Momhood

Motherhood, insanity and everyday life.

Monday, October 17, 2005

The Weight of the World

I weighed my daughter's backpack last week. It was 17-1/2 pounds. I was amazed only in that I thought it would be 50. I wasn't trying to prove anything in particular. I wasn't even looking to win an argument. I was merely attempting to move the darn thing upstairs into her bedroom and couldn't believe what a difficult task that turned into. I've hoisted toddlers, garbage, furniture and potted plants and yet this backpack stopped me dead in my tracks. All I could think was: "How does she carry this around, day after day?"

Let me first give a bit of background. My daughter is in the 8th grade. Like her mom, she's not a tiny child. She can handle a bit of hoisting now and then. She also tends to be a pack rat and carries her entire 8th grade life in that pink, vinyl pack which is embellished by keychains and other dangling crap. I often suggest that she weed some things out, an idea at which she scoffs. ("I need all of it, Mom!") Even on days when she has little homework (a rare occurrence), she brings 17-1/2 pounds of stuff home on her back.

What struck me about this knowledge - the exact amount of school stuff she was carrying - is wondering what it meant. In the future, I mean. You would think that 17-1/2 pounds of textbooks and notebooks and worksheets would be a whole lotta knowledge. I'm around these 8th graders and although their mental hard drives are certainly more updated than mine, it's pretty much the same information that I had 30 years ago. And back then, backpacks were for hikers, not students.

The other concern I have is the picture in my head of what our kids will look like in 30 years. I'm pretty sure it's going to be a cross between Grandma and Quasimodo. How in the world will their backs survive this daily weightlifting challenge? I don't know about you, but I'm investing in back pain drugs - big time.

It seems odd that in this age of downloadable everything, our kids still have 17+ pounds of paper products to carry around everyday. I'm hoping that someday soon, tons of paper will not be cool. Because, as we know, THAT is the true agent for change in our kids' lives.

58 Comments:

At 9:17 AM , Blogger DayByDay4-2Day said...

be thankful that your child is bringing home the assignments. My 7th graders progress report states otherwise.


Michele sent me.

 
At 9:53 AM , Blogger Weary Hag said...

I've just read this and two other of your posts ... wonderful writing style!

When my daughter was in high school I did the same thing. Hers was 18 pounds. She had to stay out of school one day from back pain. She was 15 at the time and with back pain already! I complained (in writing) to the school and they sent home four pages worth of forms for me to complete, giving them permission to issue her tylenol if this happens again. I was livid.

In looking at your other comments, I see you may have found me via Kenju (Judy). Thanks so much for stopping by the Outpost. Muchly appreciated!

 
At 10:07 AM , Blogger Dirk the Feeble said...

My little sister - 5th grade - is exactly the same way. Ridiculous.

 
At 10:56 AM , Blogger Juliabohemian said...

can't she use one of those pulley things for the bag. I see kids with them all the time. Of course, they look like they are going to the airport...

 
At 10:57 AM , Anonymous Maryanne said...

Hi Karen, Love your blog! I have been bothered by the amount of "stuff" our kids put into their back packs. My youngest is 10 and a peanut. Her backpack weighs at least 15lbs. Most of it is books and folders she brings home for homework. I know this can't be good for her back. I was happy when they came out with backpacks with wheels on them. I was all set to get her one. Unfortunately, the school's lockers aren't big enough and the backpacks have to fit in their lockers or they can't bring them to school. Ridiculous!

 
At 11:37 AM , Blogger Erin said...

In high school, many moons ago, we were not allowed to carry our backpacks after we got into the school. We were also not allowed to stop at our lockers between classes (only in the morning, at lunch and at the end of the day). So we had to carry around 5 to 6 books, notebooks, folders, etc. all the time. The worst was when a friend was on crutches, she was not given an exemption. She had to ask someone to carry her books (on top of their own) ever day for 6.5 weeks.

 
At 2:58 PM , Blogger the Monk said...

i know...we had to carry pretty much the same amount when i was in school too...anyway, nice post...keep going...

 
At 5:39 PM , Blogger Marisa said...

I've been carrying around work, laptop, etc. in my backpack for 2 days and it's so heavy I was FORCED TO DOUBLE-STRAP IT! Horrors. If work doesn't calm down soon, I'll be forced to use the waist belt thingy!

 
At 8:42 PM , Anonymous catherine said...

You know, I was always appalled at the weight of my son's backpack. I just could not imagine carrying that thing around all day, everyday, without ruining my body. But I will say that now, as a 20 year old, he is standing tall with good posture, so the backpack didn't appear to have any bad effects... which is a shock to me.

 
At 11:29 PM , Blogger Heather said...

Congratulations on being site of the day! Hello, Michele sent me!

 
At 1:53 AM , Blogger FattyPants said...

Just wait until she goes to college! Most classes have at least 3 books then. Congrats on being site of the day. Michele sent me :)

 
At 4:38 AM , Blogger Marie said...

It's crazy! I do like to hold a hardcopy book but it sure would make sense to have things available electronically for kids. I took a picture of my niece going off to school once because I couldn't believe it -- fully loaded backpack, sports bag in one hand and flute in the other. That's a workout!

Hello! Michele sent me! Have a wonderful day Karen! I really enjoy your writing.

 
At 6:58 AM , Blogger Erin said...

Since I've already commented on this post....Hello! Michele sent me!

 
At 6:59 AM , Blogger MommaK said...

Ugh! I used to get back aches from my book bag. I guess some thinggs never change. Happy Michele Sent Me Day:)

 
At 7:18 AM , Anonymous mar said...

My son has had a heavy backpack all his school life...He doesn't have a long way to go to school and it doesn't bother him but, like you, I wonder what long term consequences this weight might have... Hello from Michele's, great site of the day!

 
At 7:20 AM , Blogger Oreo said...

CONGRATULATIONS!!! Here from Michele's, though I would have been by anyway. My son is in 6th grade so I know what you mean. I think it has to do with middle school & lockers for the first time!

 
At 7:40 AM , Blogger kenju said...

When I was in school, we had to carry about as much, but there were no backpacks then. It was all carried in our arms. I developed back pain from carrying all that stuff in the front - and I know it isn't good for kids to haul that much around on their backs every day, especially since most of them do not center the pack on their backs, but let it hang off one shoulder. It is a foolish thing to do, but they must look "cool" at any cost.

Michele sent me, and I am glad you found Carol through me. She is a wonderful writer!

 
At 7:44 AM , Blogger TC said...

Hi, michele sent me.

I am constantly amazed at the loads these kids carry around on their backs.

 
At 7:56 AM , Blogger Tyra said...

My 7th grade daughter is a pack rat too, she keeps all her papers but that's saved her butt several times when the teacher says she hasn't turned something in. She can then show them that she did and was graded for it.

Here via Michele!

 
At 8:06 AM , Blogger Bec of the Ladies Lounge said...

So funny to see school bag evolution in action.
In my (Australian) day in the 1970s we had hard globite school cases that we called 'ports'. In the 80s (high school) we used sports bags with long shoulder straps that were considered much better for our backs that leaning sideways to carry the port... Then came the backpack revolution, from well-doers with the healthy wish that kids should carry them properly, with a strap around each shoulder and accurately adjusted for height and width... now the backpack (invariably carried over one shoulder, not two!) is a health hazard and we need to get the kids to pull a trolley?! I'd like to see that work in a crowded high school hallway!!
here via Michele's, and thanks for provoking some memories!

 
At 8:08 AM , Anonymous terrilynn said...

Hi Karen, Michele sent me this morning.

This post is an interesting glimpse into the future. My son is only six and already complains when his backpack is "too heavy," and it's nowhere near 17 1/2 pounds! Today they had to take in an apple and he acted like I'd put a boulder in there.

 
At 8:10 AM , Anonymous Nancy said...

Hi Michele sent me!

I always complain about the amount of stuff they have to bring home. My kids are in 7th and 5th grade. And, all my kids do see the chiropracter and it is amazing how out of alignment their backs can get.

 
At 8:38 AM , Blogger Indigo said...

17-1/1 lbs!!!! WOW! That's a lot for an 8th grader.

Michele sent me, congrats on being the Site of the Day!

 
At 9:17 AM , Blogger Laura GF said...

Hello, Michele sent me! I too have no idea how kids lug around all the stuff they do. I keep hoping more of it goes electronic/digital.

 
At 9:22 AM , Blogger Shannon said...

here from michele's...
I would of thought the whole computer would have downsized everything too....

 
At 9:39 AM , Anonymous colleenR said...

Good point...I thought computer were suppose to save paper. I've often thought kids were too burdened down with book bags. I'd rather see them out playing or on bikes. Michele sent me.

 
At 9:45 AM , Blogger InterstellarLass said...

Hi! Here from Michele's! Congrats on being site of the day!

Everything will be on laptops soon enough. Then, in the future, they'll just implant data chips in their brains and we'll do away with school altogether...

 
At 9:48 AM , Blogger Finn said...

Remember lockers? When you could leave the crap you didn't need at school, where it belonged?

Someone please remind me why they stopped using them? Was it about drugs, 'cuz with all that stuff in the backpack, you could probably hide quite of a bit of contraband. *sighs*

Oh, Hi - Michele sent me!

 
At 10:01 AM , Blogger Jugglernaut said...

Good morning! Michele sent me. And I'll be back!

 
At 10:14 AM , Blogger blackbird said...

hey!
hello, Michelle sent me...
but now that I am here, I want to read more...

 
At 10:52 AM , Blogger Trish said...

Hi! Michele sent me...

I'll be back, your site is great!

 
At 11:04 AM , Blogger Pieces of Me said...

Dang...I cant believe how much that weighs...Well I think a lot of people in schools should major in massage therapist, physical therapist, or to be a chiropractor (spelling is way off I think) Here from Michele's!! Congrats on being the site of the day!

 
At 11:44 AM , Blogger The Complimenting Commenter said...

Hi, Michele sent me.

I think you make some great points. It seems like the book makers get picked on the size and not the content. Good post.

 
At 11:57 AM , Blogger Mamacita said...

I bet kids nowadays have great posture!

Michele sent me. Love your blog!

 
At 1:07 PM , Anonymous Claire said...

I remember days at school where I walked around leaning back because I couldn't bring my body up straight from the weight! Have to agree it can't be healthy that kids are carrying around so much weight day in and day out!

Michele sent me!

 
At 1:15 PM , Blogger choccycherry said...

Hi - I'm here from Michele's again. I have the opposite problem. My son refuses to take a back pack anywhere with him so he never has anything he needs!

 
At 1:23 PM , Anonymous Maggie said...

That's funny! Michele sent me yesterday, but not on purpose. I read one of your comments on her site that made me giggle.. and decided to lurk here for a minute or two. Low and behold - today YOUR IT! Congrats ;) Fun stuff.

I remember my backpack being that heavy. It did get lighter in college, even though I had MORE books that were BIGGER and more assignments to carry around then back in those days. Go figure.

Hello, Michele sent me!

 
At 1:24 PM , Blogger Suburban Turmoil said...

Congratulations on being Michele's site of the day!

I often try to convince my stepdaughters to get a backpack on wheels, half-jokingly, because apparently those things are for nerds. It would make things soooo much easier, though.

Michele sent me!

 
At 1:48 PM , Blogger Thumper said...

Some schools have gotten so concerned over the weight of backpacks (with the addition of doing away with lockers) that the kids have 2 sets of books: one kept in the classroom and the other at home.

I remember my sophomore year; I was new to the school and they ran out of lockers before I could get one, so I was stuck carrying my books around to every class all year. That *sucked* and no one carried a backpack then.

And Hi, michele sent me!

 
At 3:34 PM , Blogger used*to*be*me* said...

Hello. Michele sent me.

 
At 3:36 PM , Blogger rashbre said...

The snag with going digital is battery life. Either carry paper or gadgets with extra batteries and chargers. Unfortunately the end result is always around 8 kilos.

Today, Michele sent me!

rashbre

 
At 4:11 PM , Blogger Trista said...

Hello, Michele sent me! Congrats on being her site of the day!

I remember lugging around a 50 pound backpack for school. I couldn't wait until I was 16, and then I could pile the endless amount of books into the trunk of my car. Now that I live in New York, I carry everything around in the largest purse known to man, and my back suffers because of it.

 
At 4:35 PM , Anonymous Pearl said...

hello Michele sent me

A backpack on wheels would be great for her. She feels she needs it and baggage is the packrat's handicap but she could easily damage not only her back but her knees carrying that extra weight.

 
At 4:49 PM , Blogger Peri said...

Wow, I remember my son complaining about back pain when he was in High school.
I think it does take a toll after a while.
I don't remember having so many books in school.
Michele sent me here today.

 
At 4:56 PM , Anonymous Angela said...

Ugh, I remember those days of lugging around a thousand pound bag and walking all over campus... come to think of it though I weighed a lot less then. Pretty good workout actually!

Michele sent me :)

 
At 7:11 PM , Blogger Canadian Mark said...

Michele sent me, and I'm glad she did. Though it's been said before that "we are moving toward a paperless society", and that same statement has been laughed at every time the receipt printer at your local RadioHut spits out a mile of paper, I feel that we are FINALLY actually making progress in that direction. A lot more companies are offering paperless solutions to do business with there clients... Reaching out to us "green people". After all, they want our buck too, right?

Well, here's hoping anyway.

 
At 7:13 PM , Blogger Train-Guy said...

I agree with you, they are getting heavy. Michele sent me.

 
At 7:24 PM , Blogger 1happyjunker said...

Hello, Michelle sent me. Congrats on being named site of the day! Great posts!

 
At 7:25 PM , Anonymous Les Becker said...

I have to disgree with Mark on this one... we can't afford a paperless world (green as we may wish to be), because the machines are going to all shut down some day, and will take months to years to get them all back up again. Without some kind of paper trail, society will be wiped out.

Sorry, trees.

Maybe we should be bush people instead of green people.

 
At 7:38 PM , Blogger jennypenny said...

congrats on being the site of the day. keep up the good work! and good luck with the bigger than life backpack. here from micheles

 
At 8:35 PM , Blogger Alisha said...

My Lord, that's a heavy load for your girl! I can't believe it! I have no kids, but the school supply lists that come out in August always scare me! Congrats on site of the day!

 
At 9:16 PM , Anonymous netchick said...

I honestly think the kids should all have tablet pcs with all their books and homework available on it.

We have it for adults, and they've come down a ton in price... What's the hold up?

Here from Michele's today!

 
At 10:08 PM , Blogger Barbara said...

PErhaps she is a pack rat? Here from Michele's! Congratulations on being site of the day!

 
At 6:29 AM , Blogger utenzi said...

Soon textbooks will be issued on CD-ROM or DVD so that should help. Personally when I was in school I rarely brought anything home, let alone 17 pounds of stuff. But I tended to not do homework...I'm sure many of my teachers would be shocked that I ended up doing science research.

 
At 7:22 AM , Anonymous moonbatty said...

I used to carry a 20 pound backpack. I hated my locker--no time to stop, I was always afraid of getting to class late. I used to walk half bent-over to keep from falling over backwards. :p

Michele sent me.

 
At 5:43 PM , Blogger Star said...

I didn't get by yesterday to say congratulations on being Michele's SOD. But I actually had alread read your post before I knew that. Hope you enjoyed the day.

 
At 7:18 PM , Blogger Samantha said...

My 6th grader has the same problem. She has a binder, an organizer, 4 books, and 7 notebooks that she has to carry around all day, every day. It's horrible! I should weigh it, and then ask the administrators to carry the same amount of weight everyday. Hmmmm....

Thanks for stopping by for Michele's Site of the Day!

 
At 11:52 PM , Blogger Chrixean said...

My 6 year old son complains about carrying his backpack -- and the only thing it contains are about 2 of his schoolbooks, a t-shirt, a towel and some dinosaur toys of his! He doesn't know how good he's got it!

Congrats for being site of the day! Michele sent me!

 

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