Dissection of the After-school pickup

We’ve been having bus problems. Funny thing is, I don’t remember having problems like this the 6 years I took the school bus in elementary school. But my son’s bus driver has been getting terrorized by a first-grader. Not just rude talk, but actual swear words, spitting, punching other kids on the bus while the poor guy is trying to drive 35 kids home safely.

So, after I wrote the school principal an email explaining the situation, despite immediate action (assigned seating, a bus monitor, etc), I decided that I’d still drive him to and pick him up from school whenever work and time allowed. And after days and days of picking him up after school, I observed that there are several “layers” of people picking their kid up: some live in the neighborhood and get to stroll down from their house, at times towing a younger sibling and a dog; then there are the people who drive but prefer to park and get out to wait at the front door, whether to enjoy some fresh air, or to socialize with other parents/nannies/ grandparents/extended family or friends who are there for the same reason. It’s a festive atmosphere, if you actually like talking to people in that setting. I do observe a few wallflowers who hang back and stand awkwardly, notably unfamiliar with any of the other adults at the front door.

Then there are people who don’t want to leave their cars, choosing to queue up along the curb – where theoretically you aren’t allowed to leave your car, so you’re stuck (or allowed to stay, depending on your preference) in the car. These drivers are usually glued to their phones.

Finally, there are those who drive but park outside of the school parking lot, along a side road in the neighborhood, then get out to walk the few dozen feet to the front door, to wait alongside the adults standing at the front door. They prefer to avoid the traffic and mayhem within the school parking lot, or maybe they want to get the little bit of exercise. I’ve since joined their ranks.

The reason I worked my way out (having lived all the layers over the past few years) is that I noticed that the kids love this little bit of decompression time. Rather than nonstop bickering as soon as we’re all in the car, there’s chatter and laughter and skipping and hopping, all the way to the car. I’d say a 5-minute walk is perfect. And that’s enough to set the tone for the rest of the evening.

So take it from a seasoned after-school picker-upper: park about 2 blocks away from the front door, and let the kids walk a little before they get cooped up in the car. It’ll give the whole family some much-needed natural light, fresh air, and decompression time.

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