The School Drop-Off And Social Trust

Three or four times every week, I drop my daughter off at our local public school. We leave, on almost every occasion, in a bit of a rush. My daughter’s school is close by, a mere ten minutes walk, but the window for her to eat breakfast school is quite narrow–thirty minutes–so I’m keen to leave on time to give her enough time to eat a bit before she heads off for her classes. On the way to school, as we walk, we talk about any topic that happens to catch our fancy. (Besides conversation with me, my daughter also has to put up with my angry rants at drivers who do not give us the right of way on pedestrian crosswalks.) On occasion, we stop to climb a rocky wall of a local yeshiva that lies en-route. And then, all too soon, we are at school, at the door through which my daughter will walk into a large hall packed with noisy children, in the midst of which she will locate her teacher and her class, en-route to her classroom, her home for the day.

As we approach the door, my pace slows; I want to say goodbye ‘properly to my daughter, who I can sense is already straining at the leash and wants to move on, to get on with meeting her friends. So we stop; I pull my daughter to me and ask her a few questions–the same ones every day–and then, after planting a few kisses on her cheeks, and giving her one last hug, I let her go. She walks on, and as she walks through the door, I yell out some variant of “Bye, sweetheart, I’ll see you in the evening” (alternatively, “Bye, sweetheart, mommy will be picking you up in the evening.”) I blow her a kiss, and as I do so, my daughter turns to look at me, waves, and is gone.

All around me, other parents are enacting variations on this ritual.

As I walk off, to the subway station to catch a train to my gym, or onwards to Brooklyn College to begin teaching the first of my three classes of day, I am struck, yet again, by the sheer incongruity of it all. My daughter is only five years old, a mere child, one whose welfare and safety and well-being is quite plausibly understood as a preoccupation of mine, and I’ve entrusted her, left her alone, in the company of ‘strangers.’ I’ve put my faith in other people to protect my child, feed her, teach her, give her company, entertain her after school; I’ve entrusted to them, my most ‘precious possession.’ I always feel, as I walk away, a slight tinge of panic and fear. We don’t leave her alone at home; why am I letting her walk off like that? But I’ve placed trust in many to help me out; and indeed, this is just continuation of many acts of trust like this that have helped me raise my child. I live in this world, in this society, an individual sure, but also one reliant on others to help me live my life. And those of the ones I love. This little act, of dropping my daughter off to school, is a daily, acute reminder of my social indebtedness, my social being.

6 comments on “The School Drop-Off And Social Trust

  1. George Gale says:

    How times have changed, Samir! I went off to kindergarten (“kindeygarden”) in Fall, 1948 at the prescribed 5 years of age. My school, Harris Elementary, on Ft. Collins’ east side (it’s still there) was 3 blocks away. My folks took me there on day 1 to meet my teacher. But from that day forward I rode my little 12″ two-wheeler there every day. In first grade, the next year, I took the streetcar across town to St. Joseph’s School. Every day, the conductor would let one of us boys use the crowbar to switch the tracks from north to west. We felt like big boys then.

    • Samir Chopra says:

      George, there is no way I would let my daughter walk to this school along these New York City roads with their insane drivers! (Especially Coney Island Avenue!) I love your story though; amazing stuff. Damn, what a childhood.

  2. Amarnath says:

    Now, imagine your feelings when you drop your daughter in a strange college campus and drive home alone.

  3. Otho Bruce Tucker says:

    I am the recipient of over 900 of those students each day. They come to me year after year, dropped of with the understanding that those teaching them will open their heart and mind to excite the children to investigate what life was all about and what it has for their future. I am lucky operate a great school with teachers who have a passion for their students. They are pros at what they do. In a recent review of our first graduating class the message from the students was the faculty will do whatever they can to make us (the students) successful. My wish is that all students can “walk” to school and have the same reception.

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