25 July 2008

Backpack (Or why I question my genetic relationship to my daughter)

Just about 2 years ago while shopping for fall clothes Zoë picked out a backpack from Children's Place to use for bringing her things to and from her pre-k class. It is a standard backpack design, a good size and is covered in a rainbow swirly pattern to which Zoe was immediately attracted. She needed a new bag for school and the prices at Children's Place are generally right so I bought it for her and she used it almost every day of pre-k.

About this time last year we were vacationing in Maine and we stopped at The Kittery Outlets to get Zoe all geared up for kindergarten. One store we were in had about a dozen adorable backpacks so I told Zoë to choose one because of course you have to have a new backpack when you start kindergarten, right? Wrong. "I don't want a new backpack," she whined. "I want to use the rainbow one I have." She didn't even want one when we were in L.L. Bean and they literally had a mountain of backpacks in every color and pattern they make on display. That's when I was convinced she really didn't want a new one.

I conceded although I was more than a little surprised. I mean, how could you not want a new backpack? Are you really going to put all those pristine school supplies in your old backpack? But the backpack she had was still in very good shape so I decided not to argue. You have to choose your battles, right? Put that money saved in the pot for a new bag for me Zoë's college fund

By the time kindergarten was wrapping up last month the swirly rainbow backpack was really showing its age. One of the straps is starting to tear and one pocket is ripped so I told Zoë that she could use it for camp, but then she'd have to pick out a new backpack for the start of first grade. "But I don't want a new backpack," she whined. Again. I told her she could use the backpack she has for the rest of the summer, but then it was time to buy a new one. She whined a little more and then we both let it drop.

Several days ago a back-to-school catalog from L.L. Bean arrived and it was showcasing backpacks. Based on the catalog I would guess that their mountain of backpacks is bigger than last year's. I showed the catalog to Zoë and I told her that if she picks one from this catalog we can get her initials on it, but that didn't really spark her interest. So then I told her that one of these backpacks will probably last a lot longer than her Children's Place backpack so she won't have to get a new one again very soon. This interested her and she took the catalog and flipped through it. When I came back in the room the catalog was cast aside and I asked if she had picked one out. "Yes," she said. "I want the blue one."

"Which blue one?" I asked hoping she'd point to a picture in the catalog. No such luck. Its not like there are just one or two blue backpacks. Take a look at the L.L. Bean site's backpack section and you will see what I mean. Part of me wants to just order the blue one I like, but that is a risky strategy since I have already asked her which one she wants. Currently that catalog is missing so I now have to wait for the next one to come in the mail before I can hand Zoë the catalog and a pen to circle the one she wants. Knowing L.L. Bean, I am sure the next catalog will be along any day so it won't be a problem.

The problem for me is quite simply: how can you not want a new backpack? I lived for the years when I was allowed to get a new bag for school along with my regular school supplies. What better way to start off the school year than with perfect new notebooks, brand new pencils, shiny new shoes and that special new backpack (or schoolbag)? Does this mean when Zoe gets older she's not going to want new purses and new shoes too? (I could tell you a very similar story about a pair of blue sneakers, by the way. Couldn't throw them away until you could smell them from across the room.) Can she really be my daughter and not want a new backpack? Strange, but true.


Emily Barton said...

Oh, having grown up with a Scottish (read "tightwad") mother, who made us use our bookbags/lunchboxes/hand-me-down clothes until they were mere strips of leather/metal/threads, I would have LOVED to have had a mother like you who suggested a new backpack every year. Perhaps Zoe needs a story about those poor children in India who don't even HAVE backpacks? :-)!

tracie valentino said...

That's so funny. Madeline is perfectly content to use her preschool backpack for kindergarten, too. AND, she's already worn the first day of school outfit I bought for her (which was supposed to remain in her armoire, with the tags on, until--say it with me--the first day of school).

And don't get me started on Ashlee. She certainly didn't get my new shoe/new bag genes either (the only reason we upgraded her backpack last year was size). I guess I just have to hold out hope for Eleanor.

ZoesMom said...

Emily -- I think you're right, Zoe does need a story like that. I'll have to tell her tonight at bedtime.

Tracie -- you've dashed my hopes that by the time Zoe is Ashlee's age she'll be more into it. My fingers are crossed for Elanor too -- although I bet Mattio's aren't!