Unpacking the Backpacks for the Last Time

Today was my guys’ last day of school. While they were playing in the other room after they got home, I emptied their backpacks for the last time this year. I took out all the little bits of pencils that have been nesting in the bottom for so long and I finally threw away Sam’s semi-destroyed lunchbox that I have been hating for months.

Then I went through the stacks of papers they have brought home over the past few days. I love finding papers that have clearly been lost in their desks for weeks and notebooks in which I can trace their year from entry to entry. I also made some side-splittingly hysterical discoveries within these pages, which I will be sharing with you over the course of the next few days.

This ritual backpack unpacking is bittersweet. Sweet because my kids have successfully finished a whole year of school, but bitter, because holy frijoles, now I have three kids at home with me all summer. No, really, it is bittersweet because so much has transpired in my sweet little kids’ heads and bodies this year.

Quinn finished kindergarten. When he got on that bus last August, he was practically a baby. Now he’s a big kid, with a best friend, report cards, and an ability to do math and read. Quinn was a trip for me this year because Sam had a lot of anxiety in kindergarten and stayed very restrained all year and Jack’s kindergarten was…well, I don’t much like to revisit the yearlong transition that was kindergarten for Jack, but Quinn? He jumped in and exhibited his manic Quinnosity from day one. That kid is who he is, no matter what the environment and I love him for it. He knows who he is and, dammit, he likes that person. I am so proud of him.

And Jack. There is always so much to say about Jack. He started his year out so easily, with a teacher who was then a stranger and is now a friend. He had ups and downs this year, but with a staff as supportive as his, he made it through. In with his report card came a note that says that he is officially considered gifted and talented, with pretty good reading scores and incredible math scores. I am so thankful that he has those abilities, which makes the rest of it so much easier. This is the first year that he has started to show a fair amount of interest in other children and their doings. Peer interaction is still so very hard for him, but he’s started to want to figure it out, and I love to see that. I am so proud of him.

Then there is Sam. Sam is the leader of his little team of brothers and an amazing kid. I have always been so grateful to him for paving the way at school for his brothers. I always joke that he makes the teachers like our family and then the rest of us swoop in, in a flurry of special needs and recalcitrance for the next several years. Sam is an incredibly independent worker and such a smart guy. We have started to have real, deep conversations this year about topics that real people talk about. Imagine that, Sam as real person. Who would’ve thunk it? Today was not only his last day as a third grader, but his last day at this school. He’ll be heading off to the highly gifted program at another school next year. I know that the people at this school will miss him. I know that I will miss having him at this school as well. I also know that the staff at his next school will love him too. He is a wonderful kid. I honestly could probably never say enough good things about him. I am so proud of him.

One of my favorite discoveries from the backpack purge was in Jack’s backpack. Within a sealed, clear plastic pouch was a completely pulverized fortune cookie. I decided to open it and read his fortune although I was pretty sure that it would say, “Your mom will sweep cookie off your kitchen floor soon.”

God knows where the mystery cookie originated, but it was one of my favorite discoveries to begin with because it is so Jack to have a mashed up, but completely contained cookie in his bag for months. Mystery cookie remained one of my favorites once I read the fortune:

I do, Jack. I really do. And in the eyes of your brothers as well.

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