By Michelle Mady
Children grow up fast, and it happens right before our eyes. It can be hard to look as far into the future as graduation, but starting traditions or creating keepsakes early will give you something to cherish. It can be shared with your children as they grow and even something they can start with and pass on to their own children.
This time of year always has me thinking about my oldest, who is now 15 years old and 6 foot 1 but spent his first few days in kindergarten hiding under the table. Now he is a happy, confident, and amazing teenager. How did that scared little boy become the confident young man in the next room?
It is so easy to take the early years for granted, and seeing this first hand encouraged me to look at the end of school years and graduations in a different light. Maybe it isn’t about the children growing old and moving on with their lives, meeting the next big milestone in store for them. Maybe it is just as much about me, nurturing them through these years. Being patient with them, and, let’s just call it their “growing personalities.” Loving who they become. And, really, getting to know them as they evolve into who they are, as people, not only as my children.
It is so easy to take the early years for granted, and seeing this first hand encouraged me to look at the end of school years and graduations in a different light.
As much as it is a time to celebrate them, passing each school year, parents need a little something to hold onto to commemorate our efforts as well. So, as much as these ideas are great for our children, they also give us something to hold on to, like a trophy for our achievements through them.
As much as it is a time to celebrate them, passing each school year, parents need a little something to hold onto to commemorate our efforts as well.
You can do something simple, something intricate, something extravagant or something Pinterest-worthy. I'm nowhere near a Pinterest mom, but I have been able to create some meaningful items.
Option 1: Keep It Simple
In my family, I keep it simple. We take pictures on the first and last day of school. I always thought that I would create a large collage to share with them as they graduated, and I still have a few years to get started, however, even having them in a folder on my computer is a start.
Maybe one day I'll make a book of all of their various first and last days of school. Maybe I will make that collage and frame it somewhere. Maybe it will just be on my desktop to click open whenever I feel like I need an emotional boost. In any case, this is a great idea for any parent. It is great because you don’t have to start it in preschool or Kindergarten. You can add some old pictures and start whenever you feel like clicking “create new folder.”
Option 2: Progress Over Time
If you have some time and want something a bit more substantial, there are quite a few ideas that are done over time, with a new element added every year.
Your child can wear an adult-sized graduation gown at the end of each school year, which you can take a picture of to (eventually) create a wonderful photo collage. There are also quite organized people out there who take a picture of their child at the end of each school year holding a framed picture of last year’s picture. This is done each year, so eventually there are 12 picture-in-picture-in-pictures in one frame. These activities have to be started early, but center around taking pictures, so you have until they graduate to really put it all together.
Option 3: For the Highly Motivated and Organized
There is a third option. And, I must warn you, this is for those who are organized, can keep track of items for many years, and are motivated to keep up with it each year.
You can do a progressive craft with your child, where each year a piece gets added. One example of this is a t-shirt, stating “Class Of (insert graduation year).” And on the back, you press a painted hand each year, making handprints. Each one gets labeled with the grade and by graduation it is a t-shirt with handprints from each year.
Another option is to purchase a school year book and fill it out at the end of each year. You could also just print your own, finding a cute survey to have your child complete each year. Beware before you start these projects, as they take serious organization and commitment.
No matter how you decide to commemorate a new school year, with your eye on that eventual graduation, remember to cater to yourself. Your children will have an appreciation for their education and their growth, but in a much different way than you. Choose a way to honor each year in your way, thinking about how much time, commitment and artistic ability you possess. Keeping some type of journal or keepsake for these moments will be so special to you later, and it will be so special to them as well, eventually!
About the author: Michelle is a mom of 5 children ranging in age from 5 to 15. As a toddler and preschool teacher, she shares experiences, activities and guidance to other parents, as both a parent and as a professional early childhood educator, at any stage of their parenting journey.
Photo credit: iStock.com/Arisara_Tongdonnoi