Teenagers and punctuality don't mix. This is partly because they can't bear to waste time waiting for things to start.
'Early as usual,' said my son with withering scorn as we all stood on the platform waiting for a train.
I looked at him in astonishment.
'But the train's due in five minutes,' I said.
'Exactly,' he said.
School mornings are a nightmare. I stand there shouting out the disappearing seconds like some kind of demented stopwatch. No one takes any notice (except for the kitten, who, responding to the panic in my voice, skids down the hall and collides with the shoe rack). Everything is left to the last minute - lost books, broken shoe laces, mislaid mobiles. It's a good time to ask me for money. You need £5 on your lunch card? Here, take £20. Now go. Just go.
'You're going to be late!' I wail.
'It's all fine,' says my 17-year-old, pulling on his socks with all the speed of a geriatric earthworm.
I do, of course, know people of all ages who are never on time. One of my oldest friends always rings about half an hour before we're due to meet to apologise for running late. But it doesn't affect me in the same way. I feel responsible for getting my teenagers organised. Punctuality is a form of politeness. (You can't keep people waiting. It implies your time is more valuable than theirs.) But it also shows you're dependable and reliable - exactly the kind of qualities that might impress future employers.
Every so often I wonder whether my oldest son, who's just started at university, is on time for lectures. But I push the thought from my mind. That way madness lies.