It’s back-to-school season! Several years ago, in this very column, I had written about the bittersweet moment when my son had embarked on his first day of his senior year of high school. As I watched him leave, in his own car, I recalled the moment I had watched him climb aboard the school bus for the first time at age 6 with his crisp new clothes, squeaky sneakers and a backpack equipped with all the necessary tools.
That day he drove away for senior year, he turned and waved to me just the way he had when he rode the bus. He was always ready for first days and new adventures. I wasn’t.
After experiencing the exact moments with my daughter years prior, you would think I’d be a pro at first day milestones. I wasn’t. I’m still not. I’m the mom with the tissues secretly wishing I could pause time.
Through the years, my kids each had carried a bit of me with them to school every day — in their backpacks! (No, I didn’t include a photo of myself!) I spent a lot of time meticulously prepping backpacks. It was my routine. I left notes, treats or small trinkets inside. I especially took great pride in including books my kids had selected or loved.
The backpack was my personal daily connection to my child’s progress and education. Now, my kids are grown. My daughter is the mother of three wonderful boys. My son is 23 years old and he works full time as a sales leader for a consumer electronics retailer.
I didn’t know then, all those years ago when my kids were growing up, that the backpack routine would become a family legacy. My son still rarely leaves the house without a backpack that he preps with his work stuff and his lunch. My daughter spends her evenings during the school year organizing my grandsons’ backpacks with all the necessary supplies and books to read.
I’m that mom, the mom who established a healthy habit — the responsibility of a backpack stocked with the daily tools needed to succeed. I may not handle milestones without a tissue, but I sure know how to rock the backpack!
As many kids are heading to their first day of school, I’d like to share a few books that had traveled in my children’s backpacks throughout their younger elementary grades. Until next time, cherish the moments and spend some time getting to know your child’s backpack!
Petite Rouge: A Cajun Red Riding Hood
Written by Mike Artell, Illustrations by Jim Harris
Reading Level: Ages 6 to 12
Publisher: Puffin Books, 32 pages
Grand-mere comes down with the flu and Mama knows just what to do. She sends Petite Rouge, accompanied by her cat TeJean, off to Grand-mère’s house with a basket of spicy Cajun dishes. On the way to Grand-mère’s house, Claude, an ole’ hungry gator, who wants a taste of Mama’s food and a taste of Petite Rouge, too, stops Petite Rouge and her cat. He soon discovers that snatching a bite will take more than a snap of the jaw!
In “Petite Rouge: A Cajun Red Riding Hood,” Mike Artell’s flowing and hilarious rhyme offers new life to a classic folk tale. Cajun words and comical characters are vividly portrayed in Jim Harris’ entertaining watercolor illustrations.
By David Pelham
Reading Level: Ages 3 to 8
Publisher: Candlewick, 24 pages
When Sam’s sister Samantha craves a delicious treat, Sam does what any little brother would do — he makes her a sandwich she’ll never forget! Layer after layer, this is a hilarious story that will have kids begging for another helping.
The Pizza That We Made
Written by Joan Holub, Illustrations by Lynne Cravatch
Reading Level: Ages 5 to 9
Publisher: Penguin Young Readers, 32 pages
What happens when three kids decide to play chef? They make pizza! In this rhyming, pizza-party story, Suzanne, Max and Jake share their baking secrets from start to finish. Kids will love the clever writing and bold illustrations. This book is highly recommended for both the emergent and young seasoned reader. Also includes a "make your own pizza" recipe, too.