The day has come

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A long-awaited day has finally come. As a woman who has spent the past 5 years driving her offspring to two and then three different schools during rush-hour traffic, I’m thrilled to report that the kids – all three of them – are now at one school.

I’m drunk on the freedom. High on convenience. Celebrating the simplicity.

Depositing and collecting all three kids in one place each school day might not sound like a big deal, but if you’ve ever spent more than five minutes in any school drop-off or pick-up line, you know this is huge.

stopwatch-2624277_640 (2)The problem with school drop-off is two-pronged. First, there’s a time constraint. Most schools don’t unlock their doors until about 30 minutes before class begins, so unless you’re willing to leave your elementary-age kid alone outside at a mostly empty school building, you can’t solve the time crunch of a multi-school drop-off by starting extra early. That means you have roughly 30 minutes to get to three different schools in three different (yet equally busy) parts of town.

To make sure each kid arrives on time, you must execute your drop-off plan perfectly. Leave at the right time. Drive the most efficient route. Hope you don’t hit all the red lights. And perhaps most important, pray the other parents in the car drop-off line don’t botch the plan.

Depending on other parents to follow the rules of school drop-off is where the wheels come off the proverbial minivan. I still don’t understand it because the instructions are simple: “Pull forward as far as possible. Have your kid exit quickly. Drive away.” See? Simple.

But here’s what inevitably happens. At least one parent will defy the first rule by refusing to pull forward, stopping instead directly in front of the school door – a problem that gets worse if it’s sprinkling rain or the temperature falls below 50 degrees. I’m assuming these parents don’t want their kid to walk any extra steps. Are they afraid the kid will be abducted by a librarian gone roque? Do they fear a raindrop will cause their 2nd grade sugar cube to melt? I don’t know. All I know is that defying the “Pull all the way forward” rule slows down drop-off for the rest of us.

The second rule of car line – “Have your kid exit quickly” – is also tricky for some parents. When the car stops, some kids just sit there. I know this because I’ve so often been the person in line right behind this kid. Is the kid eating the rest of his Pop-Tart? Tying her shoes? Translating Portuguese? I don’t know. All I know is that it takes some kids roughly forever to get out of the blasted car, and their parents are complicit. In our car, my kids know that – in the amount of time it takes me to say “Love you! Have a great day!” – they better have themselves and their stuff out of my car because I’m high-tailing it out of there.

I won’t even tell you about the parents who, in an elaborate show of love and devotion, get out of the car, walk around to the passenger side, and then give their kid a leisurely hug and kiss before sending them toward the entrance. While I’m completely in favor of hugs and kisses, there’s a place for that to happen, (the parking lot) – not the drop-off lane, which is for those of us with places to go and a limited time to get there.

All the flagrant drop-off lane violations are enough to make a parent “feel stabby,” as one of my fellow moms once put it. There were many times I entered the school’s car line as a mild-mannered mother and came out 15 minutes later as a raging green hulk ready to rip an SUV in half with my bare hands.

But my hulk days are over because now that the kids are in 11th, 9th, and 7th grades, they’re at the same school. It’s a glorious education consolidation, and I’m smiling all the way back home.

Gwen Rockwood is a mom to three great kids, wife to one cool guy, a newspaper columnist and co-owner of nwaMotherlode.com.

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