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Dear Emuna: Always Late
Dear Emuna

Dear Emuna: Always Late's new advice column! Chronic latecomers, an over-reaching mother-in-law and naughty neighbors.


Dear Emuna,

I attend a daily study group with five other people. I always try to arrive on time but some people come chronically late and then we have to spend the next few minutes catching them up to speed. Short of kicking them out of the group, what can be done to encourage more prompt attendance?

-- Prompt and Constantly Frustrated

Dear Prompt,

This is a universal problem that doesn’t just apply to study groups. It can occur at business meetings or dinner dates. Since we all know that time is precious (unlike money, it can never be recouped!), we hate being victims of the cavalier attitude of others. (Do I sound like I’m getting emotionally riled up? You’ve touched on one of my pet peeves.)

There are a few practical solutions. One is that the person leading the meeting or study group should be prevailed upon to start on time, no matter how many are in attendance. This is very hard to do but it definitely sends a message to the chronically late.

The corollary to this is to not spend any time catching the tardy attendant up on material covered. This will have real consequences in a work or study environment and may motivate a better effort in the future. At the very least, it won’t waste the time of others.

In social situations some clever spouses and friends deal with this issue by telling their time-challenged companion to arrive at an earlier hour than actually scheduled, thus increasing the chances of their punctual arrival.

Finally, I recommend that we remove the expression “Jewish time” from our vocabularies. There is nothing cute or, in fact, Jewish, about being late. In reality the opposite is true. As Jews, we are very conscious of the preciousness of time and the need to use every moment to the fullest.

-- Emuna

Dear Emuna,

Sometimes when I’m disciplining my kids, my mother-in-law will announce, “Oh, leave them alone; you’re being too strict.” I believe this undermines my authority and sends the kids a mixed message. What can I politely say to her and what should I say to my kids?

-- Trying Not To Tell Too Many Mother-In-Law Jokes

Dear Mother-in-Law Joke,

I certainly appreciate how frustrated you must feel. But I want to let you in on an important secret: Your kids don’t take what your mother-in-law says very seriously.

Most grandparents are experienced by most grandchildren as only love (with a little bit of spoiling thrown in). Even when they say critical things (to them or you), it rolls off your children’s backs. They can take it with a sense of humor because it doesn’t have the emotional import for them that it does for you.

The best course would be to just smile and say nothing. Or make a joke about the difference between parents and grandparents (I wish I had a few up my sleeve to share with you). Your kids will learn more from your kind and thoughtful treatment of your mother-in-law than from her words of rebuke.

Let me know how it goes…

-- Emuna

Dear Emuna,

One of our neighbors is – how shall I put this? – not of the highest class. Their kids use words that I’d rather not have my kids hear (and repeat) and the parents are generally not careful about which books, films and other media their children are exposed to. The challenge is that everyone plays outside together – especially during the summer. How can I control the situation?

Playing with Fire

Dear Playing with Fire,

This is a tough situation that you describe, although not that uncommon. My advice to you is…move! Okay, maybe that’s too drastic (although I do know someone who felt that his neighbors were too materialistic so he moved to a smaller home in a different neighborhood).

Since you didn’t reveal too many details, I don’t know how bad it really is. If it’s really damaging to your children, you need to dramatically limit their outdoor street time. As I once heard a teacher say, “If there were wild wolves running lose in the neighborhood, would you feel any compunction about telling your kids to stay inside? Would you let them go out when they complained about boredom?”

A third possibility is to encourage most of the play to take place in your environment – in your home or your backyard – where you can have more direct supervision and influence.

And finally, I think you need to talk to your children. As much as we try, it is very hard to completely control all the influences that affect them. (In fact it’s impossible – just try sending them to the grocery store where all the latest magazines are on view by the check-out). We need to make clear – frequently – the behaviors, language and activities that we find acceptable and why. We need to give our children tools to fight inappropriate influences. (Didn’t your parents ask “If everyone else jumped off a bridge, would you?”!) These are skills that will serve them well their whole lives – and it is never too early to start.

-- Emuna

June 26, 2010

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Visitor Comments: 19

(19) Anonymous, January 3, 2012 1:46 PM

Re: The neighbors children who use profane language. I like the idea of having the mother tell her children such language is not acceptable in their home. Also, it might go a long way for these children to be exposed to other activities beyond the street where they live. Perhaps these children might then make additional friends, thus helping them to mature.

(18) Anonymous, December 13, 2010 1:08 PM

grandparent comments

My mom is highly critical - her favorite saying is "Far be it from me to criticize, BUT..." or "Well, if you were smart, you would...." And she is here EVERY DAY! So, I have developed some catch phrases to counter the remarks. Try some of these to help ease any strain the comments leave you feeling - remember - she is probably NOT criticizing you, you just feel that way because you still see her as a mother figure. See her as a friend, and it may change your perception. Would you react the same way if a friend made the same remark? "Grandma is right, I am strict, and she was strict with me when I was growing up. We are strict because we love you and want you to grow up to be a good person just like us." "When you are at Grandmas house, you can follow her rules. Here we do things like this and you know that." "That is a really good point/idea mom, but in our house we do things this way...." When things are really heated... "Mom, normally I appreciate your input. Please understand that now is not a good time." And of course my personal favorite to end the day - "Mom, the kids are really acting inappropriately right now, it may be best for you to head home so you wont have to deal with them acting out or listen to the screaming/crying/etc." Good Luck & Gd Bless.

(17) Aliza, July 11, 2010 5:45 AM

RE: Dear Anonymous, How do you do it

I have 3 daughters (3mo, 8yrs, 9yrs). In order for me to juggle everything a mother must do I invented an incentive for them to help me out. I have reward tickets that they get when they do what I ask or super tickets when they do something without my asking. The tickets have prizes written on them, like, watch 1 movie or 30 min of computer time (obviously safe sites or movies I let them watch). Super tickets include getting icecream or going some where special. They started saving these tickets, and movies/ computer became a real treat to them. Once it became something like currency in our home, I rarely have to ask them to help with the baby or cleaning up. Each of them gets a timer when they use the tickets in order to keep order to this. Any mom can do it and give their own twist. My kids helped me to write the tickets, they choose what they would like the rewards to be. Hope this helps out.

(16) David Braunstein, July 3, 2010 4:02 PM

Always late can mean something else.

I am usually late for work which causes me lots of stress. I try to get there on time, but because I am the caregiver to my disabled wife, most times I get distracted just before leaving for work. The actual job I do does not effect others as there is no meeting or group endeavor. But the reason for supervisor enforcement of tardiness is "I got to work on time therefore so should you!" If I were the supervisor I would want to know my employees so that if someone had a valid reason for being late that accommodation could be made. Unfortunately most people don't take the time to care about others enough to investigate. If the reason for tardiness is lack of concern or disrespect for others, then I would start without them or in a job cause them to know they are hurting others. Being late is usually a symptom. Lets not jump to the conclusion that it means the person is arrogant or disrespectful.

(15) Anonymous, July 1, 2010 11:56 AM

To Israel's friend Canada- Happy Birthday

It is July first and it is Canada's birthday- Happy Birthday Canada!

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