Sunday, August 29, 2010

Every kid deserves a back-to-school backpack...even if they're in school year round

"Mommy, can I get a new backpack?" That's Sabrina talking. She's really excited about going into kindergarten, and perhaps even more psyched about all the stuff she might be able to get.

"Yes, we'll go to Target and see what they have," I say. Then I pause. I’m thinking about Max. He hasn't asked for a new backpack because he can’t talk. He's also not starting school in September, given that he goes to one that runs year-round. But, still, he deserves a new backpack, just like all the other kids. He deserves that fresh start.

Back-to-school season is both an exciting and strange time of year for me. Memories of meeting new teachers, seeing friends again and shopping for school supplies come flooding back, giving me a charge. I feel renewed, even though as an adult nothing is really changing for me (well, other than life getting even more hectic). This year I'm feeling wistful, too;
Sabrina's entry into public school is making me acutely aware of the contrast between the kids. One child is doing things the way I did it, one child is markedly not. One child is "typical," as the world defines it; one child is not.

And yet, I am determined to even the playing field. I make sure both of my children savor the pleasures of childhood, whether that means spoon-feeding Max chocolate ice-cream or climbing up the jungle gym with him. I read to them at night separately, since they have different levels of comprehension. I kiss them both so often it’s ridiculous, even while they sleep.

But what to do about Max and his lack of demand for a backpack, something that seems like some quintessential child right? I could program the speech app on his iPad to say: “I want a new backpack.” Or, better yet, I can visit a couple of sites and let him point to what he wants. And that’s what I do.

I settle down on the couch with both kids and the computer and we browse backpacks. Sabrina wants a blue one, Max wants something “ur-ul” (“purple.”) He would also like something involving car washes (“ar wahhh!”), his other current obsession, but nothing quite fits that bill.

Sabrina finds her dream backpack. Max falls for a purple lunch pack. I order them. The kids seem happy. I’m happy. Both my kids are now ready for a new year at school…and so am I.

Originally posted on VolunteerSpot as part of the Views On Back To School Series. The site has sign-up sheets that make it easier to get involved at school. Register there before October 1, 2010 with the promotion code "Teachers Save" for a chance to win $100 in free classroom supplies for the teacher of your choice from ClassWish.


  1. It's great that you and Max have Sabrina to remind you about important kid's stuff--such as the importance of a new backpack. I'd completely forgotten about that back-to-school hallmark!

    With Bertrand as an only child, I think he misses out on kid's stuff which even the most well-meaning parents overlook but a sibling wouldn't. Maybe its time to change that. :)

  2. My little one is starting preschool this year and I keep thinking about getting her a back pack. She is in a wheelchair and cannot even carry a backpack, but still I feel the urge. She does need something to carry her stuff to school and a diaper bag really doesn't fit the bill.

  3. Maybe it's different because my needy child is the youngest of 6, but he's getting a hand-me-down, just like most of his older siblings got. (Those LL Bean packs really do last). See, I'm treating him like everyone else.

  4. you couldn't have said anything better. you're SO true. I always tell people I'm an equal-opportunity parent. :)

  5. I'm with you on leveling the playing field. We've decided to take a very different educational approach with Monkey this year, one that doesn't really require that he have a backpack. Still, I took him out shopping for a Star Wars pack. Maybe it doesn't mean that much to children who take the little things for granted, but it really made a difference to him - and to me.

  6. Not every kid gets new backpacks, though. It's sweet that you try to make his childhood as "normal" as you can, but he is experiencing so many more things that you never got to do! A cool iPad voice thingy? Awesome. A mom who writes about him online? Cool! The list is endless for all of our kids, whether they have high needs or not.

    Mine are homeschooled and have no need for new backpacks, clothes or special supplies. It's taken a while for me to realize that what I considered normal in my childhood and what they will consider normal will be totally different. It's cool.

  7. Besides getting a new outfit for the first day of school, I remember the 'pencil box' and filling it with pencils, a mini ruler, eraser, and glue.

    zameta3 at gmail dot com


Thanks for sharing!

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