Approaching a Problem from a Different Direction

by Abby on April 15, 2013

Last year, my older son started kindergarten. He went from a small preschool where everyone knew his name to a big, urban elementary and middle school. There were a lot of changes, but the biggest one for me was the drop-off and pick-up.

school carpool lineGone was the carpool lane where you could drop off your kid in your pajamas without getting out of your car. Instead, you had to find parking on a busy city street, cross several lanes of traffic, and dodge throngs of parents, strollers, bikes, dogs, and any unlucky regular folks who’d happened to pick 8:05am on a school day to mail a letter or buy coffee.

Making things even more challenging was the fact that I had a 3yo who napped in the afternoon, smack in the middle of school pick-up. Because I would do anything to preserve his nap and my sanity, I would begin stressing out about this every morning. Doing that backwards math that all parents become experts at, I’d think, “OK, we have to leave by 2:20 at the latest, so I need to get him down by 1, so that means we have to start lunch no later than 12.”

Every day, I’d wake him up at the last possible second, stuff him into the car grumpy and sleepy, and race to the school to pick up his brother. I had found a secret, only-slightly-illegal parking spot, but it would be gone if I got there too late. Also, it was on a hill, which meant that unfortunately for me I usually had to run uphill carrying a 30+ lb. kid — no stroller because of the school stairs — often in the rain or hot sun. I hated it. Every single day. But I simply couldn’t see any other way. It was what it was.

Then this year, some things changed. For one, we started carpooling with a kid down the street, which meant I only had to do pick-up every OTHER day. For another, my younger son stopped napping. I had been dreading this, but it actually turned out to be very freeing. Not having to worry about the sacred nap schedule meant less stress, and less backwards math. If we wanted to run errands or go to the park before pick-up, we could.

And lastly, I found a new, better parking spot – LEGAL, even. I don’t have to cross several lanes of traffic with little kids in tow. I no longer get stuck at that long light. I DO still have to time it right, but that’s no longer a problem since my son doesn’t nap anymore, remember? We get there early and play a few games of Angry Birds on my phone. Sometimes, he even falls asleep on the way and I enjoy a few quiet moments catching up on email or Twitter.

Why had I never considered this magical parking spot before? Maybe because it required coming at it from a different direction. That’s not a metaphor – I literally came from a different direction when I drove to the school. And just like that, my impossible problem had a solution.

Right now I’m having a problem with my work. Now matter how I look at it, no matter what I try, I can’t see how I can find the answer. I can’t figure out what part of the equation needs to change to make it work. As baffling and frustrating as this is, I have hope. Maybe one day I will see how to approach the problem from a different direction, and just like that, the way will be clear. If it gives me some extra time to play Angry Birds, well, that’s just a bonus.

Have you ever found a solution to a problem that seemed impossible?

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{ 14 comments… read them below or add one }

Jennifer April 15, 2013 at 2:48 pm

I have to tell you…my favorite thing about my son’s school (he’s in first grade) is the fact that he gets to ride the school bus home every afternoon. No waking up kid brother from his nap. No rushing off to get in the carpool line. I can even–gasp!–get some work done at home while keeping one eye out for the bus. It is glorious.


Abby April 15, 2013 at 3:15 pm

That IS glorious. So jealous!


Angie Mizzell April 18, 2013 at 5:32 am

My son could take the bus, but the day I saw a bus pull over in the front of our neighborhood and I could hear kids fighting inside… um, no thank you. I read this post the other day on my phone while sitting comfortably in the car pool line. Even though we have a car pool line, and the school also has a nice parking lot, it’s taken some time how to figure out the best way to navigate pickup with three kids. First, you have the nap issue, and the issue of timing you talked about. To get there in time to make the car pool line (there’s a cut off), where to park in the parking lot so you don’t get “stuck” trying to get out, etc.

School pickup probably IS a metaphor for most of life’s challenges. 🙂


Imam February 22, 2016 at 3:03 am

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