Tuesday, June 2nd, 2015...9:42 pm

Lessons I Learned From My First Grader’s Backpack

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Her backpack is worn, the seams showing the wear of the school year, the early mornings when we rushed out the door, the late afternoons when we all met up back at home and she threw her backpack on the ground only for me to pick it up and look for buried treasure. In a few short days the ritual of peeking into the backpack, of pulling out papers and worksheets, drawings and other surprises will be over. She will be a whole school-year smarter. And so will I.

Each day I pull the treasures out of her backpack and sort them out. What goes right into the trash? What goes onto our pin-board of important papers? What goes into the growing box of things I just can’t part with? Many days as I pulled the papers from her bag, I learned too. I relearned what I probably once knew. I saw for the first time things that were right in front of me that only seven-year-olds put gently into words.

I learned from her and her teacher who clearly nurtured her heart as well as her mind. This is what my first-grader taught me this year:
FullSizeRender (62)Learning is a hobby. 

Like soccer and dance, reading and legos, learning is just another way we entertain ourselves. School is a place to go and hone this hobby, to practice like you would a sport. Learning happens when we are doing things we love – our hobbies teach us and shape us. Learning is maybe the most important one.

We are all smartEveryone is smart. And everyone deserves to do things each day that remind them of that. 

I’m a sap and I totally teared up when I read this. Drawing makes me feel awful about myself – it is not anywhere near the top of my talent list. But it is atop hers and she already knows that power of doing something you love, something that makes you feel confident. We are all smart and we all should take time to do what makes us feel our best.

Entrepreneurial Spirit

Everyone has something to share. And good friends support each other’s endeavors.

On a mini-market day she painted her classmates’ nails for ten cents of fake money. Her friends sold blank books with decorated covers, envelopes filled with affirmations and random surprises, snowflakes cut by hand right there in front of you, bows made of duck tape. They all thought of what they had to share and what it was maybe worth. The excitement about buying and selling what her friends had to offer kept her floating for days. We can all learn from that, right? Look for what we have to share and encourage our friends to do the same?

They noticeOur children know us better than we give them credit for. 

On Mother’s day she made me a book. Each page was a truth of who I was – a reader and writer, a teacher and a mother who sometimes loses her patience. Each page taught me that she notices. She takes stock. Most of the time I feel like I am the only noticer. That I am the only one who sees every new centimeter of growth, every new expression, every habit forming. But I learned that she sees me too.



Everyone has a good side. We just need to take the time to look for it. 

She’s forgiving and always looks for the reason why people act the way they do. I forget to do that sometimes, forget that I can’t just rush to judgment or write people off because of their mistakes. She teaches me to look for the good, to be patient with people.

Taylor Sparrow


Taylor Swift is awesome. And finding your voice is the best ending of all. 

In her story, a baby sparrow loves to sing. With the help of her mother and friends, she makes it big like Taylor Swift, whose music we blast in the mornings on the way to school, shaking it off and dancing in our seats like 7:30 am isn’t too early to have a little fun. She already sees the power in finding your voice, of shaking it off and not taking everything too seriously.  And she helps me relearn this too.

IMG_7870Love looks like all sorts of ordinary things. 

Love isn’t the big stuff, the grand gestures. Love is what they see around them in the mundane moments, the time in the back yard, the trading of turns, the listening to directions we may not want to follow. In the every day rush of life, these little things matter more than we sometimes know.

FullSizeRender (63)


Life is better when you are curious and compassionate and ready for surprises. 

“I have something awesome to show you in my backpack,” she said. And after a year of papers and drawing, random trinkets from the prize box and notes home about fundraisers, I wasn’t at all ready for what she had. In a closed ziploc bag, she had taken home a dead baby bird. The nest rested in a tree on the way to the playground and she and a friend had seen the baby on the ground, having fallen out of the nest too soon. “I promise I didn’t touch it,” she said – knowing that would be my first question. She had carried it around on two sticks she found, brought it to her classroom and asked the teacher if she could have a bag to take it home. She thought it was cute, she said. And wanted to bury it. Her teacher, who has encouraged compassion and curiosity above all, agreed to send it home. At first I wasn’t sure what to think. A dead baby bird in a bag? But then I realized that this was another lesson for me. A lesson she’s learned in first grade and I guess I’v relearned too. Life is better when you are curious and compassionate and ready for surprises.





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  • I so enjoyed reading this! I too learned a great deal about life going through the backpacks of my own two. Your writing is wonderful and your daughter is a joy!

  • oh Sarah! I had to leave my comfortable chair twice to get tissue to make it through this. As my oldest “baby” just finished her first year in high school I am constantly reminded how precious all of these moments are; and how fleeting. Oh there I go again. I need another tissue ❤️

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