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Wednesday, November 18, 2009

Advice: An Auntie Who is Always "Oh-So-Very-Late"


Dear Aunt Savvy,

I have an aunt who is chronically late, anywhere from one to two hours, for all family events, including her own son's wedding (which meant that everything ended up being delayed for over an hour). It just seems that this woman can't get her act together to get herself anywhere on time.

What can we do to educate her on the etiquette of arriving on time?

--Always on-time Molly
Dear Always on-time Molly,

Dealing with a chronically late relative or friend is one of those vexing issues that has no good answer, especially if the relative sees no problem with her behavior.

If your aunt realizes that she has a problem and wants to solve the problem, you can suggest that she see a therapist, for she may have some underlying anger issues which cause her to be late all the time.

Meanwhile, always-on-time Aunt Savvy suggests the following "tricks" for the Auntie who wants to change:
1. Reset all your clocks about 15 minutes ahead.

2. When recording set arrival times, jot down an earlier arrival time. For example, if the desired time is 5:00 p.m., instead, write down "4:00 p.m."

3. When getting ready for an event, start one hour earlier and leave enough time for traffic jams, late buses or taxis, car breakdowns.
However, if Auntie doesn't see a problem with her chronic lateness, she is not about to change, and you can't make her. It's just that simple.

So, for you, here is what Aunt Savvy suggests:
1. When sending out family invitations, create a special one for Auntie, one that notes the time as being one or two hours earlier. The worst that can happen is that she will arrive early, and, then, you can put her to work flipping burgers.

2. If Auntie hasn't arrived on time, give her 10-15 minutes and then start the festivities without her. For major events (weddings and funerals), start on time.

3. If you run out of food before her arrival, simply say, "Oh, Dear, I'm sorry, but since you weren't here on time, we allowed the kids third helpings because they were SO hungry. But there's a KFC across the street..."

4. If you still have food, don't make any effort to keep a warmed plate for her; if you do this, you're simply enabling and rewarding her undesirable behavior. Simply show her the food table, and say, "Help yourself, Dear. I sure hope you don't get food poisoning..."

5. "Forget" to invite her, and when she finds out through the family grapevine, say, "Oh! We thought you were no longer interested in family gatherings."

Of course, she will protest, and you will be appropriately contrite, but unless she's a total dunderhead, she'll get the message.

Okay, this is a bit snarky and should only be done if you are positive she won't cut you off forever.
If, despite your best efforts, all of the above suggestions fail, just accept your aunt the way she is and repeat the following out loud:

The Serenity Prayer

God grant me the serenity
to accept the things I cannot change;
courage to change the things I can;
and wisdom to know the difference.

Living one day at a time;
Enjoying one moment at a time;
Accepting hardships as the pathway to peace;
Taking, as He did, this sinful world
as it is, not as I would have it;
Trusting that He will make all things right
if I surrender to His Will;
That I may be reasonably happy in this life
and supremely happy with Him
Forever in the next.


--Reinhold Niebuhr

In other words, don't own her problem. Love her and continue inviting her to family gatherings, but simply accept the fact that she will always be late, no matter what you want.

But accepting her chronic lateness doesn't mean you should accommodate it; maybe, just maybe, she'll eventually get the hint.

--Aunt Savvy

Note: This is not a real question, but a what-if scenario based on a common relationship problem. Aunt Savvy will always disclose when a question is based on a scenario.

Aunt Savvy would be pleased to consider answering your real questions for this site.
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