Screeching into the school parking lot, seat belts unclick and swish open. Most of the kids are chit-chattering but one of them is full of sighs and trying-not-to-cry. We approach the drop-off curb with only one car behind us. My fingers are crossed that everyone will exit the car. One, two, three children tumble out and run away. One remains. The top of her earmuffs are in my rear-view mirror.
A second car enters the drop-off line.
Anxious stillness. “You have to get out of the car, Grace.” Stillness, aggressively-passive stillness. “You HAVE to get out of the car, Grace.” My neck heats up.
A third car piles up in-line.
I am grieved and frustrated and angry and pity-full. I unbuckle and step out into the lane, not making eye-contact with the other parents.
The chain of cars increases to four.
I open the door, unclick her seat belt, and ashamedly-bristly-hastily remove her from the car. “I DON’T want to go to school.” I know. I didn’t either.
Walking around to the front of the car and onto the walkway, I place her like a post.
A fifth car arrives and I feel their fists shaking at me: the shame of clogging the line and making them late for work; of placing a slumping child on the curb and walking away. They don’t know how many times this has happened, how many times we have talked and cajoled and threatened and praised and rewarded and cajoled some more.
Her earmuffs are crooked now. Her school bag is dangling in the crook of her arm. Her head is slumped and shoulders begin shaking.
“Dropping My Anxious Daughter Off at School”
by Jesse Brown