Hello, Good-Bye: The Joys of Being the Pick-Up Parent

Pick-up line at Busch Gardens summer day camp

It’s almost 3 o’clock on a late-summer afternoon at Tampa’s Busch Gardens theme park. I’m here in my daily routine as the pick-up parent, sitting in the car as long as I can before looming storm clouds open up. A few yards away, parents holding yellow cards wait for their children to be dismissed from day camp. I’ll join them soon, braving the heat and the threat of rain to hand my own yellow card to a counselor who calls my son’s name.

Then comes my favorite moment of the day – a giant hug from my little boy.

Of Carlines and Parking Lots

The “pick-up parent” lives in a perpetual state of waiting. During the school year, I wait in my car until just before the bell, then wait outside until the doors open, then wait in the courtyard for my son’s class to come out. Wait and wait and wait some more. Sometimes in a parking lot, sometimes in a carline, sometimes baking in the sun on a bench.

At least today we have smartphones to keep us company. How did parents do this before?

On the other hand, the pick-up parent learns valuable skills, too. Seriously, I stepped up my stunt driving abilities jockeying for position in the carline at preschool, and tested my taste buds sampling the wares after cooking class. And let’s not forget loading dusty gear into the car after baseball camp, and playing art critic as I ooh and aah over various arts and crafts projects.

The Pick-Up Parent vs. The Drop-Off Parent

Truth be told, I love the pick-up parent gig.

My husband takes the “drop-off” shift, taking our son to school or summer camp on his way to work. It makes sense. After all, he’s the punctual one. The thorough one. The one who asks “do you have everything” at least five times before leaving. When they arrive, his dad walks him in, says good-bye, and heads off to work.

Me? I’d lose it every single day if I had to do that.

Taking our son to school

Taking our son to his first day of preschool. This face is why I have to be the pick-up parent.

I mean, I know I got the better end of this deal. My husband has to say good-bye to our son. I get to say hello.

Admittedly, the pick-up shift catches me off-guard now and then. I always seem to be in the middle of something when the alert on my phone sounds, and I have to drop it and go. I feel like I’m rushing, even when I know I’ll just be sitting in a line when I get there.

But every afternoon, I drive to school or camp or whatever and wait for a gaggle of kids to burst out into the light. As they approach, I search all the little faces, looking for the one I know so well. When he sees me, his eyes light up and he waves frantically. Then he breaks into a run, plowing into me with the kind of fierce hug an 8-year-old boy gives his mom.

His mom, the pick-up parent. I love this job.

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