Everyday Etiquette: A Carpool Refresher Course

By Diane Gottsman

Everyday EtiquetteRaising children is such a blessing: Watching them grow and change, helping them go from printing to cursive writing, teaching them how to plant a garden, use a fork and tie their little shoes. In fact, your motherly enthusiasm had almost qualified you for the neighborhood “Mother of the Year” award … until someone on the nominating committee mentioned your shaky carpool record. Oops! Here’s a refresher course …. and better luck next year!

1. Get dressed. Although it is tempting to jump in the car with your morning coffee and your pj’s and bunny slippers, there is always a chance you might have to get out of the car for an emergency. You don’t want to be in your flannel nightgown when you have to talk to the principal or wait for a tow truck.

2. A slow roll is not the same thing as completely stopping your car and waiting for your little passengers to unload. They not only have to get out themselves, but they may also be carrying a backpack, a box of tissue and their pet gerbil for show and tell.

3. The carpool line is not the place to have a parent-teacher conference. Make an
appointment rather than holding up the line to discuss Sarah’s science project.

4. Other people's children are as important as your own. If you have volunteered to bring your neighbor's three children home from school, make sure you have all three in tow, not just the two who were ready and waiting.

5. Don't “double buckle.” Only commit to taking as many children as you have seatbelts.

6. Stay off your cell phone. When driving through a busy carpool line, whether dropping off or picking up, it is more important to focus on the children than making appointments or lunch plans with a friend.

7. Watch for break lights. If you don’t see them, it may be a sign that you are too close to your fellow carpool buddy.

8. If the rule is “No Parking” at a certain location during carpool hours, then park elsewhere. Imagine all of the other parents in their cars, doing what they are supposed to be doing, watching you while you – parked in the red zone – walk past them.

9. Don’t bring your pets to school. It is distracting to the teachers to have a group of children run up to your car, and worse if your little yapper takes a chunk out of one of the students.

10. Reorganize the interior of your car before you get into the carpool line. Getting out of the car to rearrange boxes and shopping bags so your passengers will fit should be done earlier in the day, not when there are 30 cars impatiently waiting behind you.

11. Know the emergency exits and follow the flight plan. If, for some reason, you must get out of the carpool line, don’t drive in the opposite direction just because “it’s closer and there are not a lot of cars yet.”

12. If your kids are being dropped off by someone else, make sure to be home to receive them. On that same note, if it is your day to pick up the kids, don’t call another mom 10 minutes ahead of time to change plans (unless it is an emergency, of course). Implement a 24-hour cancellation policy, just like your hairdresser. After all, your children are just as important as a good haircut.

Enjoy the ride!

Diane Gottsman is an etiquette and protocol expert who leads programs for children and adults.