Family life

Check Your Kid's Backpack-Trust Me

I looked through my kid’s backpack and the things that I found were out of a horror story

Check Your Kid's Backpack-Trust Me

Credit: Jenn Cox

The other day, I did something I hadn’t done in a while. I looked through my kid’s backpack. I mean, I really looked through it. Every day when he gets home, he takes out his lunch bag and water bottle and puts it all in the sink, and I don’t tend to rummage around in there much. But the other day I took a peek, and once I started digging, I couldn’t stop. And I will tell you, my fellow parents, the things I found weren’t pretty.

Quick disclaimer: I am a neat freak. My house is very clean and organized. I’m a bit anal about it (my family will attest to that), so this wasn’t a case of neglect. Cleaning out my son’s backpack, at 11, has become his job. There’s only so much mama is going to do and only so long that she’s going to do it – I’ll do the end-of-the-school-year deep-clean of his backpack, but I am not hand-holding my very capable pre-teen who can take on certain responsibilities, including backpack cleanliness.

Author Jenn's son holding open his lunchbox Credit: Jenn Cox

Finding special buried treasure

Back to my horror story… the things that I found in the depths of my son’s backpack weren’t just gross, but they were icky and disgusting too.

First, I found a small collection of rocks in a random top pocket… not so bad of a discovery but still, where did these said rocks come from? My son has always collected rocks at school… this has been a yearly discussion of “Why are there rocks in here?” and “What are you keeping them for?” and “Why these rocks?” These chats yield very little explanation other than “because," and I still, to this day, don’t understand my son’s affinity with pebbles, stones, small chunks of pavement, and the like. All I know is that they weigh my kid’s bag down a lot, and they take up a lot of space. Does anyone else’s kids collect this many rocks?

Secondly, I found crumpled papers. Many, many crumpled then flattened pieces of paper at the bottom of the backpack. They had been accumulating down there, creating a veritable paper speed bump where other things could hide. I took each one out, flattened them, and made piles that we went through at the end. They were mostly graded returned worksheets, but I found a birthday invite we’d never RSVPed for (I immediately sent this parent an apologetic text), a few drawings of ninja guys, and a heart drawing from a girl my son said was “annoying”.

Next, there were the lunch items… old plastic forks, granola bar wrappers, and a few mostly empty Tupperware containers I’d been hopelessly searching for for months (one had a small fuzzy pompom in it which I think originated from a strawberry). Now before you roll your eyes and get judgy, thinking, “Oh, c’mon, how do you not notice a missing lunch container?!” It’s easy: I have 42 different containers for all of our one-the-go lunches, and a few fell through the cracks. They were drowning in the sea of crumpled papers in the abyss of my son’s backpack. It wasn’t my fault. So there.

Mom putting a lunchbox in her child's backpack iStock

Why so many raisins?


Perhaps the scariest items I discovered in his bag were the raisins. There were boxes and boxes of raisins as well as loose ones too, all scattered in the bottom of his backpack. I kept pulling out raisin after raisin with a dumbfounded expression across my face. Why, son? Why so many raisins? Well, it seems my son and his friend, whose name rhymes with raisin, decided to start a pretend company, and they began hoarding boxes of raisins when their school would hand them out for snacks. So, if your son’s name rhymes with “raisin,” you should also check your son’s schoolbag. And a quick PSA: raisins don’t rot or dry out and harden. Nope, they turn into mushy balls of grossness.

Then, I hesitantly moved onto the smaller pockets of his backpack. FYI: Kids’ backpacks have a lot of sections, pouches and compartments. Check them all – it’s the smallest one that always has the strangest things inside of them. Luckily, this search only yielded somewhat odd items: broken pencil erasers, tiny springs from pens, and random tiny notes. I found a sticky ball of red wax that had become the gathering place for crumbs, lint, and sand (it was from those mini round cheeses wrapped in wax… which I had never bought for my son but that’s another rant). I found two fidget spinners. A Jolly Rancher. A slap bracelet. And lots and lots of miscellaneous coloured pencils.

In case you needed more incentive

Once I had cleared out the entire bag, I gave it a good shake outside. I found three paper clips, a marker lid, and a dime. Then I ran it through a cycle in the washing machine and I hung it outside to dry. Then I sprayed it with Febreze. And I sprayed it again. And then once more. You should too. Did you know that, according to USA Today, your child’s backpack has 31 times the number of germs as your cell phone and 28 times the amount found on a toilet seat?! I should’ve opened with that. If that’s not enough incentive to get you cleaning that thing out, then I don’t know what is.

This article was originally published on May 03, 2024

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