A Psychological Study of School Pick Up and Drop Off

There are many things in this world that perplex me like how did jackfruit become a culinary trend? Have you tried cutting open a jackfruit? I swear brain surgery is probably less labor intensive and gooey.

The mystery of the jackfruit, though intriguing because I believe it has an alien back story, is no match in the bewilderment department for the enigma that is school drop off and pick up. Why is it so hard for parents to grasp the fundamentals of delivering and retrieving their kids to and from school?

I, with much gratitude, have not had to endure a school drop off and pick up line in three years. But, for my friends with younger children lately the school drop off rage has been intense. Because I fancy myself a social scientist  (not a busy body thank you very much) I decided to observe three school drop off lines at three separate schools.

My mission was to gauge if the situation has gotten worse since my school driving days or were these parents just being drama queens. I’ll honestly tell you I was totally thinking drama queens because there’s no way school pick up and drop off parental stupidity could have descended even lower. It was in the caverns of  of hell during my tenure and I was adamant that it had nowhere to go but up.

I was wrong.

Frankly, I don’t even know where to begin. I’m still a little shaken by the whole experiment. I think my biggest take away is that people’s reading comprehension skills have taken a serious hit.

That’s the only polite explanation I can come up with for a large swath of adults not understanding signage that plainly states “no parking,” “beginning of drop off/pick up line,” and “pull forward.” These are not even sentences but three and four word directives at a first grade reading level. Surely parents should be able to understand their meaning.

But to blame the whole school pick up/drop off quagmire solely on reading skills would be a mistake because the real issue is psychological. To fully understand the issue you have to probe a parent’s brain. Why, for instance, are some parents adamant about not pulling forward in the line?

In the name of scientific research I asked one mother who was not pulling up this question and she made a face while stating in a very unpleasant tone that she was waiting for her kids.

I queried back with, “But couldn’t you wait for your kids pulled up a little further in the line?” This earned me a window being rolled up in my face.

I didn’t blame her because I knew I had hit a nerve. Her car was perched almost perfectly in front of the school’s front doors and there was no way she was going to let her babies (full disclosure this happened at a middle school) walk any further than they had to.

Which takes us to another layer of a parent’s psychological make up. Why do we get our kids fitness trackers, $300 Apple watches and sign them up for loads of sports activities and then swoon at the thought of them having to walk more than 20 yards to the family car?

Armed with my research I went home and tried to formulate a reasonable explanation for the seemingly growing number of parents who freelance with the established school pick up/drop off protocol. The only thing I could come up with is that for some parents the “rules never apply to me” must be a family motto.

The best suggestion I have is that they get those feelings emblazoned on a bumper sticker so the rest of the parents know who to avoid every morning and afternoon.

(For more education on this topic I urge you to read this highly formative guide for the school drop off and pick up procedure https://snarkyinthesuburbs.com/2011/03/25/10-steps-to-a-successful-school-drop-off/)

Four Fab Fundraising Ideas

1fb5387a132366d121e67849c4cedcdaI don’t know about you but right now I’m completely stocked up on gift-wrap, cookie dough, popcorn and coupon books. In fact, just when I thought it was safe to open my door, my email, and venture into the office break room the secondary onslaught of school fundraisers has started. Now, I’m being hit up to buy raffle tickets, magazines and partake in school carnival “underwriting opportunities.” This madness has to stop. Lucky for all of us I have a plan.

The problem, as I see it, is that kids are selling things no one really needs. So to more accurately target the desires of the suburban consumer I have come up, what I think are, four full proof fundraising strategies.

PTA Paint Ball – This would replace the “adult only” school fundraiser. Which is where parents buy tickets to attend a party, with hopefully a hosted bar, and bid on auction items to raise money for their child’s school. While, extremely popular in the past decade, enthusiasm and attendance for these kinds of events are waning. Sure, it was fun, in an, “Oh wow, I didn’t see that coming” kind of way to witness parents, fueled by alcohol, fight over who would be the high bidder on the third grade class basket. But even that gets old year after year.

The Paintball event would allow you, under the cover of “supporting education,” to “decorate” last year’s snooty home room mom with a direct hit and blast away at the PTA president who rolls her eyes every time you ask a question at a meeting.

Get Out of Volunteering for One Year Raffle – What mother wouldn’t want to spend a couple or a hundred dollars for the chance to win a Get Out of Volunteering Card from their child’s school. Imagine the joy and sweet, sweet freedom this would bring you. Anytime you get an email asking for help or get harassed by Sign Up Genius you can just type back, “I’ve got the card.”

Even better, when you feel certain you’re getting bullied by some moms, who have been known to surround the driver’s side window of your car at school pick up, because you haven’t done, what they think, is your volunteer due diligence you can just roll up your window, while mouthing, “I’ve got the card.”

TMZ the Suburbs – For a yearly fee, discreetly charged to your credit card, you can subscribe to a monthly digital newsletter that would be gossip central for your slice of suburbia. Want to know who got a brand new set of “twins” that answer to the name of Double D this newsletter can let you know. Or curious about the neighbor who is “downsizing” but you suspect is in divorce mode TMZ the Suburbs can help. The beauty is anyone can write this. No real-time has to be spent investigating or following leads.

For example, if you publish, “a certain mom with blonde hair that’s says ‘I go to the salon twice a month to maintain this Goldilocks wannabe mane,’ and has an acute fondness for XS Lululemon yoga pants, (even though she should really try going up a size or two, just saying) was seen driving her import SUV away from the local fear of aging Surgical Center this morning” you’ve got it made. Because, you’ve just described more than half the women in the burbs and you know at least one was getting something done. So bingo, you’ve got the Circle of Life of gossip. This is the kind that points a finger at many targets and gives the gift of speculation thus fueling more gossip.

Police Ride Along Auction – I want to do this one so badly I would consider selling an organ to finance my attempt to be the high bidder. I mean, who wouldn’t want to ride shotgun with local law enforcement as, per your directions, they patrol the school drop off and pick up lines? Even better they’ll be issuing tickets to all the idiots and the Rules Don’t Apply to Me parents, whom for years have been wreaking havoc, threatening public safety and your sanity, with their morning and afternoon behavior.

Think of the ecstasy you would experience as the Escalady, who almost every afternoon cuts into the front of the pick up line by backing up her rig right into the cross walk, is asked to not only get out of her car but, in front of all the parents, is issued a DWI field sobriety test, because anyone who does this everyday, after repeatedly being told not to, surely must be drunk or high.

I say we start the bidding at $1,500. Do I hear 2,000?

**For more Snarky check out my book  Snarky in the Suburbs Back to School. 

Here’s a little ditty about it: The Spring Creek Elementary School PTA board (a coven of Mean Moms dressed in Uggs, yoga pants, and dermal filler) is up to no good.  Wynn Butler (middle-aged, uncool, and not bringing sexy back) is determined to find out what’s going on. With help from her two kids, a Roomba vacuum turned mobile surveillance drone, and a few good friends, Wynn launches a covert investigation that leads to the “mother of all revenge capers” at the school’s annual Fall Festival.  If you’ve ever fantasized about smoke bombing the idiot parent who has yet to master the fine art of the school drop-off lane, or standing up and shouting, “Liar, liar, Botox on fire” during a PTA meeting, then this delicious tale of payback is for you. 

To stay up-to-date on new posts and take part in my not so deep thoughts click on this Facebook link – http://is.gd/iEgnJ (That’s the abbreviated link to my FB page) or I twitter @snarkynsuburbs.

Dear Mr. New Principal – 5 Suggestions For You

Dear Mr. New Principal,

I know it’s hard starting a new job and that like any new boss you’re going to want to change things up a bit.  But, only one month into the school year you’ve made some real blunders and that’s just with the parents.  So, as an experienced elementary school mother, I’d be remiss to not help you out by sharing my hard-earned wisdom.

Changing Pick Up & Drop Off – This has been your biggest mistake to date (And who’s counting? Oh yeah – me.) Trust me on this – you’re going to get someone killed. Either a child is going to get run over or and more likely a mom is going to use her SUV as a battering ram and repeatedly bash in the back of another mom’s car resulting in death by blunt force trauma. You can’t just announce in the school newsletter that pick up and drop has been radically changed.

First, now that the district is trying to save money on paper and ink and go green all the newsletters are e-mailed. Great idea, but how many moms do you think are really opening up the attachment (and that’s if they can get the thing to open) and reading the newsletter? I’ll tell you – less than ever before. Why? Because the Friday Folder, which used to contain the newsletter, is opened and gone through in the kitchen, by the trash can. As we moms go through the graded papers we toss them in the trash can and save one or two to post on the fridge. We also read the newsletter because it’s in with our kids crap. It’s inescapable.

Secondly, if you’re going to change pick up and drop off some extra effort on your part is called for. How about some signs or better yet how about you dragging your administrative fanny out there in the morning and afternoon. Because this is what is happening. 1/3 of the moms are attempting to following your instructions for the new pick up/drop off as outlined in the newsletter, 1/3 of the moms are dazed and confused or in desperate need of caffeine and still following the former pick up/drop off rules (hey, were all creatures of habit) and 1/3 of the moms just don’t care about the rules and will continue to freelance and do whatever suits their needs best. Double parking, butting in line, honking or my personal favorite leaving their car unattended in line while they go do God knows what inside the school thus creating a traffic snarl that could be covered by Channel 5’s Chopper 1. I’m betting you can see the havoc and danger this is creating from your office window.

My course of action for you to follow would be: To send an actual piece of paper home (I’m sure the PTO would cover the expense) with each child outlining the new pick/up drop off procedure. Each parent would then have to sign in blood that they have read and understand the new procedure.  That paper would then be returned to school and kept on file.  I also suggest that you strap on an orange safety vest, grab some traffic cones from the gym and physically put yourself in the middle of the melee that is school drop off and pick up every morning and afternoon.  Sure, some moms may flip you the bird or even scream at you. But, buck up big guy you can handle it. Remember you are the school’s authority figure so use it.

Class Parties – With all the problems public education is facing I’m a beyond bewildered that you have chosen to focus your time and energy on changing the way class parties are held. No longer is the class party a sacred covenant between the teacher and the home room mom. You’ve put yourself in the middle of the party planning with a “party checklist from the principal.”

Your checklist demanding that educational games must be played like spelling bees and that all crafts must require math made me sigh deeply. But, when you went all Nutrition Nazi on the food that’s when my chocolate high wore off and I became PMS pissed.  Your mandate that only sugar-free, fat-free, carb free snacks can be served is incredibly disingenuous. Let me begin by saying yummy with your suggested menu of sparkling water punch and a cheese stick and celery platter. Let me finish by saying instead of being a huge party pooper why don’t you concentrate your effort on changing the high fructose corn syrup, high fat, high carbohydrate, high sodium swill that is served everyday in the cafeteria and leave the three, count them three, parties that are held during a school year alone.

Fundraising – Guess what Mr. Principal ? We, the parents, don’t really live to fundraise.  We do it because we want to help you and the faculty make our kid’s precious elementary school better. So, when you start sticking your nose into our fundraising practices and suggest better ways for us to do things like the gift-wrap sale and book fair two words for your buddy – back off.  We are volunteers not school employees. We are doing this as a labor of love and just as quick as we can turn our children into little Amway salespeople we can turn it off. Imagine your budget without all the goodies our PTO provides for the school. Can you say no Smart Boards? I’m always looking for a reason to not eternally fundraise and I think you’ve just given me one.

Quiet Cafeteria – You know what gets me, when adults who work with kids forget what it’s like to be kid. No talking in the cafeteria – WTH? If I were a teacher I want kids to chat it up big time, get it all out of their system, so when they came back to class they were all talked out. Yes, I know kids can get loud but volume control is one thing and complete silence is another. And yes, I also heard the reasoning that if the kids talk they don’t eat their lunch.  Really?  Because talking has never come between me and my meal. I’m living proof and have the thighs to back up my claim that it is possible to do both.

Parent Volunteers – Excuse me, we now have to go to a two-hour parent volunteer training conducted by you before we’re allowed to donate our time to work in the school. What parent doesn’t know how to cut out pumpkins or staple together worksheet packets. At middle age we still have most of our fine motor skills in tact. I can understand a quickie tutorial on how to use the new copier that the PTO bought for the school. But two hours of training – how are you going to fill it? I hope it’s not with a Powerpoint of your short and long-term goals for the school because that could get ugly and require some degree of protection for you. You know what’s going to happen don’t you? Hardly any parents will attend the training and that’s means less parents in the school.

P.S.   Be nice to our teachers!  We’ve got their backs.

Thanks for reading Snarky in the Suburbs!  To stay up-to-date on new posts you can go to Facebook, type in Snarky in the Suburbs and click on like.  Take care.