816 North Opinion

April 1, 2014

Susan Vollenweider: Cringe to life lesson, drop-off lane edition

Some schools set up their drop-off lanes better than others and some parents avoid it at all costs. I think it’s a good barometer of people’s character.

We all have moments that we are less than proud of. All of us. When the memory escapes its restraints, we internally combust with a cringe and think, “I can’t believe I did that.”

I also believe that admitting what we did and what we learned from the cringe-worthy gives a positive power to a negative event.

At least I hope so.

The drop-off lane. Some schools do it better than others and some parents avoid it at all costs. I think it’s a good barometer of people’s character.

It’s easy to criticize, isn’t it? Easy to tell other parents what to do?

“Don’t cut in, wait your turn.”

“Don’t park in the drop-off lane.”

“Is it really necessary to wait until Precious is all the way in the school before you pull away?”

Hey, I’ve done it. Our school system provides bus transportation, but I usually drop my kids off at school. Why? I like the extra morning time with them. And I can, so I do.

I have been a parent who got loudly irate with the drop-off lane. I have emailed school principals, written columns, blogs and social media posts about what I have seen happen there. The aggressive and dangerous behavior and the My-Child-And-Time-Is-More-Important-Than-Yours feeling that I got from other parents made my belly burn in righteous indignation.

How dare they?

This year I chilled myself out. We all want the same thing: for our kids to arrive at school safe and ready to learn. Every car and family in that line has a story that I’m not aware of — maybe there is a very good reason why they act like they do. Focus on what I can change, and another’s behavior isn’t one of those things.

As a result, my drop-off car time has been spent talking with my kids, listening to music, car dancing and attempting to be kind to fellow drop-off laners.

Until one morning when a cringe moment was born.

All schools have different driveway configurations so I’m going to simplify what happened: I witnessed four cars dangerously play chicken with school buses all in the name of getting to the drop-off lane faster.

Gone went my chilled-out state. It was replaced by fear for the kids in those cars and anger at their parents.

Up bubbled my long chilled rage…

…and I hand gestured all four cars.

Yes, cars with kids in them.

I flipped off children.

But I wasn’t done, oh no! Once the oh-so-classy beast was released she was hard to subdue.

Moments later I was behind one of those cars that I had just saluted. The father pulled a classic Deposit Child as Close to School Entrance as Possible And Hold-Up Traffic To Watch Her Walk In move.

The beast saluted him again. Then she back-slapped me for standing up to lousy, inconsiderate drivers.

As I drove home the beast went back in her box and the back-slap glory faded. What I did was no better than the drop-off lane inconsiderates. It was rude and a poor example to both my child and the kids in the other cars. Do I want them growing up to react to anger like that, or do I want our community to be filled with kind and considerate citizens who look out for each other?

Do I want my kid to get ahead in life by pushing others aside and breaking rules all in the pursuit of victory?

The drop-off lane is a good barometer of character.

But so is learning, accepting and voicing our mistakes.

At least I hope so.

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