In the blink of an eye, my baby graduated high school.
Not only did my son graduate, so did many of his closest friends.
What to get them as a graduation gift?
One of the graduation gifts I gave.
This was especially challenging given we were sheltering-in-place. Few retail stores were open and most online stores had shipping delays.
Pandemic or not, I needed to come up with gift ideas for the Class of 2020.
Keep reading to learn about the special gifts I gave to each graduate---and to each graduate’s mom.
I Wanted to Give Personalized Graduation Gifts that Were Special
I love when a gift is memorable. Something that is enjoyed and remembered long after the wrapping paper is thrown away.
I also believe there is a language of gift giving. When I want to get a gift for someone, I always start with, “If the gift could talk, what would it say?”
The graduation gifts were for my son’s good friends, so I drew inspiration from the shared graduation party that the three moms and I planned for our sons.
The happy graduates on the evening after their virtual ceremony.
(Party is a bit of an overstatement, it was a socially distanced backyard gathering for immediate family members and involved takeout food. Click here for My 5 Favorite Things I Did for the Grad Party.)
As we worked the details of the gathering, it was clear how much each mother loved her son and wanted to come up with a way to safely recognize a major milestone for our boys.
I knew I wanted these gifts to say, “Your mommy loves you and wants you to be happy and safe…no matter where you are.”
Proud moms of the Class of 2020.
Gifts for the Class of 2020-College Survival Kits
That’s how I came to gift a College Survival Kit filled with things that might come in handy while the boys were away at school.
What I REALLY wanted to label the box was “The Things You’d Usually Ask Your Mommy For.” My son nixed the idea, convinced that none of his friends would take the box to college if I actually wrote that on the label.
To be clear, this gift was intended to help them acclimate to college life and living away from home for the first time. It was NOT intended to help them survive COVID-19.
The College Survival Kit I created for each graduate.
How to Put Together a College Survival Kit for High School Graduates
The gift of a College Survival Kit was easy to put together, and equally important, I could find the items I needed from the few stores that were open during the quarantine phase of the pandemic.
Here’s what I did to assemble each College Survival Kit:
- I started with a plastic box with small dividers in it. I’m sure you’ve seen them before and probably even own one—they’re usually used for holding tiny things like beads or screws. I specifically chose a box that had adjustable dividers so I could fit items of various sizes.
This box is similar to one that I used.
- I filled it with things that I thought would come in handy. I started with a USB drive and a Swiss Army knife (the version I chose included small scissors and a screwdriver) and then thought back to items my kids had recently asked me for. In went the postage stamps, the Band-aids and more.
The biggest surprise to me while putting these kits together? The wide range of Swiss Army knives there are to choose from!
- I created a cover for the box, printed it out and glued it on. It wasn’t anything fancy, it just said College Survival Kit and listed the items that were in there. (I did this because my teenage son sometimes has a hard time finding...well, pretty much anything!)
- Just to make sure they had a few family photos with them, I taped some photos of the graduate and their families on the inside cover of the box. I might have also added a small note that says “Your Mommy Loves You”, but don’t tell my son! 😀
All four boys were in the high school marching band together.
(They don't usually dress like that!)
Wrapping Up the Gifts for College Freshman
Once I had the College Survival Kits fully assembled, I added a picture of the four boys that we had taken at the graduation party and put it in a Class of 2020 frame.
Part of the graduation gift included a picture from the joint graduation party.
(The framed picture had nothing to do with the kit, but maybe the boys would bring a pic of their high school buddies with them to college?)
I’ve come to call gifts like these “echo gifts" because they will be enjoyed into the future.
While the boys are still living at home, they may not have a need for many of the items in the box. Come September when they're in need of lip balm or baggies, they'll appreciate the contents of the College Survival Kit even more!
(Read more here about why echo gifts are so powerful, especially for milestone celebrations.)
Yes, Moms Need Graduation Gifts Too!
While i didn't "need to" give the moms a gift, sometimes you find something that's just perfect...
For each mom at the party, our sons are our first-born child, so we have no experience with our babies leaving the nest.
I figured that we all could use help with this major parenting milestone, so I gave each mom a copy of Grown and Flown: How to Support Your Teen, Stay Close as a Family and Raise Independent Adults.
If you haven’t read this awesome book, it’s the modern-day equivalent of What to Expect When You’re Expecting, the bible of pregnant women everywhere in the early 2000's.
Rather than focus on the days leading up to a child's birth, the Grown and Flown book offers valuable parenting advice to those of us with teens and young adult children.
While What to Expect helped me to know what was in store for me as I eagerly awaited for my bundles of joy to arrive, the Grown and Flown book has provided wise insights on what's ahead...until those same bundles of joy depart the house and launch into adulthood.
(If you want to check out the Grown and Flown Facebook group, it's incredibly active with multiple posts a day and over half a MILLION members.)
Though the content of the book was an obvious fit for any parent with a college-bound student, I wrote nearly the same inscription in each one:
“Oh, the places they’ll go!
Fingers crossed they remember to call their mommies when they get there!
So grateful to have shared this journey with you.”
Why an inscription? Years later, the recipient may run across this book and not remember where they got it or why. Even writing a sentence or two can whisk the person back to the time when they received it.
To add another personal touch, inside each book I tucked a photo of each mom and her son to be used as a bookmark.
These sweet boys are now old enough to vote!
The Thank You Notes Reinforced What a Great Gift Idea the Book Was
I was hoping the book would be appreciated...and it was!
Check out the thank you notes I received:
Once again proving two old adages true: It takes a village to raise children and a great book is meant to be shared.
Milestone Birthdays and Graduation Celebrations are Joyous Occasions for Gifting
As I noted at the start of this post, our boys and the rest of the Class of 2020 graduated in the midst of a pandemic.
Though so many things didn't go as planned for them this spring---no prom, no Senior sunrise, no signing of yearbooks with friends, and so much more---it was an absolute joy to celebrate such a talented group of kids and their terrific moms.
And just in case my son asks, please tell him to call his mommy!