Turtle Herding

“Kristin, can you tell us what it’s really like to get two young kids ready and out the door for drop-off and pick-up each day?”


One of my favorite mom blogs has always referred to the shuffling of children as “herding turtles.”  There is no description more accurate than that.  The morning routine is (usually) simple; feed kids, dress kids, pack kids, load up and leave.  The most dreadful/wonderful part of the day is actually dropping them off and picking them up.

Unless you’ve had two (or more, if you’re one of those crazies) young kids in daycare/preschool at the same time, you cannot fully understand or appreciate what this process entails.  One is easy…do you know why?  Because as soon as he jumps/darts/leaps/escapes, you can just pick him up.  So simple.  But two?  TWO?  With their bags and carriers and sippies and snacks and pseudo-independence?  HERDING TURTLES.

"We have no idea where we're going but we're getting there in a confusingly circular fashion and 15 minutes late!"

“We have no idea where we’re going but we’re getting there in a confusingly circular fashion and 15 minutes late!”

7:40am: Arrive for drop-off.  Unbuckle Kid One from his seat; explain that we must leave our trains/teddy bears/books/kitchen utensils (so that’s where my rolling pin went…) in the car, and that we can have them again after school.  Put Kid One’s left shoe back on his foot; gather backpack, pick up Kid One and walk to the other side of the car for Kid Two.  (Note: We are going through a phase in which I cannot trust his ability to walk independently, as evidenced by our frequent declaration of “Mama, I’m running into the road!” Oy vey.)  Get to Kid Two’s side.  Open door, request Kid One stand on the running board, boxed in without the opportunity to escape.  Attempt to remove Kid Two’s carseat carrier from the car (because Kid Two is still too little to be safely carried solo while commandeering a toddler at the same time); grab Kid One with one hand as he attempts to climb through my legs and escape into the wild.  Ask Kid One to hold my pocket, since my hands are full.  Get carrier.  Get Kid One’s left hand; promptly told that he doesn’t want me to hold his left hand, he wants me to hold his right hand.  Close car door, proceed to sidewalk with Kid Two in carrier and Kid One walking backwards (because we’re only holding right hands today).

7:50am: Walk 25 feet to Room 1 to drop off Kid Two.  Remind Kid One to wipe his shoes on the mat, stay by me at all times, do not grab baby toys, do not step on babies, do not go near babies, do not hide under cribs, do not try to climb in high chair, please give your baby brother a kiss goodbye, please do not squeeze your baby brother’s head, please do not poke your baby brother in the eye, yes we will see him after school.  Kiss Kid Two goodbye.

7:55am: Walk 487 feet to Room 6 to drop off Kid One.  Remind him of his wonderful ability to be such a good listener, and how proud that makes Mama (this is code for PLEASE LISTEN TO ADULTS TODAY).  Lots of kisses, lots of hugs.

7:58am: Return to car.  Alone, no kids.  Hot coffee.  Need to be at work in two minutes.

8am-5pm: Adult things with my adult brain and no trains or rattles or technicolor stuffed animals in my face.  No yogurt on my clothes.  No poop on my hands.  No baby strapped to my body.  For 8 hours, I am a GROWN UP, using a GROWN UP BRAIN, and MAKING MONEY.  Cheers, grown-ups!

5:05pm: Arrive for pick-up.  Prepare for cardio.  Walk 487 feet to Room 6 for Kid One.  Gather backpack, art projects, shoes; remind him to use walking feet, hold my hand, please do not dart onto the playground, please do not hide in the bushes, we’re going to get your baby brother now.

5:06pm: Room One.  Say silent prayer that today, we will get out of here in a reasonable length of time.  Remind Kid One of the rules.  Acknowledge look of “yeah, right” in his eyes.  Enter Room One, holding Kid One’s hand; remind Kid One the rule is to stand by Mama until we are ready to leave.  But now, NOW, I must put Kid Two in his carrier which means I must let go of Kid One.  And thus begins…


This is the part where I buckle Grant into his seat, and Miles climbs underneath my legs to sneak off to the play area.  I ask Miles no less than 23 times to please come to the door so we can leave.  I remind him he is my big helper/best big brother ever/good listener, but this doesn’t work.  I remind him that when we get home, we will get to play with his toys, but this also doesn’t work.  I remind him that today we are making good choices, which means we are LISTENING TO OUR MAMA, but this also doesn’t work.  Put down Grant, corral Miles to the door.  Release Miles’ hand in order to pick up Grant, and Miles is climbing through my legs and heading back to the play area.  Repeat this circle of “Hold hand, let go of hand, pick up Grant, Miles under legs, to the play area, put down Grant, pick up Miles, back to the door” four times, or until one of the teachers brings Miles to the door.  Open door; hold door with foot, hold carrier with one hand, attempt to remain in contact with Miles at all times while exiting the room.

Official Toddler Circle of Futility Flight Pattern

Official Toddler Circle of Futility Flight Pattern

5:17pm(!!!): SUCCESS.  We are walking to the gate!

5:17pm and 37 seconds: Let go of Miles’ hand to push button for gate.  Opportunity to escape recognized.  Success thwarted.  Toddler on the loose.

5:18pm – 5:29pm: Follow Miles around the courtyard repeating the good listener/big helper/best big brother spiel (moving too slowly to catch him because KID TWO).  Watch as Miles turns around, looks at me and announces, “Mama, I’m running away!”  Secretly pray he trips over his feet so I have a chance at catching him.  Thank God the entire campus is fenced.

5:30pm: An orange butterfly comes into view, stopping Miles in his tracks.  PRAISE THE ORANGE BUTTERFLY ANGELS OF DISTRACTION.  I catch up, hold his hand, and we begin walking to the gate.  Again.

5:31pm: Arrive at gate.  Use super Ninja Mom skills to negotiate opening gate without releasing Kid One or dropping Kid Two.

5:32pm: Load all children/bags/blankets/sippy cups/art projects into car.  Wonder why there are so many banana peels on the floorboard.  Give Miles his milk and banana.  Realize error of my ways in choosing a banana as our daily afternoon snack.  Close all car doors, stand outside the driver door for five seconds relishing in the silence of buckled children and closed car doors.


In our days of single child-ness, the drop-off/pick-up process took less than 10 minutes.  But now…NOW that I am outnumbered, it’s a turtle-herding daily workout worthy of Crossfit.  And I dread the process, because it’s tiring and exhausting…but I love the process, because I get to pick up my kids and go home for snuggles and playtime.

As they get older, this will get easier (or at least that’s what I’m told – I’m still skeptical of the advice from some of my mom friends, though).  If nothing else, I will become stronger and more nimble, capable of football-carrying two children at once.





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