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Fear and Loathing in the Elementary School Drop-Off Lane

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After mastering the sheer “newness” of kindergarten, and having gained a firm grasp on how this whole school thing works, Connor started first grade this year with a demand:  no more being walked in by mom in the morning.  He wanted to be dropped off, in the drop-off lane, like other kids.


For the most part, this has gone well.  We have steadily picked up the pace of unbuckling, grabbing backpack and jacket, extricating his feet from the sea of cereal bar wrappers/napkins/miscellaneous toys on the floor, getting out, saying goodbye, and closing the door.  He then gives me a wave and takes off running for the door.


But today, not so good.


All of the getting out part went fine, as usual.  But then there he is, on the sidewalk, waving at me.  Just waving.  Not turning to run toward the door, or slowly meandering to the door, or even slightly turning his body toward the door…just standing, and waving.  Of course, the drop-off lane is like going to the grocery store the night before Thanksgiving…crowded, and full of short-tempered people that just want you to get out of their way because they have things to do.  Important things.  BIG things.


So I’m pulling away from the sidewalk, with a line of cars behind me, and he’s just standing there.  Fuck.  I get to the driveway and look back, and still, he’s standing there.  I pull onto the street and look to my left, AND HE’S STILL STANDING THERE, WAVING.  So I frantically point and motion for him to GO INSIDE, GO INTO THE SCHOOL, FOR CHRISSAKE!!


So instead of turning right to go toward the freeway that takes me to my job, I turn left at the light so I can come back toward the school parking lot.  My heart is thumping in my chest, and I’m starting to sweat.  I must find my child, even though I don’t want  to go into his school.  There are children in there.  Other people’s children.  Ick.  And teachers, with those annoying, sing-song teacher voices.  But I must go in.


I went straight to the resource room, where Connor checks in and starts his day.  I poke my head in, but he’s not inside.  The SPED teacher and aid know immediately that something’s amiss.  I head down the hall to his regular class and poke my head in.  He’s not there either.  Just as I feel the prickly tendrils of panic start to creep up my legs, I turn and see him rounding the corner with the SPED aid.


She is already reading him the riot act, which is no easy feat, since the teacher manual apparently says that they must use that sing-song voice even when reprimanding a disobedient child.  “Look at your mom’s face, what is she feeling right now?  Look at how she’s breathing, what do you think that means?”


It means it’s a good thing we were standing in the school hallway, because if we weren’t, I’d be yelling “goddamn it to hell, you scared the shit out of me!!!”


Connor said he had stopped down one of the other hallways to ask a teacher to help him with his jacket zipper, which was stuck.  The other teacher verified this.  But it shows how his thought process works.  Instead of going to his class and asking his own teacher for help, he roamed down the other hallway and asked a different teacher.


As for standing out on the sidewalk, I told him that I don’t know he’s safe until I see him walk into the building.  I even mastered to summon a few tears, to drive the point home that I was upset.  He said he was sorry, but he couldn’t really explain why he stood out there.  To be honest, I don’t think he had a reason, or some kind of sneaky motive, I think he just felt like watching me drive away.  And that’s the problem, he allows himself to get off track by just following whatever whim comes into his head.


I told him I would have to go back to walking him in again.  Luckily the SPED teacher offered to have someone outside to watch for him and get him into the building, until he can show that he is responsible to do it himself.  He accepted that, and he felt bad.  I could tell by how quiet he was, and how tightly he hugged me when I got ready to leave.  It wasn’t intentional, it was just a thoughtless mistake.


But that’s the hard part, getting him to think about what he’s doing, and how it affects others.  And I worry, what if he never gets it?


So if you’re even in the school drop off lane, and the person in front of you is pausing to watch their child for a moment, try to be patient.  Try to remember that their sole purpose in life isn’t to make you late for work, it’s just to make sure their child gets into school safely.


Don't. Freak. Out.


About Flannery

Kid, husband, dogs, my mother, full-time job, maximum stress, minimal relaxation...sooner or later I had to vent. AND we moved from California to Texas. I could start a whole other blog about that.

10 responses »

  1. I loathe the thought of the drop-off lane. I almost revel in the fact that Ben is too young to get it right now. Not that i am looking forward to finding a parking space at his new school next year (this year he takes the bus–HEAVEN)

  2. Yeah, I think the alarm bells would have gone off for me too.

  3. I have to say I am glad we do not have to go through the drop off lane as the school doesn’t have one. Many people do not understand what it means to have patience when you are ensuring your child enters the school safely.

    I’d like to follow your blog. I am also keeping track of my son’s journey through public school.. he has been diagnosed with ASD:

  4. Oh GAWD, and that right there is what scares me to death with out kids. It’s the classic side diversion thing (look, something shiney!) and they’re off and not where they’re supposed to be. I’m so glad you went back an sorted thing out. And other kids creep me out too!

    • Karla (Mom2MissK)

      I gott a ditto Lizbeth. If I had a nickel for every time Little Miss got completely waylaid by her “unique” train of thoughts…. And the pure horror of knowing that train of thoughts makes her more likely to just wander off… Ugh.

      Luckily for us, as long as Little Miss is on an IEP, she qualifies for a school bus ride and whatever special accommodations are needed to get her safely from the bus to the school.

      Here’s to hoping that everything eventually works out with this one and a big kudos on the SPED teacher for putting in the suport needed to help drive the point home!

  5. You are such a good mama bear. Eff the other parents in that stupid drop-off lane! I give them all that special wave just for you. I consider both you and Conner exceptionally brave to do that whole drop off zone thing! Toots is supposed to go through that next year but I’m quite sure he will end up in the middle of a softball field three miles from school, staring at the sky, if I do that – so – not happening!

    Connor’s so sweetly innocent. It just socks me right in the softy parts…

  6. Oh my – this would never, never, never work for my kid. I have to physically hand her off to a responsible adult who will then see her straight into the school. No telling where she would end up – probably in that softball field with Tootles! 🙂

    Also, nothing like starting your day with a nice big flop sweat! Good for the ol’ armpits…

  7. This made me vomit. I have to go back over to Lizbeth’s page for a cyber vacation to escape the palpitations. Would you like me to send some L’Oreal to cover the gray you got from this experience?

  8. Man I’d have his teacher on speed dial “ok, he’s outside— please make sure he comes in…… he’s there? great, thanks!”. Even neurotypical first graders can wander and get lost— drop off lanes with no adult supervision suck. Happy my twins are still in preschool with adults unlocking them from their bus car seats and walking them in hand in hand.


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