Back to reality: school dropoff

Four days since the school holidays ended, and already they’re a distant memory.  Back in the morning battles of the school dropoff, guest poster Ben wonders again if there isn’t a better way… 

 My kids had a blast during the holidays, and so did I.  My partner and I resolved to do as little driving time and screen time as we could, so we were going to try Crazy New Ways to get around the city to do stuff.  The kids grumped – of course, they’d much prefer it if we chauffered them everywhere.  But armed with Snapper cards and the Onzo app (and Uber/Zoomy on our credit card just in case), they got themselves to and from friends’ houses, to paintball, the movies, to hang out on the waterfront, and to do some shopping. They were amongst the 6,000 people giving Onzo’s a try.

 

They were mostly back on time, we didn’t have any major worries, and the only bad experience was my youngest getting yelled at by an angry driver for onzo-ing across a street amongst  people crossing on a green man (slowly, she said!). And lots of grizzling for getting rained on once (but they refused rainjackets that morning so lesson learned).

But it’s all over now:  we’re back in the school run routine.

As parents, our mornings with the kids are defined by driving – the distracted half-conversations as we navigate the school run traffic, culminating in a stressful dropoff in a melée of other parents.  Our Good Parent halo gets pretty dented by our irritation with all those other people, as we resentfully navigate everyone else’s cars.     I don’t want my kids to be trying to cycle through that, Onzo or not – apparently seeing cycling stuff when we’re driving makes us angry at the best of times  – let alone in the school dropoff zone. 

School gate dropoff traffic causes the “red mist” to descend over the most reasonable parent’s eyes. Nek minnit, you’re abusing other parents, abusing kids, or doing stuff you’d never normally do in a car “because I have to get my child to school!”   It’s a chronic issue for urban schools. It’s been reported on for ages. One example here features Auckland schools but has “yes, us too” from several others around the country.

Another way:


The only answer in NZ, it’s implied, is for people to dob in bad parking and driving to the Police who are the only people who can do anything.  Stuff’s shorter focus article on the Auckland situation does that here, and earlier coverage is the same: ticketing is the only implied solution – council and police vs parents and caregivers.

But no-one mentions kids taking the bus or getting to school under their own steam. Even just being dropped a bit further away rather than at the school gate – walking, scooting, biking (on the footpath) the last few minutes to get there. When our kids so badly need incidental exercise, why is it we won’t at least drop them a block away from school? Or get them to the bus?

Over the holidays, car-loving Herald columnist John Roughan confessed to his pleasant surprise on experiencing Auckland’s great bus service. (He was back in the car eventually, but he’s clearly got a private carpark in town otherwise no such thing as “door to door”.) Why can’t we have a bus service that’s a genuine competitor with driving?

If not bussing (perhaps not for a while yet), why not drive and bike or walk? We have bikes at home.  The kids love the Onzos so maybe we should think about “trip chaining”… It’s technically illegal to ride on the footpath but if the kids are well grilled in courteous riding, maybe it’s OK? Or perhaps we can just drop them off a k away from the school and they can walk!

There are lots of reasons why contemporary (middle-class) parenting involves driving kids around a lot, but many of them are still in our control.

You’d be forgiven for thinking some part of us enjoys the “circle of hell” that is school gate dropoff; that we don’t mind angst and stress dominating our last few minutes together in the mornings.

The holidays, Onzo and John Roughan have got us wondering – and in our household, we’re going to take the choice back into our own hands.

 

Has anyone else had a school-holidays resolution like Ben’s household? 

Have your kids been Onzo-ing? Our project manager Kate did; she’s a grown up and generally confident person but had a lot of “Yikes!” moments… 

 

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