I don’t remember where I first heard the phrase “Afterschool Shuffle”. It was somewhere along the play date/Mommy and Me event circuits. The Afterschool Shuffle is what I like to refer to as the time between day care/school pick up and dinner. This phrase has always stuck with me as a perfect description of the time of day when a mom is most consistently in a constant head spinning, side stepping routine from one backpack to the next.

When my oldest entered a full time pre-school program 30 minutes outside of town that followed an actual school district calendar complete with aftercare and snow days I was frankly in shock. Like, is this real life?!?! The commuting to multiple locations, the car ride snack requirements, the WHINING…..

That was three years ago. Now, I have grown to know and understand The Afterschool Shuffle. We are not friends, but we are no longer enemies. I have come to respect that although it seems like it’s every man, woman, and child for themselves during this 2-4 hour span, in reality, we are all working towards the same goal of getting the hell home and in our comfy clothes!

Everyone’s Afternoon Shuffle may look a little different, but I would argue that they all feel the same. What do you mean? , you ask. How does the Afternoon Shuffle feel?, you ask.

Well. I’m happy to break it down for ya.

Stage One – Let the Music Play

I leave the office with a bounce in my step. It’s been a productive day. The sun is shining and my God, I’ve missed the cute faces of my little kids. I wonder how their days went. Did Noah chose another Mo Willems book at library? Did Zachary have fun in P.E.? Did Eliza enjoy the special snack I packed in her lunch? Traffic downtown is light and I arrive at day care to pick up my daughter in 15 minutes flat. No soccer or art class tonight. I’m really looking forward to a quiet night at home as a family.

Stage Two – Record Scratch

Eliza’s welcome when I enter her classroom can’t be beat. I have to give the girl credit.


We gather her lunch box, nap mat, and Kiki (her blanket) and stuff it all into the over starched L.L. Bean tote. Oh wait, can’t forget the art project that’s been neglected in her cubby for the last week. As we leave, I hoist her up for the obligatory peek into the infant room (“Hi babies!”) and head out.

Miss Independent wants to climb into our vehicle on her own and insists on sitting in her brother’s car seat which is not weight and height appropriate for a petite two year old. I heave myself into the back of the vehicle and wrestle her into her assigned seat.

“Ariel! Ariel!” she screams before I switch gears to reverse. I realize the half a mile ride to pick up the boys will seem like a cross country road trip if I do not address her song request. So I comply. The Little Mermaid soundtrack it is.

We arrive at the boys’ school and pull up alongside the sidewalk. My car is partially in the cross walk. Ugh. It’s fine, I hurriedly decide and begin taking Eliza out of her seat.

Eliza: Kiki come? (her blanket)

Me: No.

Eliza: Yes.

Me: Whatever. (For the record, I didn’t “lose”. That was a conscious choice to not pick that battle.)

I notice that Noah is on the “big kid” playground which is the best part of aftercare (in his opinion) so I wave him down giving him a five minute warning. I will collect Zachary first. Dragging Kiki down the hall, we trudge through to the complete opposite end school where Zachary is playing at the “little kid” playground. He is almost immediately disappointed because Noah is noticeable absent from our crew. “Why is Noah never first! I don’t want to be picked up first!” He lags behind us screaming about the injustice he has been subjected to as we walk back to the big kid playground and ultimately refuses to get in the car.

I signal across the playground to Noah that his time is up while simultaneously trying to patiently explain my after school pick up methodology to the disgruntled four year old. Thankfully, the aftercare teacher notices my failings efforts to corral my children and ushers Noah to the sidewalk.

“Thank you!!” I say, exasperated.

“You’re welcome. Please don’t park in the cross walk. People need to safely cross the driveway in this area.” She says.

“Yes. Sure. Of course. Sorry.” I say and hang my head in shame.

I beg, plead, and barter with the boys to buckle up as I get Eliza settled in her seat. I always check and tighten their straps before driving off, but I do request that they at least start the process. You know, maybe throw me a bone and sit in their seats for starters. At four and six, I don’t think that’s too much to ask. Apparently, they do. I, again, throw myself over Eliza and into the back seat to buckle Noah. (I feel that it is a necessary descriptor to add that I am 5’1” and drive a large SUV.) I explain to Noah that he needs to be responsible for his buckles and oh, wait a minute…a feel a breeze and yes, yes indeed Eliza is lifting my skirt for all of the land to see including the P.E. teacher who happens to be headed to his truck. #wadrobemalfunction

Finally, the four of us head home.

The windows are open much too wide for Noah despite the fact that it is a gorgeous and unseasonably warm fall day. The wind is furiously blowing his coloring worksheets to his dismay. “My papers!” he shouts. I relent and close the windows. The boys simultaneously begin to tell me about their days. I hear every other word they spit at me – something about monarch caterpillars eating milk weed and a playground marriage proposal. Eliza joins in now bellowing about my poor-un-for-tunate sooooul and I’m counting my blessings that we only live 2.2. miles from school.

Arrive at our house. Pick up mail. Pull in driveway. Let dog out. Unload three backpacks and one work bag, but leave the bills and Pottery Barn Kids Catalog on the car dashboard because I just can’t.

Stage Three – Trying to Catch the Beat

Quick appetizers of yogurt drinks are tossed around while I run upstairs to change from chic business casual to barely presentable.

At this point, everyone is “hangry” and I have already made up my mind that the only meal I could possibly throw together is the tried and true American classic: grilled cheese and tomato soup.

We get through dinner prep and our family meal with a combination of coloring, watching shows, and running back and forth to from those activities to the playroom. We all breathe a collective sigh of relief when Daddy walks through the door as his off duty light slowly dims.

I give the kitchen a cursory glance and decide the dishes can wait. I finally sit down with my three guys and little lady. We snuggle up for the last few minutes of PJ Masks.

Stage Four – Mic Drop