Back to School: Slaying Life in the Carpool Line

Welcome to the carpool line at school–more notably known as the fifth ring of hell. Apparently, the simple concept of pulling up to the first orange cone is often confusing to the frazzled, behind-schedule minivan owner who makes great choices in life, but very poor choices in the car lane.

Yes, red minivan. I’m talking to you. 

The drop-off line has simple rules. Pull up to the cone. Let child out. Move along. Nowhere does it include doing said child’s hair, packing their backpack or teaching them how to tie their shoes for the first time. The pick-up line is much the same. Pull up to the cone. Welcome child in. Drive away. Why are you checking their backpacks, having a parent-teacher conference or planning for college?

So, in order to not bring out the worst in ourselves, here are 5 tips to streamline your life while you wait in the pickup line to retrieve your child. I offer these so you won’t succumb to the temptation of dropping profanities like the passive-aggressive sailor I morph into when people don’t follow simple directions!

Slaying Life in the Carpool Lane

1. Unload the weight of the world.

The bottom of my purse/bag is the black hole of my life. From random snacks and ponytail holders to the permission slip that was supposed to go back last week, my purse is where things go to die. Waiting in the car line gives me a solid 5 minutes to unload. Instead of glaring at the car that won’t pull up to the cones, I busy myself with throwing out last week’s stash of gum wrappers or rescuing the 4 lip balms that I can never find because they vanished into the Bermuda triangle of my bag.

2. Catch some crumbs.

I don’t know about you, but my cherubs turn into tiny tornadoes in one 15 minute commute. The back of my van often looks as if my children ordered up an all-you-can-snack buffet and then preceded to spit it all back out of their mouths. I keep a few grocery bags in the side of the passenger door and use my time in the pickup lane to declutter, pick up trash, and, if I’m really on the ball, use a lint brush to roll up what crumbs I can reach on the seats.

3. Empty that inbox.

My email inbox is an anxiety attack waiting to happen. I have constant interruptions where I work, so many times I will start an email and not even realize I never sent it! I envy those that are able to use their inbox as a “to-do” list, only saving the emails that need a follow-up. However, I get behind and the next thing I know I am scrolling 500 messages that make me want to just delete my entire account and start over. It’s amazing how many emails you can delete or respond to in 5 uninterrupted minutes. So, I use this time to double-check my “drafts” to make sure I actually sent all of my intended emails for the day.

4. Be present in the moment.

Sometimes all you need is a solid 5 minutes of quiet. If you’re sitting in the carpool lane, there is a good chance you’re in a season of life that is chaotic and busy. Keeping track of your own schedule can be difficult, but multiplying that by 4 or 5 other people’s schedules can get overwhelming. Take a few minutes to breathe. There are so many awesome breathing and mindfulness exercises that take only 5 minutes. It’s a perfect way to center yourself each afternoon before transitioning into the next phase of the day.

5. Take advantage of social media.

Social media can be a huge sucker of time. Though it is an amazingly convenient way to keep up with friends, it also can distract us from living in the present. Perhaps set this 5 minutes in the pickup line to browse your social media. Maybe even set a goal for this to be the only time a day that you use a certain app.

The 5 minutes in the pick-up line after school can be as pleasant or unpleasant as you make them. Since holding myself accountable for using them wisely, I  found I can be quite productive while also cutting down my frustrations with other drivers. That way when my kiddos jump in the car I can greet them feeling positive to start our afternoons out on the right foot. 

How is your carpool line? Any tips for how to navigate it with grace?

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