I’ve been doing the school car line gig in the afternoons for ten years now so I’m going to put myself into the pro category. Over the years I have seen and heard it all in the car line. Some good things, some bad things and some entertaining things.
First off, the school car line is a science, don’t doubt me on that! It’s all about timing and how much you are willing to commit to it. Let’s say school gets out at 3:45, there are some parents there at 3:00 to be first in line. Some say this is dumb that they are waiting there 45 minutes for nothing. It’s not for nothing though. It’s so you can get your kid and LEAVE! You might have somewhere to be at 4:00. If you show up at 3:45 and just drive up to the back of the line you will be there for 15 minutes anyway waiting for the long line to slowly move along. Kids take their time getting in cars.
I fall somewhere in between the two theories and it depends on the day. There is a valuable 30 minutes of time between my commute home from work and the time I need to be in the school car line. I sometimes use that to run to the grocery store, sometimes I run home and power clean my house. Sometimes I go home just to be in my house for 30 minutes by MYSELF and listen to nothing.
Here are some things I’ve seen over the years in various car lines. I’ve done them at four different schools. Some are more efficient than others. Thankfully, I’m done with elementary lines! I have graduated to middle school and high school.
- Personal Hygiene: The elementary school car line seemed to be where the most moms plucked their eyebrows and dare I say chin hairs. WHY? Is it the natural lighting in the car that is better than your bathroom lighting? I wouldn’t bring this up if it weren’t very common. So common that I thought I was missing out on something so I tried plucking my eyebrows in the line also. I didn’t find the experience spectacular enough to keep doing it. Maybe it’s the only time the mothers of young kids can find to do this kind of thing.
- Napping: This one is most common amongst the dads! Maybe the moms are doing it also but they are at least savvy enough to set an alarm clock! The dads just pass out in the line and then it becomes awkward to be the car behind them. You want to honk to get them the hell out of the way but then you feel bad so everyone maneuvers to get around them and then gawk at them with their mouth hanging open drooling on the seat of the car.
- Car Problems: I hate this one, I always feel so bad for the person. I can’t imagine how that throws off your afternoon and then on top of that having the pressure of everyone getting annoyed with you as you mess up the line. Thankfully in every car problem situation there has always been a kind person in the line to get out and try to help the person. So that is good. The car line bond between parents is strong.
- The Strategist: This person drives me crazy. It is usually a parent that doesn’t usually pick their kid up everyday so they look at the line and think it’s ridiculous and they try to outsmart it and break the rules. There are school rules and just unwritten common curtesy rules. Some do it unknowingly, I’m sure and I don’t mind them. For example, they park in the parking lot and expect their kid to walk over not knowing that they aren’t allowed. The parent I’m talking about though is the one that literally drives the opposite direction of the traffic lane and to do so has to jump a curb. Come on. Trust me, if there was a way to outsmart the system, I would have thought of it by now. I’ve spent many afternoons talking to myself about the numerous ways it could be more efficient.
- The Loud Radio Parent: Oh boy. This one gets me. Strikes a nerve big time. Ok, we are in a SCHOOL line, very close to the building actually and some parents think it’s ok to play the radio with serious bass shaking the car with their windows down no less. Now. How does this even remotely seem ok? Your kid is in that building trying to learn and concentrate and they can hear that. So can the rest of the parents. We don’t want to, by the way. We don’t. There was a another guy who played his jazz music so loud with his windows down. If I was pulling in and saw him I would stay back some and let other cars in to give me a buffer.
- The Organizer: This is our most efficient car line parent. The parent that gets out and organizes their work truck or car trunk and gets in the back seat of their car with their files and computer to have more space. Kudos to you guys. Make it happen.
For the new parents out there that will soon be entering the world of car pick up lines let me give you a run down of the things I do to stay entertained and use my time wisely.
1. The obvious is to waste time on the internet but even this can get old quickly so you will need a backup plan!
2. I have made so many blankets in the car line and worked on so many sewing projects in the car. Think about it, it’s uninterrupted time to yourself! Capture it and get some of your stuff done! Get your hobbies out and have some fun!
3. Stare out the window and just be still and listen to the birds outside and enjoy some peace and quiet before the kids get in the car and your afternoon gets started. Note this can only be done if the loud radio person is not nearby.
4. Watch some of your shows. I get caught up on the shows that the kids don’t watch in the car line. If you play your cards right you can finish an entire episode in one day! Again, if loud radio person is nearby your plan is screwed. You see why they irritate me, right? Also, last year I picked my daughter up first and we had about 30 minutes in the car before my son was out of school so we watched many seasons of Amazing Race together and it was a ton of fun. It was something to look forward to everyday.
5. If you pick one kid up and then have to wait at another school for the next kid, it is a great time to get kid #1 started on their homework. They are contained and bored anyways, they might as well knock out their reading or homework assignments so they can be done by the time you get home!
6. Eat. Come on you didn’t think my list of suggestions would be complete without food did you? This is the time you can eat uninterrupted or just eat the crap food you want to eat without sharing.
7. Reading a good book. Again, quiet space where you don’t feel like you have to be doing something else.
8. Talking with other parents. I actually wish this would happen more often but I think a lot of parents don’t want to make the first “move” to talk to others. Over the years I have had some friends in the car line and they come to my car or I’ll go to theirs and it’s fun to chit chat for a bit.
9. This has never happened in my car lines but I’m throwing this idea out to the world and hoping it will stick. We need a walking club. Let’s get out of the car and walk around the parking lot and get moving and talking. I want this to happen but I don’t want to be the only parent doing it and embarrass my kid but this needs to happen for real.
10. I recently read an article about a lady that has her coffee food truck at the school car line in the morning so parents can drop off then park and get their breakfast. Smart lady…however I would suggest an afternoon food truck please. Think about it, if my errands run late and I don’t have a snack for the hungry kids I would be willing to walk over to the food truck and grab something. Also, I might like a snack as well. Some nights are crazy…we all have them…late to practice or a meeting. It would be nice to have a quick dinner option at the food truck. A nice sandwich would work. So there is the idea, if someone could make that happen I would be most appreciative.
11. Some people think kids should ride the bus and I get that. We have always done car riders for various reasons. As much as I might swear at the car line moving slowly on a hot day I honestly wouldn’t trade it for the world. It gives me time to myself each day which I’m certain that if I weren’t trapped in a car I would still be running around trying to solve the world’s problems. Also, I truly TALK to my kids everyday on the drive home. Mostly because they are held captive in the car against their will but still they do TALK! We have a good time. I bring them a snack daily and we goof off. I say the same stupid corny lines to them when they get in the car and they “hate” it. I show them funny internet videos that I found during the day. We talk about big issues, little issues and upcoming events.
My son only has a few months left before he gets his drivers license so I won’t have that car line. I’m so excited along with him that we will both get home about 30 minutes earlier each day. We all know that 30 minutes on a busy school night is equivalent to 90 minutes any other time! There is something about a school night that makes time go by so darn fast. On the other hand though…I’m going to miss the heck out of picking him up everyday and saying my dumb one liners. He will miss them too. I’m certain of it. (not certain at all…but let me have this one) I’m currently trying to think of ways to make the last car line pickup a fun one to remember. I’m thinking a serious amount of balloons tied to the exterior of the car? Something involving a loud speaker and megaphone? Maybe I’ll just turn up the bass and be that loud radio parent for just one day! I’m open for suggestions.