Rush hour starts early for parents of school-aged kids

November 22, 2000

Rush hour starts early for parents of school-aged kids

Let's play a game. It's called word association. I say a word and all you parents with children in school say the first word that comes to your mind. Ready, begin:

Frantic ...

Rushed ...

Hurried ...

Hectic ...

Chaotic ...

Now let's check our answers.

Frantic = school morning;

Rushed = school morning;

Hurried = school morning;


Hectic = school morning;

Chaotic = my husband trying to help get the children ready on a school morning.

I think you get the picture. The pace of a school morning at our house runs just a little bit ahead of a lap at Daytona.

We've all had crazy mornings. The kids mill around waiting for the 60th set of directions about getting dressed and eating breakfast. The well-meaning, but domestically inept, husband asks what setting should he use when ironing a tie.

Ah, yes, I see it clearly in my mind like it was yesterday. Wait, that was yesterday.

One rushed morning

Recently, a dear friend of mine took her usual chaotic morning routine to the next level. Lou Ann is my mentor. She holds a medical doctor's degree, works part time, volunteers in her community and meets the daily challenges of parenting with enormous energy, pride and dedication. In short, Lou Ann has her act together.

With three children fed and ready for school, Lou Ann loads her posse into the family car. She lets out a long, deep sigh, feeling she has nearly crossed the finished line.

But wait. This is where it gets good.

My ultra-intelligent friend pushes the button to raise the electric garage door. Nothing happens. She pushes again. Still, nothing happens. One more try. The door still won't budge.

As luck would have it, this is a two-car garage, with separate doors. She opens the other door. No problem, except her car is one of the large, road-warrior-type SUVs. Driving a little VW punch-buggy-type car, there wouldn't be a story to tell. No, this vehicle makes a woolly mammoth look like a shaggy pup.

Of course, the garage is not empty. Like every garage, lots of garage stuff is stored and stacked around the perimeter, making enough room for only one woolly mammoth.

Lou Ann checks her watch, realizes she is fighting the clock. She swears she can hear the starting bell for school ring miles away. No time to waste or the children will be marked tardy because Mom's car is stuck in the garage.

Lou Ann must now make a critical decision: Call her husband, a physician working at a local hospital to rescue the kids, or find a way out of the garage.

She gives her husband a try. Unable to make contact, she comes up with a plan. Exit via the open bay. But she would soon discover such a plan involves turning the car around - while it's inside the garage.

Forward and back, forward and back, in little SUV baby steps. At one point, she realizes this maneuvering is taking far too long. For a brief moment she considers calling the school nurse to report that all of the children have a bad case of beriberi.

Forget the simple three-point turn the examiners at the Motor Vehicle Administration evaluate for the license test. Only a mom in a desperate rush to get her kids to school in time can accomplish "Turn the SUV Around In The Garage" test.

Now, halfway through this 180-degree exercise, Lou Ann tries calling her husband again. This time she explains in a calm, rational tone - at the top of her lungs - that this is a family crisis. Her call is finally forwarded to her husband.

He asks, "Have you tried lifting the garage door?"

"No," she states.

She adds through her gritted teeth. "You don't understand. The car is sitting perpendicular to the door. I'm stuck in the garage and can't get out! I have to finish turning this vehicle around to get out."

"Oh! That may make it a little tougher then," he sighs with amusement.

Undaunted, she presses on. Actually, she presses the bumper into each wall about four or five times until the SUV faces forward.

Lou Ann's 8-year-old son, Evan, decides to follow his father's instructions. He walks to the front of the electronically sealed and closed garage door, grabs the handle and gracefully lifts the door with one hand.

"Teamwork kids. Teamwork," says Lou Ann as she puts her car in drive and heads toward school.

"See, kids," she says to the backseat, "I told you we could do it."

Three sets of eyebrows rise and fall. "We knew you could Mom," they replied.

JoEllen Barnhart is assistant to the director for Frostburg State University's Hagerstown Center. She has three sons.

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