Who is carrying your kid’s backpack?

Dear Mom carrying the backpack,

I don’t know you, so I can’t really judge. I mean, I’m assuming that backpack belongs to your kid, who is walking next to you. I’m guessing that YOU are not the member of your family who is obsessed with Thomas The Tank Engine.

So I really want to ask you… why are YOU carrying that backpack?

I’m a mom too. I know you’re probably just helping. I know that sometimes backpacks can get heavy. I know that sometimes kids walk really slow (especially when it’s towards something like school) and maybe you JUST. WANT. TO. BE. ON. TIME. THIS. ONCE.

But I also want to ask you, Thomas-the-Train-Mom… how often do you carry it? How often do you NEED to?

Because I feel like maybe too many parents are carrying the backpacks.

I feel like there’s a problem, and it’s not really about the backpack… it’s what the backpack is carrying.

The backpack is carrying their lunch. It’s carrying homework, if they are old enough to have any. It’s carrying their extra mittens, their favorite toy, that school newsletter that you really meant to read last week that’s now crumpled and slightly damp at the bottom. It’s all that stuff that they need for the day while you’re not there.

It’s carrying their independence.

So why are we the ones carrying it? Why are we holding the thing that represents all that they can do without our capable assistance?

I want to ask you, TtTM – when are you going to stop carrying the backpack? Grade 3? Grade 6? When you do stop carrying the backpack, will your kid be prepared for how heavy it has become?

I’m worried that our kids are growing up not knowing how to carry their own backpacks. I’m worried that they are not learning to handle a slowly increasing load over time, and instead are suddenly confronted, dangerously close to adulthood, with a textbook laden cargo they aren’t prepared to bear.

I’m worried they haven’t experienced for themselves the consequences of what happens when you drag your bag through the mud and then find that your permission slip for the big trip is ruined.

I want my kids to carry their own backpacks. I know there will be days when they won’t… when they are too slow or too tired and I JUST. WANT. TO. BE. ON. TIME. THIS. ONCE. Or maybe they’ll need help with a project that is heavy.

But I want them to know whose job it is to carry that backpack. I want them to understand that it is their lunch and mittens and permission slip, not mine. I want them to earn their independence, little by little, with backpacks of a steadily increasing appropriate size, so that someday, that big biology textbook won’t seem like such a big deal.

I want them to feel confident carrying that backpack themselves, but also be aware enough to know when it really is too heavy. I want them to be ok with asking for help, not expecting to hand off the weight to someone else.

What do you think, TtTM? Are you helping, or taking the weight?

Could your kid carry his own backpack today?

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