Child Caring

Preschool drop-off in the 'car line' is causing anxiety -- for dad

Dear Barbara,

I would like to get your take about preschool dropoffs with a car-line.

My children were both daycare kids, and in each case, when they turned 4, we tried to switch from a daycare center to a more traditional preschool. In one case, we chose a preK-8 school, and in another, a Montessori school. ...Both are schools with great reputations, having been in the community for 30+ years. One school had about 200 kids, and the other about 60. We checked references and did our homework.
Once the school year started, we were told that, with no exception, the children were to be dropped off at the door of the school. We were strictly forbidden from entering the classroom with our children. [Once when] I dropped in at the middle of the school day, I was told that I could not peek in to see my son's classroom.

I understand that children should be given opportunities to develop their independence. However, my children were not ready for this at age 4. They could separate fine when I walk them in to the classroom, but they did not like the car line.

On my side, I feel that I get a lot of information about my child and his happiness in the classroom based on that very short 3-5 minutes from the school lobby to getting them settled in the classroom. I can see it in their eyes and their body language. I can see which teacher they choose to greet, and which friends they run to play with. All of these things are re-assuring and quick. My children don't cry when I leave.

Additionally, over the years of daycare drop-offs, we've seen certain days when the classrooms were understaffed, and the teachers were clearly stressed out. We've seen some teachers totally not engaging with the children. In other words, we've seen mismanaged classrooms. These are things we try to not over-react on, but we take note and if there's a pattern, we know to have a conversation with the director. If I am not allowed to walk in, I have no idea what is even in the classrooms.

I don't understand how such reputable preschools can forbid parents from entering the classroom. Am I unreasonable? When we talked to the teachers and directors, we were told that we are harming our children by being over-protective.
From: Harry, Brookline, MA

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Dear Harry,

I, too, have been a parent in both situations you're describing, where you could walk your child into day care and preschool, and then, at a second preschool that was part of an elementary school as well as throughout elementary years, where there was a car drop-off and pick-up line. At first, it was a huge shock to be expected to let my 4-year-old off at the curb, even if it was into the arms of a waiting teacher. But he rarely looked back! Some of those days, I pulled into a nearby church parking lot afterwards, just to take a few deep breaths.

I got used to it. You will, too.

These policies have sound reasons behind them. The rule that you can't peek into or visit your child's preschool classroom is probably based on experience where a parent's presence has upset some other child whose parent isn't there. Then there's also the need not to have adults wandering the building at will, even if they are adults who belong to children. As for the car line, it's usually because urban schools lack parking facilities, need to keep traffic moving and need to maintain safety and security. It also signals to children: School is your world.

This is a letting-go issue. Your issue. Walking your kids into the classroom, being able to "drop in," gives you a sense of control and, sure, yes, a chance to eyeball the environment, the teachers -- all that you say. Get over it. I won't go so far as to agree with the school that you are "harming" your children or being "over-protective;" I'm guessing they were reacting to what they perceived as an entitled attitude. I think it's terrific that you want more than a drop-off/pick-up relationship with your child's school. Go back to these folks and ask (nicely) about volunteer opportunities. That's your chance for eyeball-to-eyeball observation.

Meanwhile, I suspect your children will be fine with the car line, especially if they understand that all their classmates get dropped off this way, too. That this is the rule at the school. Period. (Carpooling with classmates will help, even at this young age.) Schools have lots of rules. Kids get that.

But there is a caveat: Your kids will only be fine with this when you are. My advice is to get with the program or to at least stop complaining/talking about it in their presence so it doesn't become a self-fulfilling prophesy where they really do require you to walk them in and the transition to school becomes a serious problem.

Readers, what's your opinion about drop-offs in the car line?