Carpool Line and Car Seats


My Kindergartener is in a Carseat - Can I Still Do the Carpool Line at School?  

Every September this issue rears up on online moms' groups. There's a new crop of kindergartners, secured safely in their harnessed seats, and their moms are facing the school carpool line for the first time. In most schools, this line has strict rules. Stay in your car, quick entry and exit, and keep the line moving. Back door opens and closes and most importantly, THE DRIVER DOES NOT GET OUT OF THE CAR. "I don't know what to do!" wail these moms. "I don't feel like it's safe to drive until she's totally buckled into her harness, and I just don't trust her to do it on her own! The teachers won't do it, and when I got out, even though I was super quick, they told me I can't do that in the carpool line! It's only a few seconds! And it's all about safety! It's not fair!"

There are legitimate concerns on both sides. These new kindergartners are five. Many of them aren't big enough for a booster/seat belt combo (and in some states, they aren't even legal). And both mom and child have had car seat safety drilled into them since they left the hospital - you don't move the car without making sure that harness is perfectly aligned, every time. Chest clip, untwisted straps and all. But the entire point of the carpool line is to keep things moving. If a school has 50-75 kindergartners, and every parent takes a record breaking thirty seconds to hop out, secure the harness, and hop back in to drive (and let's face it, that's probably the quickest), you've just added a full half hour to the carpool line. Those parents and kids at the end of the line are looking at a very extended school day and a LOT of idling. It's not about being in a rush, it's about manners. Parents don't get out of the car for a reason. This system is for efficiency.

So, what are your options? It really depends on a) your comfort level and b) your school set up.

1. Park your car and drop off and pick your kid up as a walker. Plenty of moms wail that they have a baby/toddler who is sleeping and that this isn't fair and schools just hate car seat safety, but realistically, this is your best option if your kid can't buckle and you won't drive until they're 100% secured. You won't be banished from the line forever. Practice having your child buckle and unbuckle themselves until you feel they can handle it.

2.  Load your kiddo into the seat, have them buckling themselves, drive to an area you can pull over, and THEN get out and check their work. Most five year olds are very capable of buckling their own harnesses, and they won't do such a horrible job that they'll be at risk in the time it takes to exit the line. I used this in the preschool car line.  At drop off, I'd unbuckle myself, turn around and unbuckle her seat. When she got a little stronger and I discovered the buckle bopper, she could do it herself when I gave her the go ahead.

Sadly, that's it. There is no option three. No matter how fast you are, your choices are either to park and walk, or to pull away without getting out of your car to check the buckle.  Most moms find a way to be ok with one or the other for the few months that this will be an issue, and a few create lasting reputations by making a stink or continually holding up the line (since kindergarten is typically the start of a long relationship with the school and your fellow parents, I don't recommend being a part of these few). But the kindergarten year flies by, and soon you'll be complaining that your child doesn't even say goodbye as he hops out of the car! Until then, the golden rule is to follow the rules!

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