We decided to drop our 5-year-old off at school this year. I wish I could say that decision was made for noble reasons. Honestly, we did this because if we drop him off at school we get an extra 45 minutes in the morning. I wish I could also say we used that 45 minutes for noble purposes; to cook a hearty breakfast, prepare Evan for the day ahead, maybe a few thoughts for the day and a brief time of silent, contemplative prayer.
Here is what actually happens.
The alarm goes off…again. Our bed explodes in a flurry of activity — sheets and covers go flying, legs flailing as we realize we have 2o minutes. We grab our son and dress his limp body. Will he be too cold? too hot? None of that is as important as our ultimate goal in the morning — get that boy in the school door by 8 AM.
You see at 8 AM the door closes like the gate to a maximum security prison. This electronic alarm sounds, and if your child is not in the door by that time, you are LATE. This “being late” means very little to our son, he moves to his own, slower beat. But to parents, the stigma of being late, seeing the little eyes on the other side of the school door looking back at us, as if to say, “poor, poor little boy, if only there was something we could do, but there is a great chasm between us” is more than most grown-ups can handle.
So we drop something frozen in a toaster, grab a sip to drink, brush teeth, find shoes, and finish it off with a coat. My wife and I run from room to room, throwing various items at our son followed by instructions. “Evan, put this on!” “Evan, take that shirt off and put this on!” “Evan, your coat, your coat” He is unaffected by all of this, no concern, no need to rush. Children are the only creatures on earth where the urgency of a situation actually causes them to move slower.
Eventually, we grab everything that he needs, I carry him to the car, strap him in, and we head out.
The time: 7:50 AM.
We play a game on the way to school. No, it’s not “eye spy with my little eye”. Our game is called, “help daddy find an opening in the parade of cars the size of a Chevy Malibu.” He loves it, he’s very good at it now. Eventually, we find an opening and dart in to the line of traffic.
The time: 7:54 AM
Navigating this stretch of road to the school is more of an art form really. You have to time the lights, follow close to the car in front of you, but not too close. It involves a lot of strategy, and talking to the windshield. Then there is the volunteer guy directing traffic. I am convinced he is out to get me. He holds out his hand and traffic stops.
The time: 7:57 AM
We turn on to a side road and then into the parking lot of the school. We are met by a line of cars anxious to enter the turnabout and drop their child off. I can see the faces of the moms in their car windows. From the looks of their hair,they just woke up also. They look terrified and frantic. As if they realize they might be late, and they did not dress appropriately to enter the school office and sign their child in. I scan the parking lot, and decide that our best chance at getting in would be to park and run for the door.
“Unbuckle your belt and grab your bag son.” The urgency in my voice shakes him to action. We jump out together, and I yell, “Runnnnnn!” We start running, as I throw his backpack on his little body. The volunteers standing outside put up one finger, and yell, “one minute, hurry, hurry!” With those words I grab Evan, lift him off the ground, and start running. The volunteers start walking in, reality turns to slow motion, and it is just the sound of my out of breath body, the steps of my shoes on the concrete, and the sight of that door, that is now starting to close.
We get to the half-open door, and after considering all of my options, I decide for the sake of honor and good parenting to gently toss him in the door. The floor is slick in there, and the treads on his shoes don’t hold. He slides a good 5 feet, stops himself at the wall, and looks back with a smile and thumbs up…the door closes, the alarm sounds.
Uncontrollably, I raise my hands in the air, striking the “Rocky Balboa” pose when he runs up the steps to the Philadelphia Museum of Art.. I look at the elderly volunteer next to me and yell out, “that’s right, that’s what I’m talking about!”. My hands are still raised as I dance around the door. She smiles nervously at me, and enters the building.
I skip back to the car, still hopped up on adrenaline. Along the way, I pass mothers wearing pajama pants and their husband’s coat walking the trail of shame with their child to the office. I try to make eye contact and give them a look that says, “don’t give up…you don’t have to live life this way.”
As for me, I drive home with a new outlook on the day. Sure, for a few moments the thought creeps in that tossing your child in a closing school door like a game of cornhole and then celebrating is probably not the most healthy area of my parenting. I convince myself I’ll try harder tomorrow.
The next day — wake time: 7:32AM
Time to shine.