| LifeTakes |

Lessons Learned from a Schoolbag

   I head straight for the schoolbags. They’ve been eyeing me since school ended

It’s summer. And after the end-of-school rush and the start of camp, it’s quiet.

Now it’s just me and the mess to clean, and for a good few hours, there’s no one to undo whatever I’ve accomplished.

I head straight for the schoolbags. They’ve been eyeing me since school ended, taking up space on the hooks that now need to hold the camp bags.

During the last week of school, my kids brought home a full schoolbag every day, and our homework that night was to empty it and bring it back so they could again fill it with the past year’s treasures. We had great fun going through the work they brought home. I taught them about decluttering, about even throwing things out that were special to them, but could still move on to a better place (their prize drawer wasn’t the place for their ring of 850 sight words). We discussed keeping the things that really made them happy, finding a place for them that wasn’t the dining room table.

As we looked through past tests, I pointed out how sometimes they worked hard and did well, other times they didn’t work hard and didn’t do well — a lesson in responsibility and hard work. Then we looked at the tests where they’d worked hard and didn’t do well, and the tests where they didn’t work hard and did do well — and learned about crowning Hashem our King, and that when all is said and done, there’s no one but Hashem making things happen.

We also did some science experiments, namely, hypothesizing about and then checking what happens to different food items that sit on the bottom of a schoolbag for many months through all kinds of weather. If there ever is a nuclear war, I’ll take a stash of Made Good bars to the bunker. They held up remarkably well.

We learned that the most important thing in their bag is their siddur, and that it goes on a special place on our seforim shrank because we’ll need it every day — winter, summer, schooltime, camp season.

I learned some things, too. That the child who loves to write and draw writes notes to her friends and teachers and me while she’s in school. And that the other one, who wrote out her first Rashi in Rashi letters, actually tried about ten times before she was happy with the final product, and she kept the trials. And that my preschooler mustn’t have realized there were three zippers on her bag, because she only ever used the tiny front one to fold and store every Hello Kitty picture she colored this year.

I also learned that they’re in school for so much of their day, and while I’m at work or home, loving them in my heart, I really have to daven that they’re learning and growing and happy and safe, because as much as they talk about their day, they’re really living a whole life I can’t ever fully know.

This morning, the first morning of camp, I take the schoolbags, give them a final shake, and throw them in the washing machine. Maybe we’ll buy new ones for next year, but I’d like these to be clean and ready if not. Because sometimes we like to feel fresh and new and ready to start over, but it’s also good to know that what we’ve got is good enough, and with a little detergent and hard work, anything can get a second chance.


(Originally featured in Family First, Issue 898)

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