Tips to Survive After-School Student Pickups

The unwritten golden rule of the elementary school parent pick up line.

Allow me to vent, if you will. I know there are more important issues at hand, and in the grand scheme of things, this doesn’t matter. I also know I have no more control over it than I do the wind or the rain.

But it still chaps my hide.

Every day I leave my house at 3:30 p.m. to wait in the parent pick-up line at school until my children appear at 4 p.m. I take a book, I take my iPhone, I take a notebook and write. I come early, because if I wait much later, the line becomes very long and that means my kids will have to wait awhile before it’s my turn to get them. My oldest son has ADHD so the less time he has to get into trouble, the better.  If you knew the chaos he could cause in five minutes, you (and your children) would thank me.

There is an unwritten rule about the parent pick up line: First come, first serve. If you arrive 10 minutes before the kids are dismissed, you take your place at the end of the line. Or you can park and walk to the front doors to wait and walk them back to your car.

The other day was interesting since there was an assembly for the second graders. The parents of the second graders parked in the parent pickup line and were still there when the parents who drive their children home arrived. That meant countless unmanned cars scattered among those of us waiting (somewhat) patiently to shuttle our children home.

That’s when I saw her. Black Cadillac. Every weekday afternoon BC’s son barrels through other children and jumps into her car. BC then whips around those of us ready to depart and guns it to the front of the line so she can be the first to leave, cutting others off in the process. I guess no one has mentioned to BC that there is a pick up protocol. I thought common courtesy was a given, but maybe her parents didn’t teach her any better.  On assembly days, frustration runs high as parents look for places to park.

 Most people will not call you out on your bad behavior. What I wanted to do was peck on BC’s window and say, “You know, what you’re doing is inconsiderate and rude. Your children are no more important than anyone else’s and your time isn’t more important either. If you need to leave quickly, get here earlier. If you can’t get here earlier, park and go inside.”

But is it my place to inform her of her bad behavior?

What really worried me was how upset I got over the whole situation. Was I actually distressed over whether BC would get her kid and get out first? Is it really putting me out, or anyone else, for that matter?  Will this negatively impact my life in any way? The whole “find more patience with humanity in general” goal from my New Year’s resolution list obviously isn’t going as well as I would like. When did I become so petty?

I’m looking forward to summer when parent pick up lines are one less thing to worry about and maybe find a cause that’s worth my time and energy.

Stacey K. May 18, 2011 at 03:06 AM
I have a kindergartener this year. Amoungst other great elementary school advice, my very good friend and neighbor who has had 2 children already through elementary school advised me to never wait in the parent pickup line and to always just go inside or up to the door...it's much faster. Luckily my daughter is a bus rider, but I did have to pick her up last week on early release day. I couldn't believe the number of cars lined up to pick up their children. I got there about 3:50pm and my daughter and I were on way shortly after 4:00pm. Advice well taken!
Holly Hunt May 18, 2011 at 04:03 PM
I agree Stacey! It may take a little more effort to park and walk up to the school, but it's definitely quicker- and you miss all the mama drama!
Patti Baratta May 18, 2011 at 04:14 PM
The ladies who coordinate the after school pickup at our former elementary often joke about the fact that they will get run over at some point by an impatient parent... Kind of sad when you think about the kids who may be in the way, too.
Holly Hunt May 18, 2011 at 07:24 PM
Patti- I always feel for those poor, brave teachers who are out there directing kids and traffic. They really do an exceptional job. It's scary to think what could happen if a child darted out unexpectedly- not worth saving 5 minutes, that's for sure.
Patti Baratta May 18, 2011 at 11:46 PM
In my past, pre-writing mommy life, I was a substitute teacher in the Ft. Zumwalt district. I have been out there during pick up. Some parents are just rude. It is sad. I don't think they stop and think.


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