Learning in the Carpool Lane


I HATE school carpool. It is the bane of my existence during the school year. That and repeatedly searching to find matching tops for reusable water bottles. Over the fourteen years I’ve been carting children to school, I’ve learned that I need to remove myself as much as possible from the frustration of carpool, so I park and meet my kids at an agreed upon spot in the afternoons.  But in the mornings, we roll through the line as required. The part that makes me feel crazy is the other parents who break the line. As if their time is more important. As though the rules are irrelevant and don’t apply to them. I always wonder what they’re teaching their kids. That cheating is okay? They end up slowing down the line and making everyone else mad, but they don’t seem to care about anyone but themselves. 

The other day, my oldest son forgot his practice uniform, so I took it to him at his high school. It wasn’t the end of the day, but with only one period remaining, a lot of the student drivers with early release times were leaving. And that’s when I witnessed the most orderly carpool I’ve ever seen. Better than any adult driver carpool by far. Better than any exit after a concert or sporting event. There was a main line of cars that I was in. Then there were four or five side lines from the parking lots where cars sat waiting to enter the main line. Every single time a car in the main line reached an auxiliary line, the car stopped, allowed one car into the main line, and then proceeded. The cars trying to get in the main line waited and didn’t try to nose their way in. Not once did a second car try to jump in. These teenage drivers were polite and efficient. No horn honking. No cheating. 

I couldn’t believe it. No one was directing traffic. No teachers were watching. But those kids. Those kids were amazing. And as silly as it might seem, the whole episode gave me a spark of hope. While I assume carpool at the high school does not always run as smoothly as it did that day, the young drivers were patient when I saw them. They were not in such a hurry or so self-centered that they completely disregarded the people around them. I think we could learn a thing or two from the way they acted. 

Adulting can be hard. Difficult days sometimes outnumber the easy ones. But being a kid can be hard too. Those students carry a lot of stress and pressure. If those young people can figure out carpool in a high school parking lot, they have the potential to do just about anything. I’m being completely serious. And if they can hang on to the kindness and the respect that they showed one another on that day as they mature, then they will do well. And us grownups would do well to follow their lead. To show a little more kindness and a bit more consideration for others. In carpool and in life.    

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