It was starting to get dark, and I looked at my watch. It was almost 7:30 p.m. My son had been waiting on the porch for well over an hour. Every time he heard a car coming up the road, he stood up and started jumping up and down. “She’s here! She’s here!” Then the car drove past. His body went limp with disappointment, and he came into the house dragging his feet.
I gave him a sympathetic look. “I know you’re excited honey. She’ll be here soon, don’t you worry.” I sent him back outside to wait for his cousin. This happened about 29 times between 6 p.m. and 7:30 p.m.
My son, Oakley, is 6. His first cousin, Trinity, is his best friend, and she was sleeping over that night. He’d been talking about it all week. We had picked out a movie. He had toys to show her. A new move on the trampoline to display. Homemade popcorn was on the menu. This was going to be great.
The truth is, it was getting kind of late, and I was wondering where exactly my sister-in-law was. I was expecting her to drop off my niece around 5:30. Dinner was now cold. And I could see my son sitting on the front porch losing hope. The mosquitoes were starting to come out, and he was swatting them away. So I sent a text.
“What’s your ETA? Oakley is driving me crazy.”
“Trinity is freaking out. Separation anxiety. She’s going to stay home.”
My heart sank. I looked through that front porch window and wondered what the heck I was going to tell him. And then I’ll admit it. I got a little annoyed. He had been waiting for almost two hours and was going to be devastated. Plus, I had turned down an invitation to go to a magazine launch party because I thought my niece was sleeping over. Now, I was staring down an evening with a bored, disappointed 6-year-old.
I can imagine the scene at my sister-in-law’s house. They had probably been trying to cajole her to come. It happens with kids; they freak out. They change their minds. No big deal.
But the adults had not picked up the phone to give us a heads-up that plans were changing. The impact on my son, or on me, had not even registered on their radar screen. And I’m admitting to you that it made me feel insignificant.
Each of your actions or, in this case, inactions, carries significance in someone else’s day.
You impact other people. It’s easy to forget to call or you run late or simply not show up at all. I’ve certainly been guilty at times. Right now, people are waiting on you. When you change your mind, reverse course or drag your feet on a decision, it impacts other people. Even for something as insignificant as a sleepover with your cousin. Procrastinating or bailing not only creates havoc for you, but for others, too. And your silence sends a loud message: This is not important.
I walked out to the porch and told my son that his cousin was feeling scared and was going to stay home. He turned to me with a look of horror. “What? Why didn’t she tell me? I’m getting eaten alive out here!” I laughed, we stood up and walked inside. And then he said, “Hey, since Trin isn’t going to sleep with me, can we have a sleepover? I’d rather sleep in your bed anyway.”
Mel Robbins is a syndicated radio host and executive producer of The Mel Robbins Show. She’s just published her first book, Stop Saying You're Fine: Discover a More Powerful You (Crown Publishing).