Call it intuition, but the flush of guilt already colored my face when Nachy produced his report card. Excellent academic performance, all alefs and A’s, burst forth from the various subjects. But the nachas was eclipsed by the note on the bottom of the card where a large red circle had been drawn. Lateness: 60.
Dear Mrs. Schneider,
Your sons have been coming late more often than they arrive on time. Lateness is inexcusable. It disrupts the classroom routine and shows utter disregard for seder. We anticipate great progress immediately.
It’s the hardest part of the day, an almost insurmountable challenge, and I wonder if other mothers also shudder at the prospect of getting their children off to school on time. Despite prizes, treats, threats, and speeches, every morning saw a new battle fought between my sons and me, with both sides emerging defeated.
We tried choosing clothes the night before; inevitably, the pants were too tight. We promised an after-school trip to the ice-cream store if only send-off went smoothly; they grouchily snubbed ice cream in favor of a good temper tantrum on their way out the door. It was impossible, in my mind, and the report card was a final blow, a black-and-white acknowledgment of utter failure.
And then the article caught my eye. Rav Matisyahu Solomon’s words jumped off the page as he described how infusing the home with joy could effect tremendous change—especially in the area of seeing children off to school each morning. I looked at my husband and shrugged. We would try anything.
That night, I forced myself to go to sleep at an hour I had previously considered ridiculous. But what could I do? I was planning an earlier than usual start to the next day, which necessitated an earlier bedtime. At the crack of dawn, I awoke with a groan and contemplated scrapping the new plan in favor of some more cajoling and bribes. But no, I admonished myself firmly; it wouldn’t do to abandon the plan before we had given it a fair try.
My children rose to the smell of waffles and the unfamiliar tune of someone—me, actually—singing brightly.
“Good morning, sweeties,” I called out cheerfully, all but dancing into their room with an enormous smile on my face.
They looked at me with an expression of awe, amusement, and not a little confusion. How had their formerly bedraggled, sleepy mother been exchanged overnight for this new, upbeat version? Perhaps it was the intoxicating fragrance of the waffles, or the dumfounding realization that their mother was actually singing at 7 a.m., but a true miracle struck the Schneider home that morning. Nachy and Eli were out the door by 7:15—and they were smiling! That was the first of many mornings to come, and yesterday’s report card showed a different picture. In the bottom lefthand corner it read: “Lateness: 1,” chalked up to the morning we attended a bris.
I think we’re on to something here. Simchah, it seems, is the perfect cure: apply liberally as often as needed, no prescription required.
We all have our strengths and capabilities, and we bring our own personalities to the fore when we try to implement more simchah in our lives. A total turnaround is not always possible for every mother, but there are smaller things we can do that make a big difference. Giving our children a warm, cheery greeting when they come home from school, leaving them notes in their lunchbags, or other such touches will spread some much-appreciated simchah with very uplifting outcomes!