Illustrations by Britt Wilson

End of Days

  1. Like Parent, Like Child
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    Like Parent, Like Child

    Chicago Mayor Rahm Emanuel recently incurred the wrath of the city’s ­teachers’ union when he lengthened the elementary school day, starting next year, to seven and a half hours from less than six. One can only imagine that when those kids finally bust free, they’ll be 90 minutes crazier than schoolkids are everywhere on weekdays come 3 p.m.-ish. And that ­final-bell ­madness can extend to parents and nannies picking them up. “It’s a ­challenging time of day ­because ­everyone is tired and people want to get home, but often children have stories to tell about what happened that day,” says George W. Holden, a ­psychology professor at Southern Methodist University in Dallas and author of Parenting: A ­Dynamic Perspective.

    ­Recently, Bloomberg Businessweek observed school pickup at five top elementary schools in the New York area—the Upper East Side’s Dalton School, the Upper West Side’s Ethical Culture Fieldston School, ­Greenwich ­Village’s P.S. 41, Tribeca’s P.S. 234, and Park Slope’s P.S. 321 in Brooklyn. Then we ran our impressions by Holden and three other ­experts: Patti Wood, author of the forthcoming Snap: Making the Most of First Impressions; Joe Navarro, author of What Every Body is Saying; and Adam Mansbach, parent of a pre-K’er and author of the cult-hit “­children’s” book Go the F--- to Sleep. Here is our semi-­scientific taxonomy of school pickup behaviors and what the pros think they mean. Brace yourself, Windy City.

    Illustrations by Britt Wilson
  2. The "Talk": 5%*
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    The "Talk": 5%*

    Teachers pull parents aside to discuss hitting or other infractions. Navarro: “There are always parents for whom school pickup isn’t a happy event because of incidents like this.” Holden: “Kids who are spanked are more likely to hit other kids.” Mansbach: “I’ve been the recipient of that news. My impulse is to ask, ‘Well, how did her jab look?’ ”

    *of people observed

    Illustrations by Britt Wilson
  3. The Texter: 13%
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    The Texter: 13%

    They type before, during, and after pickup. Holden: “Parents have to multitask, but it can get to the point where you’re ignoring your kid and they pick up on it.” Navarro: “Kids have to do outrageous things to get their parents’ attention these days.” Mansbach: “It’s probably still inappropriate to text during sex or childbirth, but I’m not really sure.”

    Illustrations by Britt Wilson
  4. The Thespian: 6%
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    The Thespian: 6%

    They gesticulate and soliloquize, as if they’re playing the role of parents in a movie in their head. Mansbach: “It’s directed toward the child but very conscious of the other adults. There’s a cutesiness to it, fake questions like, ‘Do you want to put your shoes on?’ and ‘Do you want to go now?’ Giving kids the illusion of free will is in fashion right now.”

    Illustrations by Britt Wilson
  5. The Snack Grabber: 17%
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    The Snack Grabber: 17%

    They reach in Mom’s pockets before “Hello.” Wood: “It’s been hours since they’ve eaten so their blood sugar is going crazy.” Navarro: “It’s the same thing as going to the candy machine in the office at that time of day to get a chocolate bar.” Mansbach: “That’s evidence of the sugar-based economy that is childhood. They are not screaming for carrot sticks.”

    Illustrations by Britt Wilson
  6. The Instrument Caddy: 7%
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    The Instrument Caddy: 7%

    They carry their child’s oversized ax. Wood: “Music is important to the parent so they’re taking on part of the responsibility for it. Also, if one parent takes their kid’s case, others might feel peer pressure to do the same.” Holden: “Parent as pack mule.” Mansbach: “Parent reduced to the status of roadie.”

    Illustrations by Britt Wilson
  7. The Stylish Mom: 10%
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    The Stylish Mom: 10%

    They are well turned out and chat among themselves. Wood: “They’re communicating that they’re still young.” Holden: “Moms are super-conscious about what other moms think of both their appearance and parenting. And I imagine in New York it’s even stronger. They’re onstage.” Mansbach: “I wish I saw more of that.”

    Illustrations by Britt Wilson
  8. Spontaneous Dance: 15%
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    Spontaneous Dance: 15%

    Holden: “They’re happy to get out of school and let their self-control down and be free.” Navarro: “That’s the Happy Feet thing. When we’re happy and contented, our feet move.” Mansbach: “Maybe it’s a release-from-bondage thing. My daughter does a tremendous amount of exuberant dancing for reasons that are impossible to discern.”

    Illustrations by Britt Wilson
  9. The Scooter Mom: 7%
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    The Scooter Mom: 7%

    They come bearing their kids’ wheels. Wood: “That’s a helicopter parent who’s always hovering and saving the day. A scooter should represent freedom for a kid, not something your parent has to bring you.” Mansbach: “Doesn’t the mayor have a plan for New York to be all scooters by 2016?”

    Illustrations by Britt Wilson
  10. The Adult-Syntax
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    The Adult-Syntax

    Kid: 9%
    “I told you, I found the last Harry Potter movie too ... programmatic.” Wood: “They start processing early these days.” Holden: “It’s accelerated development, adopting adult speech at younger ages than ever.” Mansbach: “Just because a kid says something doesn’t mean they understand it. Don’t take stock advice from them.”

    Adult : 11%
    Less precocious, just as frightening. Wood: “These days parents ask, ‘Do you understand why Billy is upset with you?’ Kids are asked to talk about their emotional state.” Mansbach: “I’m all for speaking to kids in as sophisticated a manner as they can handle. But you should make an effort to be understood.”

    Illustrations by Britt Wilson