Now that we’ve been back at school for several weeks, there is a certain type of Facebook post that has become commonplace amongst my friends whose children go to school: the drop-off and pick-up line angst post.
This should really be a Facebook post genre in its own right, up there with posts about politics, extreme weather, and arguments about obeying the gods.
As a homeschool mom, the phenomenon of the brick-and-mortar school pick-up and drop-off is foreign to me. Shoot, I get irritated if the person in front of me at the Starbucks drive-thru has a complicated order. I can’t even imagine how I’d fare in the pick-up line. Probably with lots of rage. Or reading. One or the other.
I do, however, drop off and pick up my kids from their ballet school on a daily basis. I simply pull up to the ballet studio, put the car in park, and watch as they tumble out, grabbing bags and water bottles.
A few years ago, when I started dropping them off at the studio instead of going in with them, I began to give some last-minute words of advice. It morphed into being the same set of words every day. I said it casually enough that it took them quite a while to pick up on the fact that I was indeed saying the same thing.
Here is what I say: “Work hard. Have fun. Be kind. Love you.”
First, I want my children to attend to the task at hand, whether it’s a math question, a book to read, or a class to participate in. I want them to apply themselves and give things their best. I want them to be diligent in doing what is before them and have a good work ethic—to do a whole job and not a half job. I want them to experience whatever they’re doing to the fullest by giving it everything they’ve got. I want them to do things with excellence; I want them to develop skill and virtue.
While they work hard, I want my children to love what they are doing. The day the magic of ballet no longer exists in their eyes is the day I want them to find whatever it is that sparks that joy. This can be a tricky thing—this having fun. I don’t necessarily mean I want them to be entertained. Of course, I want them to enjoy themselves and find the things they spend their time on to be satisfying, but I also want them to find satisfaction in the things they do even if they don’t particularly like them. Whether it’s dancing or reading or doing chores or forming logical syllogisms, I want them to figure out how to have fun and experience the depth of joy that comes with doing something that needs to be done and doing it well. (I have been informed that logical syllogisms are still not fun. Your mileage may vary.)
As they go about their activities and tasks, and especially as they participate in classes and events where they are on their own, surrounded by other equally degenerate souls, they are going to experience unpleasant interactions. They will be teased occasionally. They will be treated rudely. They will experience other people’s anger, bullying, and cold indifference. This is a part of reality. I want them to remember to see the image of God in each person they encounter and, no matter what others may or may not do, to remember who they are and that they can always choose kindness in any situation. I wish I were a better model for them in this area, especially in the Starbucks drive-thru.
Most importantly of all, I want them to know that, no matter what—even if they phone in their efforts, have absolutely zero fun, and behave like trolls—I love them. I want the last thing they always hear before going anywhere to be that I love them. I want them to get a little dopamine hit every time they get out of the car. They are loved beyond measure. As a matter of fact, if by this time they have already bolted, I am sure to roll down the windows and yell “LOVE YOU” as loud as I can at them as they make their way to the studio door. I especially like to do this when there are other kids within hearing distance also walking from their cars to the studio. Sometimes, my kids pretend not to hear me. Other times, they turn around, flash me huge smiles, and yell it right back at me.
We reached a point after several months of this where they started to catch on. My surreptitious gig was up. I could see it on their faces: They were on to me. I’d pull up, park, open my mouth to begin speaking, and they’d cut me off, firing words off at me in one hasty breath before I could get the words out myself: “Workhardhavefunbekindloveyou.” Then they’d bolt from the car before I knew what was happening. So much for my pleasant ritual.
I developed this little series of statements because there were a few things I wanted my kids to hear over and over. It is important to my husband and me that we provide our children with rituals. From morning prayers to family dinners to small words spoken as they get out of the car, we want to provide them ways to remember who they are. I wanted to take this small moment in time and form them with it. I wanted the words that came out of my mouth to honor them. I hope and pray that they do.