Ali Campbell believes three ’p’s can guide you as you take your child to school and pick them up: be prayerful, be present and be patient


Here we are again, ready for the mayhem that is getting kids ready for the school day! I want to focus in on those key moments of drop off and pick up. They can happen in a flash (quick, get out of the car, I can’t stop here!) to - suddenly, you are surplus to requirements, “Dad, I can walk from here myself, I’m in Year 5, I’m practically a grown up.” Yet, as I reflect back over the years, the most significant moments can happen at these routine daily moments of departure and arrival. I’ve noticed three things (yes, the classic three things!) that tend to enable me to notice what is happening and be thankful I’m there.

1. Prayerful. The start of an academic year might be when we are most actively prayerful about our childrens school life - will they get on with their new class teacher? This year, please God, can they make friends with kind children? Or, during the big transitions stages - starting school, KS1 to KS2, the huge jump to Secondary School. Yet, prayerful attention during the whole year matters. Sometimes things that are challenging or tricky for our children don’t surface for a while - half way through a term, or just as they are approaching a break from school. I had to learn to invite my children into my prayer life for them. Do I ask them regularly what I can be praying for? What is tricky that we need to ask Jesus to help with, what situation needs God’s wisdom? Also, knowing that God is as interested in the mundane ordinary things as well as the huge stuff. “What can we pray for today?” This question is sometimes met with a look, or silence, but other times a stream of thought comes out because mentioning praying has opened up what might on our child’s mind that they are worrying about or overthinking - and we can bring that to God together. But we won’t be able to do this without regularly punctuating the week with moments where we pray and invite them to join in. All this can happen at drop off - and, conversely, what can we celebrate today, where did you see God at work type conversations can be part of pick up.

2. Present. This might not be available to you as an option - but can I encourage you to walk to school for drop off and pick up? I’ve had incredible conversations with my children when I have made time for this (yes, it does mean being ready even earlier!). Sometimes, just that companionable strolling along gives rise to questions, thoughts spoken outloud and - without forcing it - fascinating conversations about life and faith. I often wonder if it was like that for Jesus as he walked along a road with the disciples. “Hey, Jesus - you know that bit in the Torah that says” … Of course, this does require us to be present. We defeat the object of being with our children if we have our head in our phone as we walk along. Also, if you do have to drive maybe turn the radio off and have a chat or just offer up a prayer for the day - but be intentional about your focus (apart from paying attention to the road) - how do your kids seem to be feeling? Anxious, excited, sad, worried? “You seem excited today - anything good happening at school?” You don’t have to say or do much, but what you do say and do tells your kids you are paying attention, you are interested and right now, on this journey to school, they have your full attention.

3.Patient. Finally, we know that nothing quite goes to plan! Being prayerful and present are the aims, but life happens and everything goes crazy just before we go out the door. A child shouts, “I’ve just got to pack my bag” - er, we need to leave NOW! Or, “Chocolate biscuits aren’t breakfast - get back in there and have some cereal!” We need to be patient with our kids, and patient with ourselves. School is stressful. The first time we dropped off for reception class it dawned on us that other people would be responsible for our child and we weren’t going to be there! Sometimes our kids are ready and we are the ones who are not, other times we think they will never be ready - “I’m going to do drop off without you!” …”But dad, you will have nobody to drop off If I’m not there.” “I don’t care, I’m out the door!”

There are times when there are infuriating answers to our gentle and encouraging questions, “What did you do today?” “Stuff” … “Anything else?” “Things” … Oh great, so you did stuff and things, how wonderful! Then, surprisingly (it shouldn’t be, but it is sometimes) the prayerful presence pays off - but it requires patience and consistency. There are days when we might love our journeys with our children, and other days we are late for work, stressed about a situation we are trying to tackle or we have fallen out with someone in the playground (yes, this can happen to us too!)

I know though that if I am prayerful, bringing my children before God, if I’m present to their needs and what is going on for them in the moment, and if I am patient - then drop off and pick up can be some of the most special times with my children. What not try the three ’p’s yourself?