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An Open Letter to Parents Who Pick Their Kids Up Early

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Dear Parent,

I see you there. Standing outside the preschool door, waiting for them to let you in 10 minutes before dismissal.

I see you. Parked in the car rider line 45 minutes before the elementary school lets out -- when I'm speeding past the school because I have just enough time to squeeze in a milk run to Publix, and maybe to stop by the post office too.

I see you, with extra absences from preschool when your kid wasn't sick and you weren't going out of town. You just decided to keep Precious Little Snowflake home with you that day to hang out.

"Precious Little Snowflakes" -- that's the not-quite-complimentary name some friends and I gave a few years back to the children whose parents think they're just the most perfect little person to ever grace the Earth.

So, I gotta ask, what gives? Do you not have any hobbies? Any errands to run? Any texts to return or emails to send? What, you don't have a gym to sweat in? Any daytime TV to watch? Books to read? Coffee to drink? Friends to meet for a walk or a long lunch?

Are your kids really just that awesome that you can't bear to spend those extra minutes apart? And if so, how did you get them to be that way? Because I would totally buy that book.

But really.

Did you cry on the first day of school, and not for joy? Did you post a picture on Facebook of PLS holding that chalkboard sign next to the caption, "I'm going to miss him sooooooooooooo much!" ... and did you actually mean it?

Dear Parent: You're making this harder than it has to be.

Have you not heard that absence makes the heart grow fonder (and the house grow cleaner)?

Are yours the kids who wear smocked dresses or dry clean-only Matilda Jane ruffled outfits to preschool, where they're going to get smudged with grape jelly and finger paints?

Have you not seen the giant shelves of $3 Garanimals at Walmart? They're like Two Buck Chuck for the toddler set. They're not going to impress anybody, but they get the job done.

And did you seriously just sew ruffles and flower decals onto the uniform shirt so that PLS wouldn't have to look like all the other kids? Do you not understand what uniform means?

I've heard you in the hallway, musing over the cafeteria menu and deciding which days PLS will buy or bring based on the foods he likes the best.

Oh, Parent. You're making this Way. Too. Hard.

Set it and forget it. Not having to think about that stuff is literally why meal plan accounts were invented.

This road is a long one. I worry that you're going to burn yourself out.

There are so many hours of homework ahead. So many spelling tests to practice for. So many math quizzes to drill. So many science projects. And social studies projects. And STEM projects. And you're going to have to learn Common Core Math, you know.

Better save your strength.

I know right now it seems like you're letting PLS down when you take him or her to that bright happy place for which you are paying with the primary colors and the play kitchen, and the kids her age, and the indoor playground, and the chipper 20-somethings who just earned their degree in early elementary education and are bursting at the seams to use it.

But guess what? She's fine. And he's fine too. That preschool is state-regulated and safe. Those teachers really do love kids. Those germ-ridden snot machines sitting next to her? Those are her friends; they're the humans who are helping her learn how small humans are supposed to behave.

So, Parent, take a deep breath, and then drive away. Stay gone for as long as you can. (Without being late for pick-up, because they'll fine you by the minute for that!)

Take a yoga class. Go for a run. Make a friend and meet her for coffee. Pick up some part-time work. Read a book. Take a class. Go shopping at Walmart for Garanimals. Meet me in the milk aisle at Publix.

Stop making parenting so damn hard. It's hard enough like it is.

Know what else? Every one of those kids at the school is somebody's PLS. Even the snotty, germy ones

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Rebekah Sanderlin Military Parenting Family and Spouse

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Contributor

Rebekah Sanderlin is an Army wife, a mother of three and a professional writer. Her work has been published numerous places, including The Washington Post, The New York Times, National Public Radio, CNN, and in Self and Maxim magazines. She currently serves on the advisory boards of the Military Family Advisory Network and Blue Star Families.

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