Our busy blended family of seven children faces the same ups and downs as most households. We struggle to find the balance between family time and extracurricular activities.
We find creative ways to entertain the large age gap between our children that runs from the oldest (21) to the youngest (2). We fight the attraction of technology with all of our kids and we have to watch our own use as well to be sure we aren’t being sucked into something on social media that takes our attention away from the importance of our family.
We work hard to establish traditions that all of our children will carry with them that include cookie baking at Grandma’s house, endless games of Horse, family tournaments of air hockey, and weekend trips to cabins where we play endless board games. It is these traditions that will help our children navigate their way through a world tied to posting pictures and constant status updates of their daily lives.
My husband has passed down a tradition to our two oldest that I think many parents should consider as their children reach milestones such as age 18 or high school graduation. He has passed down something he received as a young man and still uses today. It is a simple box with his name engraved on the top.
Inside the box are important treasures he collected through the years. As my son and now my daughter graduated from high school, he had a special box made for them to collect these memories in their own lives. It isn’t a post on Facebook that they will remember or a particular tweet, but instead, the actual things they have touched that will provide them stories to tell their own children as they share the contents of their box someday.
I love when my husband gets out his box and shares the contents. Through the years, he has placed a harmonica he got while traveling in Europe, his tassel from high school graduation, his college class ring, and a yo-yo I gave him when we first got married. The kids love to hear him play the harmonica, and I don’t think he would even have it had he not had this special box given to him by a dear family friend.
Following is the letter he gave my daughter when he gave her this gift when she graduated from high school a few weeks ago:
Congratulations on making it through high school! The next step of your life is filled with so many different experiences … some exciting, some frightening, and some confusing. So many things that are brand new will cause you to laugh and cry and everything else in between. Opinions will be challenged, reinforced, changed and formed. It truly is a groundbreaking time of life and the woman you have become gives you a great foundation to start this journey. As a parent, I look at you with emotions of excitement, fear, and even some envy.
Amidst the day to day of life, you will have experiences which will stand out as extraordinary. Some will be good. Some will be bad. They will all teach a lesson that you will carry for years to come. This brings means to the point of my gift. When I graduated high school, a family friend gave me a similar box and over time it has become a treasure chest of those experiences.
My hope is that this box can serve as your chest of experiences and there are no rules. If you join a sorority, perhaps you put your initiation pin in here. You could include a ticket stub from the best concert you have ever seen. You could consider the receipt from the dinner where you get engaged in the future. It will be fun to look back at your business card from your first “job.” You might want to solemnly look back at the program from the funeral of a friend who died too soon. You will always smile looking back at the hospital bands from the births of your children. You could even include this letter! You get the idea… This box will become whatever you want it to be.
I am proud of you and love you very much. Thank you for everything you have given, and continue to give, to me and the whole family. I am so blessed to have you in my life. My own life has been filled with good decisions and bad decisions which give me some background to offer you advice and support. If you ever need anything, I am here.
Take a moment to consider creating these traditions for your children or grandchildren. You will not only be giving them something real to hold onto, but you also have the opportunity to express your feelings and they will always know what was in your heart.
My daughter received many gifts for graduation, but this special engraved box from her step-dad captured her heart and she took it with her when she moved out last weekend. I can’t wait to watch her memories fill this special box and I hope all of the ups and downs of a well –lived life will someday occupy this special gift.
Katie Coombs is the host of the radio show “Uncommon Sense with Katie Coombs.” You can reach her on Facebook at www.facebook.com/UncommonSenseKC/.