• Denise Fleissner Ralston

The Backpack

My children experienced divorce at a very young age. It was a difficult transition for them: emotionally grueling and physically demanding. Rather than one bedroom to house all the things they treasured, they constantly had to contend with two. Shuttling things back and forth between Mom and Dad’s house quickly became a nightmare. Nights of tears lead to days of anger, frustration and emotional turmoil, adding to the already tumultuous nature of divorce. One morning, after listening to a popular morning show host talk about helping kids through divorce, I made a bold decision. I duplicated everything my kids owned right down to their socks. I figured if they had what they loved at both houses, they would only need to worry about what was essential, and I could manage that in a backpack. For the next two weeks, together, we bought two sets of everything I could afford: clothes, shoes, sheets, pillowcases, toothbrushes, toothpaste, blankets, stuffed animals, and books. They each chose a backpack they loved and we loaded it with only those items that were essential: books, notebooks, school supplies, folders for important papers, a lunch box, a favorite sweater, and treats for snack time. Fortunately, Dad was on board with the plan and supported the effort. After a few months, the most amazing thing started to happen. My children were no longer focused on what was missing because they had everything they loved in each of their homes. The focus had shifted from managing a large, overwhelming space (two bedrooms and a lot of precious stuff), to a very small space, a backpack. As a result, our conversations went from, “Mommy can you bring,” to “Mommy, did you pack.” As the years went by that act of simplicity became the benchmark for how my children packed for vacations and long trips. To this day, I have never seen a girl pack as lightly as my daughter, having everything she needs and room for more. My son’s routine is very simple. He takes only what he absolutely wears and he wears only what he absolutely loves. That’s the value of the backpack.

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