“I love dropping off and picking up my kid in the car rider line…” 

                                                                                             – No one ever.

Ah, the car rider line.  Where parents drive up to school to drop off or pick up their little sweeties.  And drive each other INSANE.  

What is it about the car rider line that is so triggering or problematic for some parents? 

Why are there so many memes directed at KAREN who takes forever to get her kids out of the car and holds up the line? Why is it SO FRUSTRATING, and does it have to be? 

Between four kids and two states, I have been through seven elementary schools.  So I’ve dealt with my fair share of car rider lines.

I’ve seen some things, man. 

Car rider line, for the uninitiated, is simply the area where parents who are driving their kids to school (as opposed to walking, biking, or taking the bus) line up to drop them off or pick them up. 

 Every school is different in how they manage the car rider line, but I’d wager that no school’s car rider line operates glitch free.  If social media is to be believed, the car rider line is slowly driving us parents insane. Parents don’t understand the flow of traffic, or they try to cut in line, or they don’t obey the “alternate directions” rule, or their kid takes forever to get out of the car, or they insist on hopping out to buckle in their little precious helpless baby.  I’ve heard horns honking and curse words flying, I’ve seen a middle finger or two, and witnessed way more aggressive driving and maneuvering by annoyed parents than is appropriate for a school (hint, NONE of that is appropriate behavior). 

And clueless.  So many clueless parents.  It’s easy to get annoyed at the parents who don’t seem to know what is going on, or think they can just cut the line (usually because they didn’t even realize there was a line).

But we were all there once. 

Parents of kindergartners with not a clue, already emotional and overwhelmed with all the newness of school. Or parents of older kids who are new to this school, and haven’t yet learned the ropes. These guys deserve a little patience.  

But the parents who take forever or let their kids dawdle with the unloading or loading process- those guys need to get with the program.  As soon as I enter the school driveway, off the road, my kids know to unbuckle their seatbelts and get their backpacks situated. Then they perch on the edge of the seats like skydivers about to launch out of the plane.  The second I stop the car and give them the all clear, that door flies open and they are out. Goodbye hugs and reminders have been given prior to this point, and if one of them drops a lunch box I will hurl that sucker out the open door and flee.  

Why? Because I don’t want to be THAT mom. 

Not because it’s embarrassing, but because it’s inefficient.  Impractical. I don’t want to cause any more stress, tension, or running-lateness for the people behind me in line because I just remembered that I need to lecture little Suzy about turning in her permission slip. Car rider line is simply not the place for that.  

So what can we all do to make this car rider experience a bit less stressful? Here are some tips:

  • Try to figure out the route and traffic flow BEFORE the first day of school.  You can drive around the parking lot, looking for signs and familiarizing yourself with the streets.  You can look at the school’s website. Most schools have a map or video explaining the details. You can call the front office and ask them to give you a rundown.  If you have any friends or neighbors who are already familiar, ask them what people are supposed to do- often there are little quirks that aren’t mentioned in the school’s official guidelines but can make or break the smoothness of the car rider line. 
  • TEACH YOUR KIDS TO BUCKLE AND UNBUCKLE THEMSELVES.  I would scream that from the roof of my minivan if I could.  There is not time for you to hop out and do it for them (unless they have some sort of issue where they do need help, in which case still try to hustle, mama!).  Start practicing this over the summer, not the day before school starts. Kids get stressed and frustrated too. Assign an older sibling the duty of helping the younger one get unbuckled and buckled if your kid is still not getting the hang of it.  
  • Try to leave earlier if possible.  Running late makes you more prone to hurry, be distracted, get frustrated, and even angry with other parents (who are also running late).  I drop my kids about ten minutes after the doors open. If I waited ten more minutes, the line would be super long. Yes, this means they have to sit in a waiting area for a bit (like the gym, cafeteria, outside of their classrooms). But honestly they don’t mind because they get to sit and chat with their friends for a few minutes before the bell rings.  You can always have your kid bring a book to read while they wait.
  • Don’t be a nasty driver- even if they “deserve” it.  Sometimes people look or act clueless, and it may be tempting to honk, flip the bird, ride their bumper, or try to pass them.  Please don’t. It’s not safe, your kids are watching, and who knows- that could be some poor grandparent who is unexpectedly dropping a kid off while mom or dad has an emergency. You just never know the circumstances, and even though some people are selfish idiots, most are not.  
  • Follow the signs, and pull all the way forward.  Do not stop the second you see your kid, or right by the covered area, or wherever you see fit.  If the sign says pull all the way forward, then do it. If you stop and leave a huge gap, then that many cars behind you can’t get their kids in a timely fashion. The car pool line backs up, the parking lot backs up, the surrounding streets back up- it can quickly become a nightmare! If a sign says alternate traffic (one side gets to turn in, then the other) then follow that. What’s easiest or most convenient for YOU or YOUR KID often is not good for the entire traffic flow. 

What tips would you add to ease

the stress of car rider line? 


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