.

  45. Mary L July 12, 2017 at 6:57 pm #

    About 20 years ago when I was 10, on my first solo flight after visiting a friend who moved away my mom was late picking me up from the airport. Both her and my dad adjusted my arrival time for the time zone change not realizing the airline already did it. He adjusted the airline time told her and she thought he wouldn’t have done it so adjusted his already now wrong time.
    My reaction to seeing no one was there,was to get my luggage find a seat, prop my feet up and read my book. At no point was I worried or upset that no one was there. I wasn’t even watching the time turns out I was there for about 3 hours ( good thing she got there early). I only told her she owed me a new book since I had pretty much finished that one I was reading. To me and my parents the whole thing was funny.

  46. SKL July 12, 2017 at 7:07 pm #

    I have friends who will literally go on a hunger strike to force their kids to do what pleases them. They don’t hit. They call it “emotional blackmail” and use it proudly. Personally I’m not a fan. I was raised with the occasional spanking and I prefer that. Over the years I’ve seen all sorts of “nonviolent discipline” used in unhealthy, sometimes cruel ways. I’ve also seen “nonviolent parents” lose it and smack their kids.

    Once I was on a forum where a parent asked “do you think it’s OK for a school to use physical punishment?” Well she was talking about her kid being told to walk laps at recess because of some behavior. (Which I would prefer over having them sit through recess.)

    Interesting thought just occurred to me. Most discussions about spanking seem to focus on “does it help.” “Studies haven’t proven that it makes behavior statistically better.” Well why isn’t the focus “does it hurt”? Because aside from the type of beating that is illegal in most states, I’m pretty sure they haven’t proved it hurts statistically. There are kids who respond well or poorly to spanking, but overall it’s pretty safe to leave it to the parents. Well, as safe as any discipline method. When you look at kids who’ve been severely hurt or killed by their parents / caregivers, it’s rarely a case of butt spanking gone wrong – evil people have proven that there are many ways to hurt a child whether they spank or not.

  47. Willow July 12, 2017 at 7:09 pm #

    Marie said, “My parents had stuff to do…” I think this is a big part of the problem, when kids don’t get this. Why not? Don’t the parents teach them that sometimes sh!t happens? And the kids won’t die?

  48. JLM July 12, 2017 at 7:20 pm #

    Meh, the mum in the story was just after some attention. I’ll bet her son was just fine.

    On the other hand, I’m still traumatised from the day I forgot my eldest daughter’s class open day when she was in Kindergarten. (Actually, I’m not, but the mum in the story would probably be in serious therapy if she’d been in my position.) I forgot that their classroom was open for half an hour before school ended, so the parents could go and admire all the kids’ work. When I turned up 10 minutes before the bell (with a 3yo and a 1yo in tow, pregnant with twins), I was curious as to why there were so many cars there already. Then it struck me! In my highly hormonal state, I teared up as I rushed to find my daughter, and when I found her, I asked her anxiously if she was sad because I didn’t come. “No, I was excited because I thought you *might* come!” Well, talk about her having low expectations of my parenting!!! Funnily enough, she doesn’t remember this, whereas it’s burned into my brain.

    Mothers are far more affected by these blips on the radar than the children they THINK are affected. I remember my mum telling me (after I’d had my own kids) how bad she felt about the time she was so angry with me that she dragged me to my room by my hair (I was about 7). She’d spent nearly 30 years reliving it, and I didn’t even remember it! My mother was the most beautiful, nurturing mother anyone could have, so let’s just say the bigger picture overrode her rare lapse of judgement.

  49. Jane July 12, 2017 at 7:43 pm #

    Wow, what a drama queen

  50. Donald July 12, 2017 at 9:55 pm #

    I’ve brought this one up a few times. Sorry for repeating so often.

    Sometimes when a child falls down, he doesn’t immediately cry. He instead looks around to see who is watching and determines whether to laugh, do nothing, or let out a blood-curdling scream! The point that I’m trying to make is that how WE react will influence how others respond.

    The child may be traumatised, feeling unloved, and scarred for life BECAUSE your worry taught him that this may be a correct way to respond. Your worry is helping to cause his worry. So stop worrying.

    Sorry. That wasn’t meant to be a slam on you. I was oversimplifying to such a degree that I was ridiculing my own writing! I was reframing your worry into the chicken and the egg circular argument. I know things are not as simple as I say they are. Sometimes the answer is simple. However, ACHIEVING that answer is ABSOLUTELY POSITIVELY NOT SIMPLE!

    This also gives an insider’s view of anxiety. It can be mild or it can be torture that goes on for decades! I’ve felt how bad it can get and that’s why I want to help others to escape it.

    The fact that you posted your letter on this blog is proof that you’re on the path of recovery. It also proves that you’re way ahead of others in some ways. You can self-reflect. Kids don’t always listen to their parents. However, they NEVER fail to mimic them. You’re showing your kid about self-reflecting as well. That’s not a minor thing. It’s actually quite big. Self-reflecting can be further explained on this page

    Warning. It’s a deep topic. Furthermore, my ‘In your face’ writing style can be off-putting. If I was to compare it to a laundry detergent, it would be super concentrate industrial strength!

    As Lenore pointed out, parents have never been perfect, and that’s fine. It’s not a role that demands perfection. No parent is. What IS important is to LEARN from mistakes. That’s also why you’re further ahead of many parents. Some are so headstrong that they can’t see anything else or constantly justify any shortcomings they have. Some blame everybody else except themselves.

    Anxiety can have such a powerful grip on you that it feels like escape is impossible. It can feel like trying to prevent anxiety in your life is like preventing water from being wet! Therefore, why even bother to try? Learned helplessness is another page that may help.

  51. Donald July 12, 2017 at 10:12 pm #

    “Wow, what a drama queen”

    Yes but I praise this drama queen for being brave enough to come forward.

    Her parents were constantly late for her. She’s going the other way to an extreme over the top way. Perhaps I’m reading between the lines and bringing up something that isn’t there. However, I get the feeling that she included that part because she knows that she’s gone to the extreme in the other direction.

    It either case, it’s still a good example of what not to do.

  52. bmj2k July 12, 2017 at 10:12 pm #

    What overwrought melodrama! Does she write for the Hallmark Channel?

  53. sexhysteria July 12, 2017 at 11:19 pm #

    A sad case, but parents should be more concerned that failing to provide accurate, balanced, and comprehensive sex education from the earliest age may cause lifelong clitoral erectile dysfunction.

  54. BL July 13, 2017 at 6:27 am #

    Speaking of drama:

    “…the incomparable hoopla known as the last moment of the last day of school. Armed with cameras, all the other parents had shown up to catch their children flying out the school doors. Congratulations! balloons. You made it! cupcakes. I missed the hugging, the screaming hooray-summer-is-here moment.”

    I suppose this has been around for decades now, but it just seems so over-the-top. When I was in school, we were certainly happy to have the summer ahead of us, but we just … walked out and went home, maybe with a little more alacrity than usual.

  55. lollipoplover July 13, 2017 at 7:37 am #

    My parents were chronically late picking me up from after school activities as a teenager.

    What it inspired me to do is be resourceful- proactively asking older classmates that drove for rides. Eventually saving up enough money to buy a car for myself and be the one in control.

    I work from home, my son has waited many times after practices or games for me, with cellphones he will know if I am on a call and when I can get him. He can start his homework to pass the time. He won’t be scarred or think I love him less- he can hit up a teammate for a ride and often does when there’s conflicts. Waiting isn’t scarring- there are books to be read, phones can entertain teens for hours. He now has his permit and has saved up enough for his own car. Of all the things to be terrified of, my kid waiting is NOT anywhere near one of them.

  56. Donna July 13, 2017 at 8:42 am #

    I straight-up forgot my kid at camp last week. Her camp pick up is 4, but if you pay for aftercare, they can stay til 5:30. I didn’t pay for aftercare because I had a friend whose kids were also at camp that week and could pick mine up if needed. One day I was at court and realized that it was 4:30 and I had both forgotten to pick up my child and to text said friend to get her. When I picked her up after 5, there was no upset or emotional trauma – and she’s at that high-drama age. She just smirked and said your really late. I told her I forgot her and we laughed.

    I do think that being chronically late says to a kid that they are unimportant – and is apparently the message this mother got – but kids can deal with occasional lateness.

    And why the hell are parents appearing at the last day of school with balloons and cupcakes? That is even more ridiculous than the rest of the incredibly ridiculous story.

  57. SKL July 13, 2017 at 9:21 am #

    Yeah, the whole “WOW you finished the 1st grade” is a little too weird for me. And I have a kid who made me wonder sometimes. 😛

    But when you have preschool and Kindergarten graduations, it must be kind of a letdown to “only” have a WOW balloon after 1st grade. 😛

  58. SKL July 13, 2017 at 9:45 am #

    I’m working so hard over here to try to recreate some of the childhood I remember – when school children said good-bye to Mom at home before school and said hello again at home after work. When I got out of school, be it the first, last, or any other day, the last thing I was thinking about was seeing my parents (or any other parents). School dismissal usually meant the beginning of the free hours. Sometimes it meant finding MY OWN WAY to a ball practice or optometrist appointment or whatever. In the pre-college teen years, it also meant heading to my paper route or other paid job. Sometimes home to do chores that couldn’t wait (tending the fire, cooking, caring for younger sibs).

    Some parents teach their kids to believe they “need” Mommy at times when they do not. I think that is seriously damaging. Parents who’ve taught their kids this need to sit them down and talk about what the kid can do when he finds himself unexpectedly alone. Then they need to practice Plans B and C if there is fear.

    And parents are dumb to “promise” their kids that nothing will prevent their being at place X at time Y. You are not God, you don’t know what is going to happen. What I tell my kids is, “that is the plan, I hope so.” I often say “I’m not going to make any promises” because that just isn’t fair.

    I get held up by stuff. As a working single mom, I don’t have as many backups as some people do. I can’t predict the traffic, the weather, the client or household or vehicle emergency. I manage my kids’ expectations rather than have them get resentful over things I’m doing for them after all.

    It’s important to touch base with your kids – at times that work. Could be right after school, could be dinner, could be bedtime or bath time. (I have one kid who always wanted to chat forever in the bath!) The important thing is that they know you will make time for them – not that it will happen at X time every day.

    And I think the article writer is way OCD. And I also think it’s a bit ridiculous trying to find a way to blame everything on our parents. OCD isn’t caused by having laid-back parents. If she is like that all the time, she needs to get professional help.

  59. SanityAnyone? July 13, 2017 at 10:59 am #

    To quote the eighties, “gag me with a spoon” to the original blog post and the bonus spanking argument.

    Picking up your child late once in awhile doesn’t even rise to the level of a minor parenting mistake, not even an honorable mention. Neither does a rare poch in the tuchis to remind a youngster to hold hands and not to run into the street deserve moralistic ranting.

  60. lollipoplover July 13, 2017 at 12:33 pm #


    My husband and I BOTH forgot our son when he was 10 and left him at the baseball game we both attended!
    We came in separate cars, I thought he had him, he thought I did, and he didn’t have a cell phone to call us.
    It was also the night he hit two homeruns so that added more insult.
    But he got a ride from the coach (who has 7 kids of his own) and it was no big deal. I don’t think he even remembers it (but does remember the homeruns). Parents make mistakes. All the time. Move on, and what is with cupcakes and balloons???

  61. Coasterfreak July 13, 2017 at 12:43 pm #

    The part that pushed me over the edge into Extreme Eye Roll was the “last day of school” scenario. Know how many times my parents were there to pick me up after school (last day or not)? I think twice. Both times because an unexpected severe storm had hit and they didn’t want me to have to walk in it.

    If my mom had been there to pick me up on the last day of school, I’d have been disappointed. I have great memories of running out of the building with my friends and going straight to the local park to celebrate instead of going home. As long as I was home by dinner, my parents were OK with it, which gave me several hours to play since our last day of school was usually a half day.

  62. Workshop July 13, 2017 at 1:41 pm #

    “I promise I will pick you up” is hugely different from “I promise I will pick you up at 3pm.”

    Unless you can foretell the future, you can’t be certain that you’ll be there at 3. There might be a multi-car pile-up on the freeway. Maybe a bridge collapsed. Maybe you forgot to reset your watch for Daylight Savings Time. If you can foretell the future, why aren’t you in Vegas?

    “I promise I will always love you” is a promise a parent makes.
    “I promise I will meet you on the last day of school with cupcakes and balloons” is a childish promise, and the parent should be ashamed of reverting to such an infantile state.

  63. Jesse July 13, 2017 at 2:27 pm #

    It sounds like her parents weren’t just late but *excessively late*. My high school let out for the day at 2:30. The gym and library were open until 4. Continuing Ed programs used the school until 7:30 or 8. The cleaning crew finished up around 9, locking the doors behind them.

    Following that timeline, it sounds like the writer’s parents did not arrive to pick her up until after the cleaning crew had left for the day. She was by herself from 2:30-9pm (or later). She probably didn’t leave to eat dinner or snack as they might come while she was away. If she even could leave–my high school was in the middle of a corn field. It also sounds like it didn’t happen once or twice, but as a regular occurrence. If I was her, that would seer an unwanted and unloved feeling into my psyche.

  64. Berlinmom July 13, 2017 at 4:11 pm #

    I’m a little bit confused. Here in Germany using any violence towards children is illegal and that includes spanking. I thought this is also true for the US. So in some states you’ll get arrested for letting your child wait in the car but spanking him/her is totally acceptable? That’s crazy!!

  65. SKL July 13, 2017 at 4:22 pm #

    Spanking (by parents) is legal in the US, yes.

  66. Donald July 13, 2017 at 6:18 pm #

    Rewards are often presented as a way to encourage good behaviour. For example, imagine that your child brings home an ‘A’ on his report card. You then say, GOOD JOB! Let’s go out and I’ll treat you to an ice cream”. This encourages your child to get more A’s. However, this works the other way as well. If you reward your child for getting an ‘F’, that encourages them to get more F’s.

    Without intending to, we can encourage or children to have a ‘Poor Me’ outlook on life. We need to be sympathetic when appropriate. However, if we constantly pile it on and go way over the top, we encourage them to seek out more victim situations.

  67. Kathy July 13, 2017 at 7:15 pm #

    This actually made me sick.

  68. pentamom July 13, 2017 at 10:05 pm #

    Jesse, just because your school didn’t get locked until 9 pm doesn’t mean it was the scenario here. Also, she says her parents were late to get her after volleyball practice. Sports practices can often go until 5 or later.

    It’s entirely possible her parents were only an hour or so late. And she was 16 (“about my son’s age”), nearly an adult. It was probably an uncomfortable and possibly upsetting experience at the time. (One wonders why at that age, she didn’t start initiating ways of solving the problem on her own, rather than remaining slumped against the wall, if it actually was a matter of hours.) It is absolutely not reasonable for her to make it into something that still haunts her and frames every interaction with her own children.

  69. Donna July 13, 2017 at 11:43 pm #

    Okay, so the kid is 16 and has a cell phone. What the heck is the problem? Text and say “Doctor’s appointment running late. Be there as soon as I can.”

    While I question why she would promise her child that she’d pick him up immediately at dismissal time so that he won’t have to wait a second, especially on an afternoon that she has a doctor’s appointment, I do get not wanting to break promises to your kids. However, life happens and we have to do it in rare circumstances. If your child is devasted and feels unloved because of one very minor promise broken through no fault of your own, you have done an incredibly poor job of parenting. Your kid is way spoiled and completely lacks even a miniscule amount of resilience.

    And am I the only one who thinks the look on the nurse’s face was more “this chick is bat shit crazy” than some look of understanding between mother’s?

  70. SKL July 13, 2017 at 11:54 pm #

    Donna, yeah, I thought that too about the look from the nurse. Like, “is this lady serious?” or, “mental note: refer patient for psych assessment.”

  71. Shobit Gupta July 14, 2017 at 8:37 am #

    Very True. We Can not be perfect at each time. We only pretend to be!!

  72. Another Katie July 14, 2017 at 12:26 pm #

    If a teenager was truly distraught that mommy would be late picking him up from school, then it doesn’t bode well for his future as an independent adult. Actually, at 15 or 16 I would have been embarrassed to have my mom or dad pick me up at all!

    I wasn’t aware that picking your kid up on the last day of school with balloons and cupcakes was a thing that’s actually DONE. Since I work and our school-aged kid goes to after school care, she asked me to pick her up as late as possible on the last 3 days of school, which are half days in our district. The after school program had a slate of fun activities planned that she didn’t want to miss, plus she wouldn’t see her friends until September since she goes to day camp in a different town.

    We’ve had to miss a few school activities for our rising 2nd grader because my husband or I had to be at work. She knows that while we’d like to be there, if we have a work conflict without flexibility, then the job that keeps everyone housed, clothed, fed, and participating in a variety of fun extracurriculars sometimes needs to take the priority. My husband feels more guilt about these instances than I do – his mom was a SAHM and was there for EVERYTHING, while my mom was a working mother and occasionally had to miss an event. The world didn’t end because my parents couldn’t make it to the 3rd grade holiday concert held at 10 AM on a Tuesday, you know?

  73. Stephanie July 15, 2017 at 1:31 pm #

    If I had to be late picking my daughter up from high school, I would just send her a text and tell her to walk home. It’s a solid 4 miles, but she’s capable. Alternatively, she could walk to Starbucks. She’s done that on particularly hot days when she knows I might be late picking her up. She just brings a little money for a drink.

    If we lived far enough that walking was impractical (only high school in a town of 50,000, it happens), I’d tell her to start talking to friends and arrange her own ride, either home or to a friend’s house. These problems are absurdly easy to solve. Most kids are happy for the excuse to go see a friend.

  74. Paul July 18, 2017 at 7:17 am #

    I remember when my dad was really late to pick me up. It was from Middle School and normally they just released all the students out onto the street and let them find their own way home (public schools in NYC generally assume that by the age of 11 kids know the bus system well enough to use their free cards). That day all the parents had to pick their kids up, no matter how hard it was to negotiate the metro transit system on 9/11. I mean, I understand some of the reasoning but given that it was 4PM and the car bombs hadn’t arrived yet, it seemed a bit silly to hang around worrying that we were going to get hit again in eastern Brooklyn. There weren’t even any tall buildings!

  75. pentamom July 19, 2017 at 1:58 pm #

    This kid is going to turn out a basket case and the mom will think she’s vindicated.