I grew up walking to and from our neighborhood school. It was a total of five very small blocks. If I lolly-gagged on the way home, it took me seven minutes door-to-door. If there was a good ABC After-School Special starring Rob Lowe or Scott Baio, I could make it home in four minutes.
But, these are different times we live in. We live close enough that my younger daughter could walk to and from her school in about ten minutes. But the trip is not as straight cut as mine was and the world is not as benign as an After-School Special. We also are, like most normal, tired American families, overbooked. On any given day after school, we could have cello lessons, softball practice, doctor’s appointments, church groups, tutoring or library time. All of that combines to give me—the momma, the main mode of after-school transports, the director of activities and movement in-between—a lot of time in my car, which translates to lot of time in the dreaded pick up lane.
Because many of my daughter’s classmates are in similar overbooked situations, I find the pick up lane to be quite long. And tedious. And hot. And, most of all, boring.
Initially, I took along reading material. But I found that when I refused to move up because I was in a really good part of the book (Christian Gray was so captivating!), I did not receive support from my fellow pick up laners, but rather honks and occasional gestures. So, reading to pass the time wasn’t helpful.
I tried listening to NPR, but let’s face it…even the most captivating stories will lull a tired momma to sleep behind the wheel. Then I’d be on the receiving end of more honking and gesturing. So, I’ve come up with some interactive ways to pass the time in the pick up lane this school year.
Because one of the very first things your child will ask when he or she gets in the car is “What’s my after-school snack?”, the pick up lane is an ideal place for a snack exchange. If everyone brought twenty-snacks and we exchanged those snacks, we’d have a different snack for each day of the month! Just toss those extra snacks in the ice chest in the back of your vehicle (everyone hauls around an extra ice chest, right?) and voila! You’ve just taken care of your child’s after-school snacking desires and quite possibly accomplished world peace in just one afternoon. If you’re feeling ambitious, you could do the same with freezer dinners as well. But, word to the wise, unless you like tofu, I’d exclude that Prius-driving momma from the meal exchange.
In order to keep things lively, and to keep yourself awake, you might consider pick up lane karaoke. The best way to is to roll down all of your windows, blare the ‘80s pop station and rock out to such great songs as “Love Shack” and “Wild, Wild West.” I’m willing to bet you’d get more than one other momma joining in on your karaoke session. The good news is that when she sings “Take On Me” with you, you’ve made a bond for life that cannot be broken. Better news is this: When you belt out “Like A Virgin,” the PTA puts you on a watch list and you will not get asked to volunteer for anything for at least a semester. Trust me, I know. And once you’ve landed on the PTA’s Do Not Call list, you’ll find yourself among others who cannot decorate a cupcake to save their lives and they’ll want to know your secret.
Finally, to make the time pass as you’re waiting in line for the final bell to release your baby back into your arms—or your car, as the case may be—I’d like to suggest hiring a tutor, specifically a math tutor. Unless you have an advanced degree or two in mathematics, whatever math homework your kid comes home with is going to blow your mind. You’ll sit at the kitchen table and sob uncontrollably as your child pats your back and murmurs encouraging words like, “It’ll be okay, Momma; two more and we’re done” or “Not everyone is cut out for second grade math and partial sum algorithms, Momma. You just finish making that Hamburger Helper and don’t worry about it.”
Get the name and number of a good high school student who is willing to meet in the pick up lane, find yourself a portable white board for that kid to write on and get ready to learn about congruent angles and linear planes just enough to help your eight year old.
Saving face is always time well spent, right?