What I’ve Learned as a School Pick Up Line Newbie

My son has been a bus rider since his first year of school, but this year we decided to try something different. He wanted to be a car rider, and since the timing worked out with little brother heading to preschool, I figured why not?

He’s one of the big kids at his elementary school now, so I’m also past the stage of walking him into school every day. We have a nice open house before school starts where we visit the classrooms, so I’m good booting him out of the car in the car rider line now.

On my first day in the car rider line to drop him off, I had flashbacks of Michael Keaton in Mr. Mom the first time he took the kids to school. Do you remember this classic scene?

Horns are blaring left and right, the kids are protesting in the backseat, and who can forget this encounter when he pulls in the wrong way:

“Hi Jack, I’m Annette. You’re doing it wrong.”

I laugh every time I see it. We are about a month into the school year and I’ve got the hang of it now. But it was a little awkward the first few days.

Here’s what I’ve learned so far as a school pickup line newbie:

1. The Minivan has to be in Park for the Sliding Door to Open

Well, this was embarrassing. I drive a minivan with power doors and on my particular vehicle, the van has to be in park or the sliding doors won’t open. The SRO (school cop) helps with morning drop-off and had to huff the door open manually before I figured out what the issue was.

Um, anxiety much? It’s okay, they see a lot of awkward with new families, so I did eventually recover from the embarrassment.

2. Don’t Road Rage, We’ll All Get There

Don’t angrily honk or make rude gestures at another parent from your vehicle. I didn’t do this, but I witnessed it ahead of me and it got REALLY awkward for the parents in their cars right next to each other in the slow moving traffic line.

For extra safety with the younger students at the elementary school, we are required to turn off car engines and stand beside our cars when we reach the front of the line and the kids are coming out. So yeah, that was awkward for them and it isn’t a good way to start the year. You’re also an example to little people, so best to just clench your teeth. We’ll all get there, I promise.

It’s just like at the airport. Everyone is anxious and wants to board the plane first, but you don’t have to be first. You’ll get there whether you’re first or last.

3. You Can Pull Up Farther Than That

I know we’re all afraid of bumping the car in front of us, but the closer we park to the car in front of us, the more kids they can get through the pickup line at dismissal. And we can therefore spend less time waiting in a huge line to get there.

This is the same way with morning drop off. Most parents stop when they get to the front door of the school, but you can pull up at least 3 more car lengths. There are teachers lining the sidewalk waiting to help kids get to where they are going. 3 car lengths is a lot. It does add up. But as I said before, we’ll all get there so don’t freak out.

4. Adults Take Turns Too

We have two full lines of cars from both directions waiting to get into our school parking lot, and we rarely have anyone directing traffic. But we are adults and we can do hard things. I caught on right away with parents letting each other in one at a time from both sides and also letting cars out after drop off and pick up from the same intersection.

A person leaving the school is let out, then a car from the northbound lane goes in, then a car from the southbound lane goes in, like a beautiful round in peaceful harmony. I was impressed. It’s obvious when someone is new at this, but grace is given.

5. Getting There Early Means Peace and Quiet… And Potential Sunburns

I pick up my little one from preschool and then head straight to the other school to wait in the pick up line before dismissal. I used to think it was crazy to wait for 20 minutes at the school, but my little one usually takes a nap and I take a book. It’s awesome.

But if I go too early, I’ll end up parked with the brutal sun shining straight through the car windows where my little one is sleeping and where my face and arms are. I’m short so my visor really doesn’t help much. Lesson learned.

6. Corral Pets

A dog jumped out of a mom’s car when she opened the door to get out of the car and it made for a little car rider line excitement, but they had to chase it down and couldn’t move the line until he was safely back in his car home. It was a cute doggie that didn’t hurt anything, but mom sure wasn’t planning on that one.

7. Small Talk is Okay, but Make it Quick

Small talk with other parents is fine, but keep it brief. Believe you me, parents do not like to wait a single nanosecond longer than absolutely necessary before hitting the road.

8. Timing is Important

The school drop off line made me hyper aware of the exact time the school bell rings. One day when I left later than usual, I was met with the “Oops, your child is tardy!” sandwich board welcome wagon. We missed the cutoff time for drop off by a few minutes, and I had to make the walk of shame into the school office to sign him in.

We’ve talked many times about how the most important thing is that kids get to school safe and sound, but since the beginning of time, kids don’t like to be late or picked up last. Especially if it’s because the car was running on fumes and you had to stop at a gas station.

Final Thoughts: The Car Rider Line

It is what it is until someone comes up with a more efficient way to get kids to school. The car rider line is not fast, but we have had some pretty sweet conversations while we wait. Not usually serious, but meaningful. So I’ll keep on waiting in line as long as I can.

Even if I’m doing it wrong.

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