When I was working in corporate full-time and teaching part-time at a local college, Margaret and her younger sister were in an after-school care program until 6 p.m. A few days a week a nanny would pick them up, the other few days, my husband and I would take turns racing to pick them up before it closed. If parents were late, you were charged $1 per minute. We had some expensive months.
In 2016 I made the career transition to be a contract writer so I could not only work with the clients of my choosing but more importantly, own my schedule. Something I was very excited about was the ability to pick my kids up from school when school actually ended – not 4 hours later. For so long I had imagined what it would be like to see their faces when they saw me at the gate waiting for them, eager to share with me all that they’d learned during the school day. In my head, I would be driving around like June Cleaver with a big smile on my face because everything was just right in the world.
Fast forward to my reality today. Muy different from what I had imagined in my Pollyanna glasses.
I’ve lived in Southern California my entire life, so I’m pretty accustomed to the traffic. But never in a million years had I anticipated how much I would loath picking up my kid from school. It is an experience I wish only on people I intensely dislike (that whole, “I wouldn’t wish that on my worst enemy” is such baloney and everyone knows it. Let’s be honest: God gave us an endless imagination which really comes in handy when we’re mad. Why should we waste this gift?)
Here is what I’ve learned from picking up my kids from school the past year:
- You have a better chance of winning the lottery than getting one of the first few spots in the pick-up line. Seriously, if you even want to get one of the good parking spots, plan on getting there hours before school is out. Better yet, don’t even leave after dropping your kid off in the morning.
- You will be waiting for your kids most days. There are those rare occasions, when you pull up just as your kid is walking out. When that happens, you feel the kind of unexpected joy that you do when you and your lover have a simultaneous orgasm. But you can’t plan it by always arriving late. Because if you plan it in advance, your kid will have decided to ignore their friends and come right out to the parking lot. And when you finally arrive, they’ll start whining that they had to wait for you. You pretty much have to be organically late.
- Speaking of organically, despite living in a very pro-green region of the country, apparently, Southern Californian adults care much more about creature comforts like indoor temperature control than wasting energy and polluting the air because almost nobody shuts their engines off while waiting for their kid. In fact, to Europe’s dismay, we have the A/C cranked high while we wait. Even when we’re parked in a space and not in the pick-up line. I’m guilty of it. And I feel bad, but I’m finding there’s a direct correlation between how close I am to menopause and how incredibly willing I am to destroy the environment for my own personal comfort.
- If you’re short like me, hold a tall person’s hand or wear platform shoes when you walk through the parking lot. I’m serious. You might as well be toddlers because the clueless soccer mom in the massive Toyota Sequoia is searching for the right emoji while she backs up and she cannot see you.
- Getting out of the parking lot is as bad as leaving any major sports event. Only worse. Those who get there earlier always back into spaces, which gives them a slight advantage when leaving because they don’t have to back out. If it’s timed just right as I mentioned above, it’s a little like the LIFO (last in first out) inventory method because you can double park where your kid is standing and cruise out. But again, this rarely happens. So the winners are usually those like me who drive dinosaur vehicles. If you don’t care about getting hit, you’re at a huge advantage over Mr. showing-off-my-brand-new-Tesla owner. Yes, it’s every man for himself after school when you’re traversing the parking lot, whether you’re in your car or on foot.
On those days when I’m extremely frustrated, I start to reconsider my decision to leave corporate life. And imaging my best day in an employer-based situation is all it takes for me to come back to my senses and realize it’s never THAT bad.
It’s always different from how you’d imagined it.
But it could always be worse.