Real talk about school drop-off/pick-up

You may be among the blessed whose school districts use a big yellow bus system whereby you are spared the pleasures of pick-up/drop-off. Or maybe you homeschool and lead us all to wonder why we are not doing the same.

The school system where our children are enrolled does not have a busing system. The schools are located in rural-burbia where children do not typically walk or bike but rather climb into oversized sport utility vehicles with 2-3 cute dogs wagging their tongues out the window and are transported everywhere. I seriously wonder sometimes if this is what my forbearers dreamed about when coming to America. Lo, let us mount a sea voyage to the new world, they said, a twinkle in their eye, where we will enjoy a famine-less potato crop and our children will never need to exercise because we will drive them everywhere! 

But that is neither here nor there.

My point is that there is a long long queue of minivans and big SUVs parked outside our kids’ school every morning and every afternoon and it is a scary scene if you don’t know what to expect. Here’s the reveal:


The first rule of drop-off/pick-up is to you never mess with the flow of traffic. Trust, you do want to be that person who is trying to do creative maneuvers into the school driveway. You remember that part from “Mr. Mom.” Enter from the South, exit to the North.  You want to be in the correct lane and not have to depart from it or you will suffer sinister glares from fellow parents and you will sleep with one eye open lest they send gremlins up your shower drain at night for trying to pull a three-lane sweep just to get to the clutch parking spot. Also, don’t be that guy who is sitting in the pick-up lane totally unawares of others trying to advance because he is sweeping like woah in Candy Crush. Fear the gremlins, bro.

The second thing you need to know about drop-off/pick-up is that you need to keep your eyes on the prize. If you have to go into the school building (true fear) as we do because of legal stipulations for signing kids in/out, you are going to have to watch out for the landmines. You are basically going to have to storm the beaches of Normandy to retrieve your kid. Everywhere, there will be social explosions. The mom whose name you can never remember. The dad who always wants to have a Big Long Conversation about the new math. The school  librarian who got a super cute new haircut and you just need to let her know. You have got to avoid all this, fair voyager, or else you will never make it to the end of this Super Mario level and rescue the princess. I mean, haha, pick-up/drop-off is not a video game! That would be insanity if I thought of it as a game. I meant, you need to put on the tunnel vision blinders so you can get to your child(ren) and take him/her/them home or chauffeur them to any number of organized activities and suffer more helicopter parenting. I mean, enjoy watching your kid kick the ball into the goal.

I'm not saying it is D-Day, but it will feel almost like it.

I’m not saying it is D-Day, but it will feel almost like it.


Then there is the matter of all the tiny student people who are slugging backpacks that are so large they have a Pizza Hut inside of them. Do not trip on them in the hallway. Try to dodge them at all costs. They will flatten you.

Let us also discuss the dress code of drop-off/pick-up. We live in the South where wearing sweatpants in public is the equivalent of announcing, I  have just gotten out of jail and this is all I was given to wear. Regardless of your incarceration status, if you are a female in the South, you must look fresh, have your “hair fixed” and have a handbag that matches your ensemble if you are venturing out. I am a daughter of the MidWest, so this all is against my constitution. Ergo, I am not always befitting of Haute Drop-off. If I am not teaching on a particular day, I am reliably going hard with my yoga attire, as if I have just gone to yoga or am headed there now. En route to bringing my children home, I will wave at the yoga studio like we are old friends, when the daughter of the MidWest in me knows the truth. And so, probably, do you.

um no
I know there will come a day all too soon that this pick-up/drop-off madness will cease and I will hear the door slam to my child running out to hop into a friend’s car and I will wonder if my child will die in a car accident or be prosecuted for wearing sweatpants in public. A part of me will long for the days when I was the chief executive of transportation operations. After that panicky prayer is uttered, I will probably go find my kid’s lunch on the counter and turn around and bring it to her in school where I will wait in the endless queue of parents dropping off their kid at school.

Professor Bio, with credits to @carr2n

Inspired by David Carr’s bio that my colleague Stephen Ruf shared with me from Poynter, I’m including a version of the following in my syllabi this semester.

Excerpt of David Carr‘s bio, per his syllabus at Boston University
Your professor is a terrible singer and a decent dancer. He is a movie crier but stone-faced in real life. He never laughs even when he is actually amused. He hates suck-ups, people who treat waitresses and cab drivers poorly, and anybody who think diversity is just an academic conceit. He is a big sucker for the hard worker and is rarely dazzled by brilliance. He has little patience for people who pretend to ask questions when all they really want to do is make a speech.

My adaptation, with credits to Carr:
Your professor is a terrible housekeeper and a spirited shower singer. She is not sentimental; this is not to say she is not a crier. She is dazzled by good grammar and she struggles to overlook spelling errors everywhere. She is pro separation of church and state. She has little patience for people who give their cellphones precedence over live human beings. She is a sucker for nuns, dark chocolate, Motown music. She offers a high-five to single parents, people who work with populations with autism, and people who work in the service and hospitality industries. She skeeves pickle relish. She can recite the Lord’s Prayer in olde English.

28 years apart.

Tomorrow my oldest starts first grade.

I started first grade 28 years ago. Most days, I walked from my babysitter’s to my public school. There were 3 clustered classrooms in one large classroom and I spent a good portion of the day looking over at the hand washing station in front of the restrooms. It was shaped like a carousel and had automatic sensors that squirted out. I marveled at it and budgeted how many times I could visit it in the span of a school day. Our phones were still connected to cords, then, people. Also, ADD wasn’t yet a thing.

I didn’t know how to read when I started first grade. I have no memory of my writing abilities. In the afternoons, I watched She-Ra and played on my swingset. In late October of my first grade year, my family moved suburbs and I started at a Catholic school. I was among very few students who couldn’t read. I wore a uniform. The lunch attendant asked me my first day if I needed to use the lavatory. I had no idea what that was, so I said, No, and went back to my seat and wondered whether there was a wash room in the school.



My oldest will put on a school uniform for the first time tomorrow and get in our car and be dropped off right in front of her school. We will likely walk her to her classroom for as many days as she allows us. She knows almost all of her classmates as she has gone to the same school and church with most of them for the past three years. Her teacher is the same as she has had for the past three years, as well.

She can read and do simple multiplication. In the afternoons, she comes home and plays games on a laptop computer and will do compulsory reading and arithmetic lessons.

Shortly after dinner, she will ask to go outside and play on her swingset and she will get a far-off gaze in her eye and ask how many days until summer vacation again.


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