In our home, we celebrate the first day of school, or FDOS as we call it. Beginning a new school year is a big deal. For years, we have commemorated the occasion with certain routines and rituals that have now become sweet moments of shared connections.
My intention with this post is not to tell you what to do, but rather to encourage you to consider a certain approach if you have children in school. Hospitality comes in many forms, and creating space for special moments in the life of your family is one way to live with intention and purpose. There is not a right way to celebrate the first day of school. It only requires you to consider a way to make the moment different from the every day and to show your child or children that you see this day as special.
In our home, I have done this is varying degrees depending on my level of available time. But there have been certain elements at play each year. I am sharing these elements as a way to inspire you to come up with your own plan.
It’s not about the how. It’s about the heart.
First, we eat a special breakfast together. I scramble eggs, reheat some cooked bacon, put fruit in little bowls, and either make cinnamon toast or bake some frozen biscuits. Orange juice always makes an appearance. None of these menu items are hard, but they feel special because this is not how breakfast goes on most school mornings for the rest of the year. The food is never the point of hospitality, but delicious food matters.
Second, I decorate the table the night before. Paper plates, paper napkins, and plastic forks in their school colors is my sure-fire go-to move. In the past I have gotten very fancy and made cute place mats out of notebook paper and written their names on top. I have also put jars of pencils and markers on the table for added theme-specific decor. I have hung banners, made cut outs in the shape of their mascot, and used chalkboards. I had a lot of free time during those years. More recently, the paper goods have sufficed. My free time is in shorter supply, but a quick trip to the party goods store always gives me easy options to dress the table up a bit. Even though they are old enough to know what is coming, all four of my children still delight in the decorated table greeting them that first morning.
Thirdly, I give everyone a gift. When they were in kindergarten or making a move from the lower grades to the upper grades, this gift might be a new backpack. One year I ordered personalized pencil bags from Pottery Barn Kids for everyone. The gifts have ranged from new lunch boxes or water bottles to stacks of crayons and paper. My one requirement for this gift is that it has a function. This year my people are all getting school supply gifts. Post it notes, mechanical pencils, highlighters, paper clips. They are very ordinary objects that will serve a purpose, but I make them special by wrapping them with ribbon in a cellophane bag. It’s a gesture, and not at all extravagant, but it speaks intention and purpose and love to each of them.
Lastly, and my favorite tradition of all, we eat dinner together as a family on the first day of school. No exceptions. I serve a meal they love (usually featuring macaroni and cheese), and there is always dessert. We talk about our day, and everyone takes a turn reporting on all the things they felt and saw. Eating together at the end of a momentous day is the kind of tradition I am passionate about, particularly as my oldest speeds closer and closer to the end of her high school career. These are the moments you can’t counterfeit.
I think in the beginning I went to a lot of trouble because I wanted to impress myself or my children with all my efforts. But now, with two children in high school, one in middle school, and one in elementary school, I am in it for the long-term memories. What I hoped would be seen as cute or crafty now feels more like an investment into the memory bank of my children for them to draw from later in their life. When they are done with school, will they remember all their classes? Probably not. But my hope is that they will remember the ways we made the first day of each school year a special occasion and remember how loved and supported they are.
The heart behind all of these traditions in our home is to celebrate special moments in the life of our children with intention and creativity. It’s not about the stuff. It’s not about the decorations. It’s not about puffing them up or giving them a sense of entitlement. It’s about stopping to acknowledge a new beginning worth celebrating and finding a way to do this that makes sense for our family. It’s fun and exciting, and creating space for my children to experience a tiny bit of delight is the kind of hospitality that makes my heart swell.
As the first day of school approaches, how do you create space to celebrate it with your children?