Nothing in This Bag Belongs to Me

Photo Credit: Adrian Bar

Photo Credit: Adrian Bar

Two months ago I was idly people-watching in the Orlando airport, when these words went parading through the terminal, boldly emblazoned on the overstuffed tote bag of a mother carting three little ones to their gate.

Nothing in this bag
belongs to me.

As the words bobbed through my stream of consciousness, I had to sit up and do a double take. Did I read that right? I reread it aloud and was delighted by my newfound discovery:

Nothing in this bag
belongs to me.

The words danced off my tongue and I couldn’t help but smile. They immediately struck a chord in my literary heart that made it skip a beat. With the subtle rhythm of a sonnet, the phrase magically transformed this woman and her bag into poetry in motion, marching in time to the beat of Shakespearean drums.

(I later found out that these words are printed on thousands of bags produced by hundreds of companies, all of which are widely available online. Being unaware of cultural trends is obviously a big part of my #momlife and use of iambic pentameter is a big part of being a #wordnerd.)

But like it has for so many others, the phrase struck a chord in my mom heart, too. It speaks to the reality of life with kids: everything you carry with you, especially in an airport, revolves around meeting their needs.

It’s amazing what moms are willing to forgo in order to keep their kids happy. There’s no room for our things in the carry-on because all the valuable real estate has been given over to our children.

When you’re a mom, it almost goes without saying that nothing in the bag belongs to you.

I remember spending the early days of motherhood carefully packing a diaper bag with anything and everything that could possibly be needed for a thirty-minute trip to the grocery store. Diapers and wipers; extra socks, extra clothes, and extra toys; bottles, binkies, bibs, and bandaids. You name it, it was in there.

Now multiply this level of preparedness by a thousand and you’ll get an idea of what it takes to travel with an infant on an airplane.

Moms are required to be ready for any and all possible scenarios that might arise between takeoff and landing. Nothing can be left out or forgotten, because inevitably the one thing your child desperately needs during flight will be the only thing that didn’t make it into the bag.

No one wants to be the mother of a screaming child, especially when trapped within the confines of an airplane surrounded by total strangers. A mid-flight tantrum is excruciating when it’s happening on your lap, especially when the fasten-seatbelt sign is illuminated and you’ve exhausted the limits of the mommy-magic strategically stuffed into your bag.

I can’t tell you how many times I’ve burned with embarrassment when apologizing to the passengers seated in 14D and 15C for the behavior in 15E, feeling as though I was somehow personally responsible for the disruption of their Sudoku.

To prevent this shameful tragedy from repeating itself, I simply shoved more of everything into the bag. I was happily reduced to laboring like a sherpa in exchange for cooperation and good behavior.

As my son grew, so did his things. Everything became bigger and heavier, and I soon discovered there was a limit to what I could carry on my own.

Then one day, while daydreaming in the Orlando International Airport, I saw the light and suddenly understood:

Nothing in this bag
belongs to me.

These words are more than just a catchy phrase: they’re a proclamation of the sacrifice and strength at the very root of motherhood.

When read through the poetic lens of metaphor, they even speak to a deeper truth about where we often find ourselves as mothers.

As a mom, it’s our responsibility to travel with our children from birth to adulthood, and we’re prepared to carry everything they need to get there.

But as they get older, the demand will continue to grow. The weekly spelling test will evolve into final exams. Learning to ride a bike will become learning to drive a car. Getting invited to a birthday party will be getting a date to the prom. And on and on and on...

How can I possibly be prepared to carry all the things my son will need along the way? The world and social norms are changing so fast, I can’t keep up.

I don’t have the slightest clue as to what I should be putting into my bag to be equipped for the next leg of the journey. And despite my valiant efforts, I’m not sure I’ll even have the strength to carry it.

Nothing in this bag
belongs to me.

Now, after repeating these words for the thousandth time, I know exactly what to do:

PUT. DOWN. The BAG.

Don’t drop it altogether, (there are important things in there) but set in down gently and breathe a sigh of relief.

No matter where you are on your journey, this is the perfect time to allow someone else to take on the burden of carrying your child’s ever-growing bundle of unforeseeable needs.

Prayer is a mother’s most powerful tool. It is the root of her strength. A prayerful mom entrusts her children and all their “things” to the One who is most capable of guiding them on their journey and carrying them to their destination.

Jesus is always more than happy to help you and your family get where you need to go. He is willing and able to take on more than you or I could ever manage on our own.

All you have to do is put down the bag and ask Him to carry it.

Come to me, all you who labor and are burdened, and I will give you rest.

Matthew 11:28