Every parent’s favorite time of year is finally here, BACK TO SCHOOL SZN!
In honor of my little girl having just started the first grade, I proudly present a list of all the weirdest things that happened last year in kindergarten during the wild, magical and mysteriously strange time known as morning drop-off.
After having lived in one of the more affluent upper-middle class areas in Orange County, CA for over a decade now, you would think that I would’ve gotten used to the sight of ultra expensive luxury cars out on the streets probably running the same errands that I am except I’m in my 2007 Honda Element with the crazy dent on the passenger side door. For the most part, I have but the concept has lost it’s shine ever since I had to sit behind and watch some genius level intellect try to maneuver a dropped to the floor Lamborghini into a tight McDonald’s drive-thru. With that said, I’ve got to come clean and say that when I saw gull wing doors rise majestically to the heavens one bright spring day at morning drop-off it felt like seeing a unicorn take flight. I remember having a Keanu Reeves “Whoa” moment. It was like I saw an actual Transformer changing between forms ten feet away from an adult me. I wish I was more of a car person so that I could properly describe it’s exact make and model other than it was a red two seater that seemed kinda “concept-y” but alas. My five year old took to calling it Bumblebee. I’ve tried to correct her by mentioning how it was technically more of a Sideswipe. We saw Bumblebee a total of three times during the whole school year.
Teachers are the stewards of our most valuable resource. They are overworked and underpaid, overlooked and under appreciated. They are the shapers of the future of our civilization and should be classified as honest to God capital H heroes, but have you seen them work the curb during the morning drop-off? Don’t get me wrong, if there were anyone more deserving to be allowed to go full-on aggro before 8am while dealing with entitled, idiot drivers who don’t appreciate being told to pull up so that everyone else behind them can get some space on the curb to safely drop off their children than a teacher who else could it possibly be? You go ahead and yell at that soccer mom holding up the line, I got your back. You stay showing those lolly-gaggers how to keep it moving by spinning your arms so fast that you could almost achieve self propelled flight. Don’t ever stop, you amazing bastion of learning you. This is YOUR time to shine bright and burn hot, no one can take that away from you. Not until that first bell rings, of course. Then you’re definitely going to have to chill.
Unlike the grizzled veteran parents of first graders, kindergarten parents still exist within that mixed glow of pride that comes with watching one’s offspring take their first major step in academia along with the slight sting of anguish of watching their children begin their slow march away from them and towards being their own person. Equal parts of which, especially if this was their first or only child, strongly compel them to stay on campus until their little one is safely in class. Every morning, this crowd of parents are gathered around each other fawning over their child and/or dreading the moment they are taken away. We meet each other, we empathize, we commiserate, we politely console if necessary. Every morning, we slowly build relationships with each other and as with any situation where a group of adults are put together in a social environment sexual tension is going to arise. I could be wrong. I’m not claiming to be an expert, but there were some subtle hints of flirtatious energy floating around the backpack hooks all year. When young professional cool dad drops off son and starts chatting up stay at home hipster mom dropping off her daughter, sparks are bound to fly. Is it just them being extra nice in the hopes of possibly securing a consistent play date between their kids? Or is it that they’re both looking at what kind of progeny they can create together and start imagining what a new coupling (or side coupling, who’s to say) would end up making. Child A’s blue eyes with my high cheek bones, OMG. Again, I have no concrete evidence to prove any of this, but I definitely felt the vibes surrounding me. The possibility of having kids is already a major deal breaker to begin with, but come to drop-off and you already know where a person stands on that question, for the most part. They are clearly helping the answer to that specific question get their lunchbox out of their backpack, so for the last five years at least they’ve been down to fuck.
During the school year, we attended three kindergarten recitals (a fall pageant, a winter concert and an American History recital possibly for President’s Day). While each one was cuter and more heart wrenching than the last, they all seemed pretty standard in terms of production quality and execution. What was truly extraordinary about each event, one could clearly see as soon as they pulled into the parking lot. Or attempted to at least. The lines for each recital was staggering. When my wife and I got in line for the fall pageant half hour before curtain, the queue was 60 deep, easy. The closer we got to being let into the tiny multi-purpose room the more I questioned whether I was there to see my little girl sing about Thanksgiving or if I was about to shell out some serious coin on the new Supreme drop. It was insane. The most Orange County moment was during the winter concert when a family had their housekeeper hold their place in front of the line then cut in seven strong right before showtime with still steaming Starbucks cups in their snugly mittened hands. I was incensed. Then my wife reminded me where we lived and was made less so.
Fundraising is apparently a huge part of the school year (PTA dues, Scholastic book fairs, canned food drives, etc.) so it wasn’t too surprising to see someone out on the far side of the drop-off line collecting recyclables once a month. Sure having it be a stereotypical California bro guy with an extra aggressive sales pitch (“Yo, my man, I know you got cans for me. I better see them here next time.”) driving a blacked out monster truck as the face of this operation was a bit odd. So what if he had a legion of little elementary school acolytes handing out donut holes and floss dancing to Kidz Bop jams when they should be going to class? After watching Recycle Bro go about his business for a couple months, I started inquiring to various school staffers and random parents about where the money actually goes. From what I’ve gathered, it is believed that the proceeds from the recycling goes either to the main school fundraiser or the local Boys and Girls Club or to a nearby church with a struggling after school program or to an AYSO soccer organization depending on the time of year and the specific person I asked. Since I do my own recycling and filter those funds back into getting my kids more toys that they don’t need, my investigation really didn’t go any deeper than that. It was a sweet gig if you can get away with it. Good on you, Recycle Bro.
Parents are definitely wilding out with naming their kids these days. As a traditionalist for the most part, it’s really hard for me to come to grips that I have never personally known a Lindsay or a Ben in my life but there’s a better than average chance my kid could be having a play date with a Daenerys or a Maverick in a couple of months. I’ll chalk that up to being another by product of peak TV. However, please feel free to tell me I told you so when I start posting pictures of the newest addition to our family, Fleabag Waystar RoyCo Vilar, on the socials.
On the flip side, a little boy in my daughter’s class had a baby sister named Spike which is all sorts of baller and made even cooler because she was such a delight.
Of all the things in this world that would unite a group of kindergarteners of such varied backgrounds, I never thought that it would be “an isopod crustacean of the family Armadillidiidae (also known as a pill bug)” or more commonly known as a Roly Poly. It was such an odd sight watching my kid’s whole class checking through the grass and in the planters looking for those tiny little fuckers. If kids from my generation can have pogs then why can’t my daughter’s have Roly Polys? They’re harmless enough on their own, I guess, but these kids are collecting them by the dozen. My biggest fear during this whole phase was that one day I would turn around and see five of them casually walking into and out of my little girl’s ear canal. The thought of it still sends shivers down my spine.
Coffee is the lifeblood of modern civilization, the fuel necessary to make upward mobilization in the morning possible, the nectar of enlightenment, death before decaf, but first coffee, blah blah blah. Yeah, I get it. What I don’t get is the questionable phenomena of parents taking their coffee to school in regular ceramic coffee mugs. Weird hill to die on, I know, but I’ve noticed that almost all of the coffee drinking parents at morning drop-off are drinking their steaming hot rocket fuel in vessels without tops. Was that mom pushing a stroller with one hand, walking her kindergartener to class with the other while holding a baby in the crook of her arm using a thermos? Nope, a mug. Does business dad over there rocking the Air Pods and is, not surprisingly, preoccupied on his phone have his morning joe hovering over his child’s head secured in a convenient travel container? Not at all. Call me paranoid, but that sort of reckless behavior especially around children keeps me up a night. One misstep in a high traffic area where the traffic is wildly energetic children and you might end up with your kid suffering a second degree burn. More importantly, what if it was my kid? Thankfully, there were no coffee related incidents that I personally ran into or heard of last year. But if this persists, it’s just a matter of time.
Out of all these weird things, the weirdest thing I encountered during kindergarten drop-off last year was this one dad who’s daughter was in my kid’s class and coordinated his outfits around what color bandanna was in his pocket. He only dropped off his child maybe one or twice a week, but every time, it was either the shirt or the sneakers that matched with the perfectly placed decorative handkerchief in his back pocket. Blood red bandanna was paired with blood red Chuck Taylors. The baby blue bandanna was matched with North Carolina themed Nike Dunks. The most memorable combination consisted of the mustard yellow bandanna with a mustard yellow trucker cap culminating in a pair of crisp brown and mustard yellow New Balances. Bandanna dad was a musician, I believe, and he was very nice the handful of times we spoke. To this day, I will always regret how I never complimented him on both his dedicated fashion sense and his commitment to the bit. Cheers to you, sir. Shabby dads like me could only one day hope to get on your level.
Illustration by Jericho Vilar
Jericho Vilar is an illustrator currently based in Santa Ana, CA. He’s been known to drop the occasional heat rock.