Best way to roast the broomstick. Must try. Five Stars.

The whistles go whoo whoo!

Recently Leta has been asking to leave a little earlier for school in the morning, and the second time it happened I resisted every urge to interrogate her:

“Is it a boy?”
“Is it a girl?”
“It is drugs?”
“Are you part of a gang?”

You have to understand. This is a kid who from kindergarten through third grade would sit inside the car and wait for the bell to ring. Only then would she reach to open the door. She hated showing up early because that meant sitting in the car and the car was so boring and because I have such raging envy for anyone who has the time to be bored I’d sit there in the front seat and go, okay, fine, for the next ten minutes I’m going to talk about my butt.

Now she has the door open before I’ve even stopped the car. She’s up and out, smiling, swinging her backpack over her shoulder and saying goodbye to me and Marlo as fast as she can. Even if the bell doesn’t ring for another twenty minutes. It’s bittersweet, this development, because it means she’s more confident and is quite fundamentally enjoying her life. But I don’t get to talk about my butt anymore.


I am already an Obsessive Earlier, a term I just made up for those of us who think that showing up on time to something means we’re late. I can’t be alone. I can’t be the only one. Please tell me that there is someone else out there who shows up EVERYWHERE at least ten to fifteen minutes early just in case. Just in case of what? Oh, let’s see. Nuclear war. Famine. Rolling blackouts. Rising sea levels. Icebergs.

Also, I just really don’t want to be a late person. It’s pretty much the same thing as being a murderer. Yes, I’m capable of stringing together horrifying obscenities on the Internet and sometimes (often) in front of my children, and I’ll be the first to tell you that I never drive the speed limit. Those are character flaws I can live with. If you are a perpetually late person I’m sure that you have many other lovely qualities and are probably a far better parent and citizen than I am. But you and I CANNOT EVER take the same car to an event. And if you are somehow tasked with driving me to the airport, I’m sorry, but I’ll have to shoot you.

I already get Leta to school pretty early. Obsessively early. And here she was asking me to get her there even earlier. So I was finally like, dude, what is going on, and I asked it in the most non-threatening way I knew how just in case she really was involved in something she wanted to keep hidden from me. I know, she’s only nine, but you have to establish that trust early. So that when she does up and join the College Republicans you find out from her and not from her virgin boyfriend Clifton.

“Oh!” she said, suddenly very excited that I had asked. “The breakfast!”

“The breakfast?”

“Yeah. If you get there early enough they have this breakfast that you can eat. I LOVE the hash browns!”

“Wait,” I said, totally confused and not just about the fact that she was excited about food. “Are you paying for this breakfast?”

“No! It’s free!” she explained.

Oh ho ho ho ho. A free breakfast. At school. Yes, the entire Internet has been flipped on its head in the last few years, but that does not mean that I am in an income bracket where my child qualifies for a free meal, and oh holy shit, what is the angry letter from school going to say to me about this?

“Dear Mommyblogger Too Busy Navel-Gazing To Notice That Her Child Is Stealing Food…”

Hey, hardworking taxpayers! Thanks for getting my kid to eat! You’re awesome!

Except, I guess the breakfast really is free for every child regardless of household income. I should probably phrase that as a question because I haven’t received the angry letter or a bill from school yet. Yes, I know, I could just ask someone at her school, but I’m too busy being early to remember to stop my car and ask someone the damn question. I did google it, and although I didn’t find anything official I did find a blog post by a conservative Utahn who is suuuuper upset about the whole thing and says that THIS RIGHT HERE, this free breakfast, this FOOD is indoctrinating our kids and teaching kindergartners to take someone else’s money. I hope she does an angry search for UTAH SCHOOL FREE BREAKFAST and finds out that my nine-year-old hooligan is, every morning, raiding her purse.

  • seresy

    It makes total sense to me! I’m one of those people who always pads the travel time (There could be traffic! I’ll need to stop! etc!!) anyway, and also insists on leaving ridiculously early for anything. But then when I get there, I don’t want to seem like the early person, so I hang around and try to spend time discreetly hovering until like 5 minutes before I’m due there. Because 5 minutes early isn’t quite so obviously pathological in my bizarre headspace as 20.

    Don’t even get me started on how I deal with airports.

  • anne

    1. Yes, I am an Obsessive Earlier as well.

    2. Our school district (Berkeley, CA) also offers free breakfast to all kids! I just learned this yesterday. Now I understand why.

  • 7Valerie7

    It probably really is free. Studies show that kids who don’t have breakfast do poorly in school (in a nut shell) so school districts provide it free for all students to help make sure everyone starts the day off right. Imagine — doing something proactive to help ALL kids!

  • zillyzallie

    There are some parts of Texas that offer free meals to all students because it is actually cheaper than paying for staff to process the shton of free/reduced lunch applications.

  • seren

    I’m an Earlier too. My younger sister was (and still is) a Later. I had to wait for her before I could go to school, Guides, everything. It Drove Me Nuts!! My daughter has late tendencies, but as she’s 27 and lives in her own place, what I don’t see, I can’t tear my hair over. Funny thing though, she’s taken to being an Earlier to work in the mornings! Heh!

    Our govt. is planning to give all children free lunches by next year. Most primary schools have a breakfast programme, but I don’t know if it’s all free or not. My daughter never had breakfast at school as we lived virtually nextdoor. And I was too busy concentrating on getting her out the door at least on time.

  • BeckyCochrane

    I never had kids, but nothing makes me happier than to think my tax dollars might be going to benefit a child. I don’t give a crap how much money their parent(s) do or don’t make. I care that kids are nourished and know they’re valued not only by their families, but by their communities.

  • Katy Rank Lev

    My son gets free breakfast at school, too, only he is served chocolate goldfish crackers and Lucky Charms…

    But oh my! I’m an OVER EARLIER, too!! I laughed out loud at the comparison of a late person as a murderer. I married a late person. Isn’t that terrible??? I can barely stand him.

  • Sharon Shelton-Moore

    I was raised by a man that if we had to be somewhere by five in the afternoon, we were dressed in the car and ready to go by eight thirty in the morning. So I totally understand where you’re coming from. But I married a man who doesn’t want to leave the house until half an hour after we were suppose to be there. I truly believe it would be grounds for divorce.

  • Marcy

    Raised in an O.E. family, married (and divorced) a terminally late man. If I invite my family to dinner and tell them to come at 6, I know that they’ll all arrive by 5:45.

  • Kate

    My in-laws are always late. When we got married we told them an hour earlier than the real time hoping that they would make it. This worked until someone actually showed them the invitation. We had a surprise birthday party for her and tasked my FIL to make sure she got there. They showed up TWO HOURS late and some of the guests left before she got there. MAKES ME CRAZY!!!!

  • lamamatogng

    Oh, Heather. I can relate! At age 22, I received an invite to a bridal shower. It had the standard who, what, where info. It also stated: “5 p.m. dinner will be served.” Just like that. Was punctuation missing? A word? I couldn’t be sure. So, I showed up at 4:30 so as not to be rude. The hostess was in the shower. I felt like an idiot. But…I…was…not…late!

  • AwesomeMargie

    My name is Margie and I am an early riser. Throughout school, I never used an alarm clock. I always woke up at 6:15a. And I LOVED the breakfasts. We were lower income and always qualified for reduced meals until that one year when it was free. I thought we hit the jackpot or someone goofed. The following year, and every one after, we went back to reduced. BOO.

    My 13-month old son is an early riser. No matter what time he goes to bed, he will wake up at 6a. I wish he had inherited his dad’s tendency to wait til the last minute to get up and go to work.

  • Adriana

    1. did leta pick out her o

  • pagooey

    My dad was an Obsessive Earlier, and mom was (and remains) a Dithery Later. Probably there were myriad reasons they ended their marriage, but I suspect that was the one that counted.

  • adriana

    i just came from a meeting where 45 minutes previous to it i was perspiring at the thought of the conference room being unavailable to set up the projector three days in advance as is my norm. i feel you. and leta’s new specs? very very well done.

  • dessessopsid

    I believe that seven minutes is the ideal time for being early. Ten to fifteen makes me seem too eager, and if I am only five minutes early I am panicking about being late, so seven.

  • tmb

    no you’re not the only one.

  • Michellers

    I’m also ridiculously early for everything. Early is on time and on time is late.

  • tmb

    and that….is why I teach choir. *facepalm*

  • Heather Armstrong

    This gave me a very good chuckle.

  • Heather Armstrong


  • lizmk

    I was getting ready to leave the same comment! I’m still moderately scarred by the horrendous eye-wear choices my parents made for me in elementary school.

  • lizmk

    Hi, my name is Liz, and I’m a Late-aholic. I can proudly say I’ve never missed a flight because of my own tardiness, but I still feel like I should turn myself into the police for my crimes.

  • Gail Wix

    If you are really feeling guilty about the free breakfast, you could do something for Leta’s class or teacher…new pencils for all, treats of some sort. And yes, I love, Love, LOVE Leta’s glasses. I don’t even want to think about the ugly ones I had to wear when I was her age.

  • Laur21

    It’s the same with these kids. They’re wearing what’s in style. When I see pictures of my peers as kids, anyone wearing glasses has the same large, rounded plastic frames. I mean, while in style, they were a horrendous choice for cute, little-nosed faces. I bet that Leta and my 10 year old will both look back on those rectangular plastic frames and wonder what we were thinking.

  • Inquiring minds want to know! Now I’m just curious. Such mystery!

  • I am an obsessive earlier as well…though somehow, I’ve recently realized that I’m becoming an always 15 minutes later. It freaks me out. I don’t know when it happened. I’m horrified. I can’t stop. I need an intervention.

  • George Hill


    His is Good

  • KenndyfromCanada

    Finally someone else with the early affliction! Unfortunate side effect is how the affliction gets passed on to the next generation. Exhibit A: 14 year old daughter texts me last night on her way to basketball that she has a ride however the parent is a slow driver and has to stop at the dealership on the way. I quote “He’s taking forever OMG UGH ” She arrived at a comfortably 30 mins before the game but told me I needed to leave early from work from now on cause there was no way she was going to be late again………huh? I feel your pain.

  • Nan

    Hi Heather- Yes I am obsessively early; I say I’m a little OCD. Glad I’m in good company. I love your blog and it is never ever boring for me. This is the first time I have commented but I read your entry about revealing your personal stuff, and I think you are right to hold some back. Everybody has their stuff. I never stop checking in with you, Dooce is my home page every time I launch Firefox. Let the force be with you…

  • Ali

    First, maybe you were meant to be in the Army where the mantra is “If you’re on time, you’re late”. And I would not be successful in the Army so I guess you won’t be calling me to take you to the airport. Which is fine because I rather enjoy the stress of barely making the doors closing (kidding. maybe. really, it only happened once.)
    Second, yes please to breakfast at school…free, not free, whatever….but for entirely selfish reason that I wouldn’t have to figure out how to feed him every morning in the mad rush to actually be at work on time instead of practicing my ninja skills daily while slipping into morning meeting late.

  • Christina McKitrick Martin

    I am a compulsive early arriver. So much that my middle schooler, a girl who battles with other girls (tweens are horrible), has asked me to get there only 10 minutes before the bell from now on. I am coping as well as I can in this obvious difficult situation (ONLY 10 MINUTES BEFORE OMG).

  • Joni

    My 25 year old son has a saying….”if you are on time, you are late”. Yep, that is how I know I have succeeded being a parent.

  • Melissa

    Obsessive Earlier! Finally…you put a name to what I have!! THANK YOU. And yes…if I am not 10 – 15 minutes early…I start to panic.

  • Sandy

    My son’s high school started the free breakfast this year as well…we are in NC. I was also skeptical at first and told him that I didn’t think it applied to him. His response was, “I won’t eat their lunches, what makes you think I will eat their breakfast?” Around week 2 of school they mass called everyone to let them know.

  • Michael Mathews

    I do get this. I go to the airport on the train and wait in the lounge for an hour and a half, while my better half comes racing through security as they are making final boarding call.

  • Michael Mathews

    I love being early to the airport. I just bring things to read or do.

  • Meg

    I would have LOVED breakfast at school. I hated eating it at home because the bus rides were inevitably, uhh, nauseating, so I often didn’t eat until lunch. And it makes so much sense that school districts save money by just serving everyone rather than dealing with all of the applications, paperwork, verifications, updates, etc (although I know that ‘percentage of students eligible for free or reduced meals’ is how schools/towns are ranked on poverty scales so . . . how do they do it otherwise?).

  • google The Venus Project

    Me and most of my friends are ‘Latesters’. And proud!
    Our rationale is ‘what kind of person shows up early to things all the time? Military types and those without a life most likely.’

  • Desiree Johnson

    My daughter’s school is in a program that offers free breakfast. They actually eat it in the classroom together at the beginning of the school day. A lot of school districts are trying it out because it’s proven that children learn better if they are not hungry. My daughter does not get free/reduced lunch. She is one of those kids that can’t eat early in the morning… It takes her stomach longer to wake up so it’s worked out great for us!

  • misszoot

    We are a “perpetually early always the first people there” kind of family too. And it’s SUCH a part of our lifestyle that – last week when I told the kids to “hurry up, we’re running late” – my daughter said, “Um…do you mean YOUR kind of late, or REALLY late?” She already understands that MY late is still early, so no need for her to panic about being late to school. But if I had said, “REALLY LATE” she would have panicked because that has never happened EVER.

  • Lee

    I am just amazed that her school is open early. for free!!- Lucky! I have to pay for the early morning hour- and she gets cheerios.. not hashbrowns. that’s Massachusetts for you.

  • Beauty Marks

    First one to every party? Yep, that’s me. Even when I try to be late, I can’t; congested traffic will part like the Red Sea to enable me to fly down the freeway to reach a party EXACTLY AT THE TIME ON THE INVITATION. It’s so nice to know that others suffer from this disorder.

  • Rossana

    This was the funniest thing I have read in a long time. You absolutely cracked me up!


    –>One of my college roommates was habitually late and we had an early morning class that we had to walk to that took about 10 minutes. I always wanted to arrive at least five minutes early to get the seat I wanted. To get her going on time, every other day, I set her bedroom clock ahead by one minute until it was 10 minutes fast. She never realized why she was all of a sudden “on time” for things. (This was before cell phones.) I finally told her at her wedding and her husband hugged me and said he would have to try it too.

  • ABR

    Hi Heather,
    Public schools have an inclusive breakfast program. Everyone is eligible for the free breakfast. And, if Marlo is in universal pre-k, there is also free lunch!!! 🙂

  • Elizabeth

    I am an obsessive earlier, too! I am early everywhere. And whenever I think we’re going to be late I freak out and go into drill sergeant mode and everyone hates me and I’m all “WE’RE LATE! WE’RE SO LATE!” and then we get there right on time. Whoops.

  • Cyndilou

    LOL – I totally understand the need to be early everywhere. I am an obsessively early person as well.

  • I have a friend who consistently shows up an hour, A FULL HOUR, early for everything. Adds a stress level to me getting out the door.

  • Michelle

    I do exactly this same thing… it’s super awkward when it’s a new friend’s party…but hey, I can HELP!! LOL

Heather B. Armstrong

Hi. I’m Heather B. Armstrong, and this used to be called mommy blogging. But then they started calling it Influencer Marketing: hashtag ad, hashtag sponsored, hashtag you know you want me to slap your product on my kid and exploit her for millions and millions of dollars. That’s how this shit works. Now? Well… sit back, buckle up, and enjoy the ride.

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