Setting the Stage

As this coming week is the last before school starts, I took the boys over to the elementary school last week to prepare them for the drop off and pick up routine for the year.  In all reality, our routine isn’t changing any from last year to this year, but Cameron needed to be taught the routine and Brendan needed to understand his new role in the routine.

We started off with the drop off routine.  It’s pretty simple actually, I drive into the drop off lane and unload the kids.  I wanted to go through it anyhow because I don’t like to keep the other cars in the lane waiting if I can help it so it was mostly about teaching Cameron to get out of the car quickly.  The other reason for the practice was to get him used to looking for (imaginary) crossing guards and looking both ways before crossing the street.  Brendan’s new role for this piece was to stay with his brother and help him across the busy bus lane.

The boys looked at me like I was crazy for making them practice this step.  Cameron had seen Brendan get out of the van a million times last school year.  It was the part of the morning routine that he was most familiar with.  But despite their reservations about why I was making them practice this step, they obeyed.

After watching their progress I got the car turned around and pulled up to the sidewalk in front of the school.  Step two was to teach Cameron which set of doors to line up at once he had been dropped off.  There are three sets of doors to enter the school in and each is labeled with a two grades.  They have the Kindergarenters lining up at the main doors to the school which, on the surface, makes the most sense.  It is the set of doors that the kids would naturally be drawn to if they weren’t sure where they needed to go.

However, Cameron is not you average child.  He has this bad habit of following his brother around wherever he goes.  My fear was that Cameron would automatically follow Brendan down to the 4th grade door where one of two things would happen.  Brendan would not pay any attention to the fact that his brother had followed him since he’d be too busy talking with his friends, or would freak out that his brother had followed him and have a meltdown because he would be unable to convince Cameron to go to the Kindergarten door.  So I made sure that Cameron knew that he was to line up separately from Brendan.

I had them practice running from the van to their respective doors a few times, and sure enough 2 out of 3 times Cameron began to swerve and head for the same door as Brendan before I reminded him to go to the one labeled Kindergarten.  I’m really hoping after a few days Cameron will have made enough friends in his class that he won’t be tempted to follow Brendan any longer.

Once we established the drop off procedure it was time to go over the pick up plan.  The plan for pick up has not changed since last year either, we will still have the boys walk down the street to our friends house where I will be waiting in their driveway.  This allows them to have a specific location to look for my car rather than having to search through all of the zoo like parking lot at the school, and as an added benefit I don’t have to leave 45 minutes before school lets out just to get a semi-decent parking spot to wait for them.  Besides, allowing them to walk that few hundred extra feet allows them to feel more independent than I think they would otherwise.  Little do they know I can see them from the moment they leave school property all the way until they reach our friends house, so their independence is closely monitored by their mom.

Step 3 was establishing a location for the boys to meet once they got out of school.  Last year when I was teaching Brendan the procedure I set up a location to meet him for the first month or so after school started because I was afraid he would forget which house belonged to our friends (despite the presence of my gigantic blue van sitting in front of it–this is the same kid who can be tripping over his shoes and claim he can’t find them).

During that month I loaded Cameron and Kaylee into our double stroller and walked up to the school to Brendan and I’s meeting spot.  It was a huge pain.  Cameron didn’t much like being stuck into the stroller but if I let him walk down to the school then Kaylee wanted to walk too.  With her walking the walk took 14 times as long as it should have since she was still not quite 2.  Then there was the hassle of keeping them busy for the 5-10 minutes it took for Brendan to get to us since I usually arrived a few minutes before school even let out.  All in all I was glad when Brendan told me he could make it on his own and I didn’t need to come up to the school and walk with him any longer.

For this year I decided that having Brendan and Cameron meet before walking down to the house would serve the same purpose that me meeting Brendan last year did.  Right now my intention is to have them meet there every day all year long, but depending on the amount of independence Cameron shows I may change that policy later on this school year, we will just have to wait and see.

I chose the same spot that Brendan and I met last year since it would be familiar to both of them.  There is a tree that stands at the corner of the school’s property.  There is usually a teacher at that corner monitoring the ebb and flow of traffic entering the school parking lot so they still have an adult there watching over them, but the crush of kids trying to find their parents is a little thinner at that point so the boys should be able to locate one another fairly easily.

Once we walked up to our meeting spot I moved on to step 4.  With Cameron leading the way we walked down to our friends house from the school.  Even though I know I am setting the precedent that Brendan will be with Cameron to show him the way, I am not crazy enough to think that there won’t be a time that Brendan won’t be with Cameron due to illness or other unforeseen circumstances.  So I wanted to make absolutely sure Cameron remembered which house he was looking for.  He hesitated only once, but with a little encouragement picked a direction and ended up at the correct house.

He was so proud of himself.  Standing there in the driveway I could just see him beaming with confidence at his ability to find his way from school to our friend’s house.  Once there, I had just one more thing to teach him.  I asked him if he knew what to do in the very unlikely event that I wasn’t waiting in the car for him and Brendan when they got there after school.  I figured I would have to explain to him what to do since I didn’t remember talking to him about it before this.  However, as soon as the question left my mouth he ran up to their front porch and sat down upon it.

I could not believe it, he knew exactly what was to be done.  He must have been listening to me last year as I continually pounded that procedure into Brendan’s head.  I don’t know why I worry about it so much, I’ve never been late picking Brendan up from school, and if there was anything that prevented me from getting there it’s not like I don’t have a dozen or so family members that I could call upon to help me out.  But despite knowing that, I need the boys to know what to do in that situation.

Their job is to just stay put.  No our friends aren’t home when I’m picking them up from school, they both have full time jobs as well.  But if we are delayed it’s best if the boys stay in one spot waiting rather than trying to get back up to the school.  Plus, (and I hope against hope that this scenario would never ever play out) in the event that no one in the family was able to get up to the school and pick them up our friends should arrive home from work about an hour or so after the boys get out of school so they would already be somewhere where someone could watch over them.  Seriously though, if it ever happens that me, Matt, both our parents, my brother, and two of Matt’s three siblings can’t find a way to get up to the school for an hour after school lets out…we’ve obviously got major problems.

Once we’d gone through all of the steps, we walked back up to where my car was parked at the school.  I could see the boys were getting bored, but I had one more thing I wanted to have them do.  I loaded everyone back into the car and said that before we went home I wanted them to run through the full routine beginning to end.  So I would drop them off in the drop off lane just like it was a school morning and then take my car down to our friends house and wait for them.  Meanwhile they were to run and touch the door they were supposed to line up at, then meet each other at the tree, before walking down to the house together.

The boys perked up a bit at the lengthy challenge and were eager for me to go around the block and get back into the drop off lane.  I let them out of the car and began to drive away, making sure that they were through the cross walk and headed for their respective doors as I did so.  Then as I went to make the turn to head off school property and over to our friends house I saw that their principal was out with someone checking over the grounds to the school.

My heart sank a little as I passed her.  What must she think of me dropping my kids off like that and driving away when there wasn’t anyone at the school.  But I stuck with my plan anyway figuring if the question came up I could just explain that we were practicing our after school routine.  I hoped she would be happy at our forethought.  As it turned out the question never came up.  She must have been engrossed in what she was doing and didn’t see what the boys and I were doing, or if she did she assumed we were doing exactly what we were doing.

I drove down to our friends house to wait for the boys.  Within a minute or so I saw them both arrive at the designated tree.  From there Brendan insisted that Cameron hold his hand and together they walked down to our friend’s house.  It really warms my heart to see Brendan take his role as his brother’s protector so seriously.  There are days when I wonder if they aren’t about to kill each other at home, and Brendan seems, at those times, to have absolutely no love for his brother whatsoever.

But he demonstrated both that day and when we went through swimming lessons that protecting his younger brother is more important to him than anything else.  I couldn’t be prouder of my oldest son.



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