Two of the most dreaded words in parenting vocabulary.

Parent pickup. Two of the most dreaded words in the parenting vocabulary. The angst multiples with each additional child in the vehicle. So do the number of earned timeouts, the level of odiferousness, and the depth of the scum in the bottom of the van. We won’t discuss the backpacks, water bottles, and dirty shoes. Oh the dirty shoes.

It’s not my fault; I happen to have a fairly large family with 6 children. All under the age of 10. In order to accommodate the massive number of car seats and boosters as required by law, and as necessitated by my insanely-high level of passion for the safety and security of my gaggle of mini-me’s, I’ve had to give up all hope of driving a remotely cool car. Scratch that. I can’t even drive a cool mini-van. Nope. Not even a Honda Odyssey can accommodate this level of crazy large fam. I practically drive a bus.

It’s hard enough to maneuver my bumbling 12 passenger van through the serpentine of school safeties, orange cones, and actual school busses without running over dropped backpacks and forgotten hockey equipment. But my sense of repose is instantly repressed by those parents that presume my oversized family wagon is a dusty work van awaiting its occupant. It isn’t that dirty, is it? They zip by me in their pretty little Mustangs and Blue-tooth connected Honda Accords, and yeah, even that cool mom with the Odyssey manages to whip her way around my bus-like self as she rushes in to swoop up her singleton. Singleton. One. One child. I can barely even remember what that was like. Seems like a relaxed and easy life-time ago, as I sit exhausted from convincing 3 strong-willed toddlers to get in the van for parent pickup.

The three screaming banshees – I mean, the bored and rather vocal toddlers in their rear facing car seats complete with cups and snacks have already pushed my patience beyond it’s limitless nature when another precious parent swoops around for their duo. Clearly, there is no rush to get in position as school is not out for another 15 or 20 minutes. Clearly, my giant van is invisible. Hello…. I am parent pickup here. Don’t you see me? As I cautiously maneuver into position behind the Odysseys and the Mustangs, a pungent shoe whizzes by my head, courtesy of the adorable cutie-pie who dropped their sippy and ran out of granola bar snack. I cower from the angry shrieks and wait for the other shoe to fly.

Wincing, I wait for it….. andddddd there it is. At least that one is predictable. Finally, there is a lull in the triple threat toddler storm as I begin to ponder….. what is that smell? No, I don’t mean the diaper odor coming from the second row. The other smell. That smell that’s like rotten bananas that have been coated in sauerkraut and sautéed in pork livers. It’s hard to tell where it’s coming from, considering the left-behind, dirty clothes, extra sweatshirts, and at least 20 socks coating the floor amidst lollipop sticks and stale Chik-fil-a waffle fries that have been there since, oh at least last week. It was last week that we took the epic trip to Chik-fil-a, right?

I begin to pray. I close my eyes, head in my hands, dear God please don’t let anyone look in this disgusting filthy bio-hazard of a van. I think I’m having a vision, some kind of thundering, pounding in the cloudy sky. I must have fallen asleep and I am clearly and awkwardly confused as I realize the thundering is really the principal knocking on the window. I secretly wipe away the drool, hoping I didn’t smear my mascara while I was deep in ‘prayer.’

I roll down the passenger window, and as the well-dressed principal leans in I die a little bit on the inside. Maybe a lot a bit. He is, of course, dressed to the nines, complete with suit jacket and bow tie. I panic, wondering if I missed parent-teacher conferences, again. I secretly pray he has the worst cold of his life so he cannot smell that UFO – that unidentified freakish odor. “Your son was in my office today,” he states flatly, leaning in further. I die a little more, hoping he forgot his contacts, too, so he can’t see the filth on the carpet. “We had to discuss his behavior in gym.” Did I mention I have a phobia about school authorities? The quesadilla I had for lunch threatens to join the UFO and the plethora of trash that I hope is hidden on the floor. Swallowing hard, I eke out a faint “Oh?” “We worked it out. He went back to class.”

The quesadilla breathes a sigh of relief as he starts to turn away. The banshees start to yell again and I think I am out of the woods and off of the administrator’s radar. Until he spies my 3 trying to escape their teachers watchful eyes. Their ninja skills have reached expert level, I think proudly. Everyone needs to have a skill, right? Always the gentleman, Mr. Principal opens the passenger door and beckons for the little ninjas to come ahead. Quesadilla rising. Anxiety escaping. UFO intensifying. I am mortified as some of our rubbish spills out and into the car line. Inwardly, I beg Jesus to return. The rapture would really help me out right now, God. The three climb in the van and instantly fight with toddlers over snacks and seats and spilled sippies. Mr. Principal calmly shuts the door, closing the kids – and the smell – inside. I can feel the stares of the parents stuck behind me in the car line as I wrangle kids into car seats, kicking rogue sippies out from under me as I go. A shiny blue sedan zips around, and a perfectly coiffed little girl gingerly steps inside and buckles herself in her unbelievably clean seat while I give a few hairy eyeballs to my crew, muttering about the smell, and desperately trying to fade into the upholstery of my bus-van. Hiding is pointless, no one else here drives this bus. After what feels like an eternity of warding off stinky kicking feet, admiring sticky art projects and passing out wipes for smudgy faces, we are buckled and ready to drive the grand 4 minutes home.


I never realized that relief is spelled “driveway” and “home” cools the raging heartburn of principal-induced anxiety. The kids begin to shout “MOM! What’s wrong?” When they hear my giant sigh of relief. Perhaps I am a little too happy to be home.

But wait. 47 minutes of torturous parent pickup is not quite complete. I still have to unload….

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