Carpool is life in the slowest lane


If you can read this, I have survived to write it and (blessedly) not been killed in a tragic multi-car pileup in the carpool lane. You think I exaggerate ONLY if you have never had to navigate the vagaries of grade school commuting without routinely causing a major minivan pile up.
Before. Drop-off really shouldn’t be that difficult – or wouldn’t be if the architect who designed our school didn’t harbor a deep hatred of commuting parents, cleverly combined with an obvious sadistic bent.
It is not the fault of our very dedicated and capable school staff that there are approximately 400 students enrolled in our elementary school and a drop-off lane that accommodates, at best, 10 cars.
I have lost count of how many years of my life have been wiled away in parking lot gridlock as we sit, bumper-to-bumper, with only the cushion of the “my child was an honor student” bumper stickers between us.
The parking lot architect’s culpability notwithstanding, it is clear the crux of the problem is operator error. I have seen the enemy, and it is us. The parents.
I have offered (repeatedly) to give free lessons to fellow parents on proper drop-off procedures. In an appalling lack of foresight, the administration has yet to take me up on this.
I see no reason not to share with my fellow parents that it is not necessary to put the vehicle in park and watch appreciatively as Precious strolls all the way from the curb to the school doors just a few feet away.
Yes, I know your wee one is the most darling child on the planet and you simply must take a moment (or three to five minutes) to admire the way they walk.
Nonetheless, the rest of us would like to get our children into the building sometime prior to graduation.
I prefer to start barking orders at the children as we round into the parking lot. “Unbuckle! Kiss Mommy!” and “Bail! Bail!” all figure prominently in my syllabus. I soften this with “I love you!” and “Tuck and roll, baby, tuck and roll!” I’m not heartless.
You shouldn’t even think of slowing down in front of the “No Parking, Standing, Stopping, Pausing, Contemplating, or Pondering and If You’ve Read this Far You’ve Violated Something” sign.
Rumor has it that past transgressors were required to stand in the corner at PTO meetings wearing a scarlet stop sign. I know, I started those rumors myself.
After. During my foray into the after-school gridlock, I park the mom-mobile and walk up to the school. The line for pick-up sometimes stretches to the parking lot like the overnight campers vying for opening night concert tickets outside Ticketmaster.
I begin to question the merit of just leaving the children there for the duration and taking them home on weekends. Nonetheless, this is sometimes my favorite time of day because good gossip is ripe for the picking.
It’s kind of like a town hall meeting without all that idle chit-chat about road resurfacing and whether or not we should repaint the fire truck.
Eventually I am full up on which parent embarrassed himself at which ball game and who may have had a little too much party punch up at the VFW on Saturday night and, sated, I shuffle my way to the head of the line to sign on the dotted line.
With my signature I indicate that yes, I still want the same two children I dropped off six hours earlier.
Properly documented, I then wait for them to feed my children through a single door, single file. This part is really rather fun – like a cattle chute, with Hello Kitty backpacks.
Children in tow, we then walk back across the parking lot, dodging the chest-high bumpers and clouds of exhaust of prior pickups that, judging by their velocity, have very important places to go and can’t slow down for anything so mundane as a speed bump – or a second-grader.
Clearly, grade school commuting is not for the faint of heart. If I survive to the end of the school year, I may, just once, let the rebel in myself finally come out.
On that last day, I might do the unthinkable and throw caution to the wind. I might, in fact, STOP in the drop-off lane for A FULL 30 SECONDS OR MORE (putting the vehicle in “park” even) to kiss my kids goodbye.
This is a carpool parent’s idea of living on the edge. It’s not much, but it keeps me off the streets. If only because I’m stuck in kindergarten traffic and couldn’t reach the street if I tried.


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Warm, witty and just a wee bit warped, Kymberly Foster Seabolt is a native of Kent, Ohio, who survived childhood exposure to disco and grew up to marry and move to the country. Her column weaves her special brand of humor with poignant, entertaining, and honest portrayals of parenting, marriage, and real life. She currently lives in northeastern Ohio with her husband, two children, two dogs, two cats, and numerous dust bunnies who wish to remain nameless.