Capturing an Authentic First Day of School Story

Last week, many of our local parents sent their kiddos back to school, and I don't care who you are or what you do or how old your kids are, the moments after you wave goodbye are bound to tug at your heartstrings.

But this post isn't about what kind of schools are best, or what age you should/not send your child to school, or the nature of working parents vs stay-at-home parents vs work from home parents, or even the heart behind our own family decisions regarding childcare. I mean, just google "sending a child to preschool" or "first day of school" and you'll get an overwhelming list of "10 ways to prepare for the first day" or "5 reasons why (insert type of education) is the best choice for your child" to make you question yourself, your security, and your capability as a parent. People are so passionate about their childcare and education decisions, and to be fair, I think they should be because they're important.

It's just that sometimes, we get too hung up on shouting into the abyss to defend our decisions to the world instead of harnessing those passions for ourselves and our children. 

The details of our stories aren't important because the world needs to see what we're doing, they're important because when my daughter is getting her own little ones ready for their first day of school 30+ years from now, I can imagine she'll love looking back at what it looked like from my perspective.

That's a gift I can give her that's simply priceless. I know I would love to see through my mothers' eyes back then- wouldn't you?

Like wouldn't it be cool to see what not just how your hair looked,  but how that day looked? 

Were your parents getting ready for work? Packing lunches? Shaking you every five minutes to wake up? What did your room look like back then? What kind of school supplies were you super proud of picking out that year? Were you excited about the day or dragging your feet? What did you have for breakfast? Were there any first day of school traditions you did as a family?

I know that in even a year from now, this life and routine I'm living is going to look completely different, so I've made a decision to be intentional about what I shoot, so I can both enjoy the moments and capture the story.



So what do these photographs of Kira's first day of school capture? When she seems them years from now, what will she learn about her childhood and this milestone?

She'll see a piece of her mother's quiet morning routine before she woke up - how she valued devotional time with God, reading, journaling, and preparing for the week. How she drank her first cup of coffee black (a whole cup while it's still hot!) and a bite of something healthy before the rest of the house woke up.


How we fixed her current favorite breakfast of waffles with peanut butter and banana, that was her "power breakfast" to be strong for her first day. 


How her mom did hand lettering as a hobby and made a piece from one of her favorite songs - because by The Beatles -- then she got her hands on it and added her own artistic touch. We like it even better now so it hangs in the kitchen to see every day. 


She'll see how her hair curled in little whisps around her face in the humidity, and on a mid-August Virginia morning, 2 minutes outside had her blond hair in ringlets.

She is eager and excited about playing with friends and going to "school." 

Grams got her a new lunchbox and she's obsessed with carrying it and pointing out that it says her name in pink letters. 

How we lived in this sweet brick townhouse in Charlottesville, the only home she's known so far, but not the one she'll spend her whole childhood in.


Look, I get it--

photographing your moments and living them simultaneously is a challenge.

And YES,

it's important to get in the frame. 

My face may not be in these images, but pieces of who I am--what I do, how I act, and what I love-- are sprinkled in because I believe it's important to show her more than appearances, but the qualities and behaviors that make up a person. 

But let's be clear: 

The memories we hold in our heads are important, too -- not every aspect of every moment needs to be captured through technology. 

That's why there are only a few pieces of this morning puzzle through my camera. Still, each one tells an intentional story that I hope will mean a lot more to her someday than a picture of her holding a chalkboard with her school stats and saying 'cheese.' 

(pssst: love this quote? pin it to reference later!)

(pssst: love this quote? pin it to reference later!)


If this post resinated with you and you want to learn more about

  • making your every day images more intentional

  • moving away from "cheese" and into capturing purposeful, beautiful memories-in-the-making

  • diving into the memories from your childhood that make up your own heritage 

...scroll to the bottom of this page to get your copy of The Memory Maximizer Outline to help guide you through a new approach to photographing your beautiful daily story.