Other titles I considered for this post were “how not to be a jerk in the school car line” and “school pickup etiquette for dummies”. I truly can’t believe this needs to be written but it does. I think I am pretty patient but there is one thing that drives me crazy and that is parents that can’t follow the simple rules of drop-off and pickup. And we aren’t talking about new parents who are doing this thing for the first time….it’s April you guys. We started school in August so if someone is still acting foolish in the school car line then it is not because of lack of knowledge. So here are basic etiquette rules for the car line. Feel free to share this post with anyone you think could use the refresher…
General car line guidelines
Don’t cut in line.
This should be obvious because even kindergarteners can line up and wait their turn but this is the biggest problem at our school and what prompted me to write this post. We had one vehicle in particular cut in line almost EVERY WEEK FOR A YEAR AND A HALF. There would be a line of cars and she would literally go up along the side of the line (or enter into the exit of the parking lot), pull up and BACK INTO THE FRONT OF THE LINE. Seriously. Who sees a line and thinks that reversing their car and backing into the front of it is the correct thing to do!? Now I do not like confrontation so I never talked to the parent but I would definitely sit there extremely annoyed every time she did it. Finally the staff talked to her but only after she almost backed into a staff member who was crossing to get to the parking lot. Same with the parents who try to squeeze their vehicles into the small gaps between cars. Just find the end of the line. Please. Anyway, moving on….
There is no reason to leave a car’s length of empty space in between your car and the vehicle in front of you. Dozens of parents are trying to get their children to or from school every day and it takes much longer when parents don’t pull forward.
Don’t park in the line and get out of your vehicle.
The pickup and drop off lines are supposed to be moving lines. If you have to park and help your child out of the vehicle or run something inside (or for any other reason), then find a designated parking spot and park your vehicle there. Otherwise STAY IN YOUR VEHICLE during drop off and pick up times when the car line is full of parents trying to drop off or pickup their children.
Get off your phone and pay attention.
You are outside a school which means that there are kids all around you. Get off your phone and pay attention when you are driving because the kid’s lives matter more than whatever you are doing on your phone. Just put it down until you are at home or at work.
School drop off
Your kid doesn’t need to be let out right in front of the door.
A few car lengths walk will not kill them. I tell my boys that every time they want to whine about having to exit the car when we are not right in front of the door to the school. I mean, I can see if it’s pouring rain or something but even then your kids won’t melt. Promise.
Make sure your child is ready to get out of the vehicle when they need to be.
School pickup time is not the time to do a long goodbye ritual, get the cold weather gear on, or fill out forms. When it’s time for them to get out of the car make sure that they are fully dressed and ready to go so you don’t hold up the line.
Let your child out in a designated area only.
The school has designated drop off and pickup areas for a reason. Letting your kid out in the middle of the parking lot may seem like a great way to avoid the car line when you are in a hurry but having them run through cars in the car line is dangerous!
Get your kid and go.
You don’t need to get everything organized, have a conversation about their day, or whatever the heck else is taking you ten minutes to pull away from the curb once your child is insidee your vehicle. Just have them buckle and then pull away from the line when it’s safe to do so so other parents can pull up and get their children.
And if you choose to park…
If you choose to park your car so you don’t hold up the car line, first of all- thank you, but please remember the simple rules of parking lots that exist. First, the parking lot is not a race track so drive slowly and find an actual space to park in. Remember that two vertical white lines indicate a parking space and park in between them. Parking your car anywhere you please is not okay, especially if it blocks other cars from moving through the parking lot. And remember to check for cars and people when you back out of the spot! Also? Parking in a handicap space (without a placard or sticker) or in the lines between handicap spots that are designated for wheelchair ramps is not only inconsiderate of those who need to park there, it’s illegal.
Lastly, BE PATIENT.
I think it’s a pretty safe bet to say that no parent likes the school car line. (Personally, I’d put my kids on the bus to avoid it if I could but we are about a mile away so the school district considers us too close to be bussed. Instead, I just get there really early to try to avoid all the other crazies.) Remember that none of us want to be there so just try to stay patient. Honking at other parents or kids or displaying any other form of road range is not necessary and will probably not make them move any faster.
What to do when your child needs extra assistance.
This post is not geared towards the parent who is dealing with that occasional meltdown that they can’t predict or who has a child with special needs, but more for the parents who just constantly feel like the rules don’t apply to them. I understand that some kids may need extra help at drop off or pickup because they may be differently-abled in some way because I have been in that position as a mom with a child on the Autism Spectrum. I know how difficult these transition times can be so if your child needs a little extra help getting in or out of the vehicle because they are still working on self-help skills or if getting in or out of school is a struggle in other ways, here are a couple of tips that might help during drop off and pick up times: 1) Consider finding a parking spot and walking your child into school. 2) Talk with the school about having a staff member outside to help your child in or out of the vehicle if you want to use the car line or see if you can pull forward more to let other vehicles exit behind you if your child needs extra time. 3) Call the office and ask if there is another place you can arrange to drop-off/pickup your child that has less traffic and will allow for a slower exit/entrance. 4) Consider picking up or dropping off a little earlier or later if the school allows it. Every school and child is different but it’s in everyone’s best interest to find a drop off and pickup solution that works so hopefully they can assist you in this situation so you and your child can have a smooth start and end to the school day.
Thanks to the moms in my mom group who helped complete this list by sharing some of their stories. What would you add to this school car line etiquette list?