The Great Graduation Gift List

Lisa writes: It is graduation time in my house, times two. And, Mary Dell’s family is rejoicing in a commencement as well. While we have been here before with our older kids we were stumped for ideas of gifts and reached out to our band of experienced moms for some wonderful suggestions to create this graduation gift guide.

graduation, cap toss

We have included gifts for both high school and college, for both young women and men. We have covered a broad array of price points and tried to include both the practical and the frivolous. Have a friend with a grad this year? Please share this post with them.  And, if you have more great ideas to add to our list,  we would love to see your suggestions in the comments. 

The number one gift for graduates is money. It is what they ask for most often and what is proffered. As a nation we will give about $5 billion in graduation gifts and 58% of this will be in cash. But if money is not on your list, or you are looking for a more creative way to offer it, here are 38 suggestions from our friends and family.

1. Tuck a Check Inside Do Your Laundry or You’ll Die Alone: Advice Your Mom Would Give if She Thought You Were Listening by Becky Blades, and you’ll be giving your grad what she wants but doesn’t know she needs: her mother’s loving counsel. The beautifully illustrated book covers topics from laundry to forgiveness to creative living. Directed predominantly at young women, my college boys laughed out loud and read it cover to cover. The best part: pages to personalize. All this wit and wisdom is available for $13.99.

Do Your Laundry, Becky Blades

2. And for Help with that Laundry. We love this suggestion from Bespoke Custom Gifts. A personalized laundry bag with instructions and the meaning of those tricky laundry symbols printed right outside. Any mother who has received a phone call from a laundromat knows the value of this great idea. We ordered one as soon as we saw them.

3. Monogrammed Towels or Towel Wraps. Now that they are setting their own laundry schedule, kids can never have too many towels. Monogrammed towels will not get nabbed in the dorm laundry or city laundromat.

laundry bag, Bespoke Custom Gifts

4. Who Are We Kidding? Tuition, room and board, spending money for four years…that was the gift.

5. Dorm Essentials. At some point every high school grad seems to find themselves in The Container Store, Bed, Bath and Beyond, or Target searching out XL sheets and an array of storage items. Gift certificates from these national retailers will get them on their way. Items can be ordered at your local store to be picked up later in the store closest to your child’s college campus.

6. Wheels. College grads moving to cities with limited public transportation will rejoice over any help with car insurance, payments, or money towards a car lease. For some, those days of walking are over.

7. Two Wheels. College kids on bicycles is an idyllic image, but not if your kid’s bicycle was the small one they got for the holidays in sixth grade. If they are going to attend a university that is suited to a bike, and most are, this may be the single most useful gift you can give.

8. $50 in Quarters. Think of it as a year’s worth of laundry without wandering the dorm every week or two looking to see who can change a couple of dollars. But we did hear something about a quarter drinking game….

9. It’s Always Coffee Time. College kids pushing though late night studying or graduates who are now waking early will appreciate their own single serving coffee maker. Keurig makes all different size machines for any dorm room or apartment. This is a gift that saves time and money. If your graduate is a tea drinker a small electric kettle is just the thing, here is a $58 version that comes in four colors, including lime green.

10. Money Disguised. If handing over a fist full of dollars is not what you had in mind, turn that cash into silver coins or a mint set from the year your graduate was born. The coins are commemorative, can be save and cherished, or turned right back into needed cash.

11. Overnight bag. It might be time to stop using grocery bags as luggage. A small canvas duffel or tote will come in handy on visits home, away for weekends or traveling to, hopefully, job interviews.

Filson bag, duffle bag

12. Help with Student Loans. A full 70% of college students graduate with debt and the average loan burden approaches $30,000. Any and all help with those payments is truly a graduation gift.

13. The Party. Graduations are a time for families to gather and celebrate. They are milestones of great meaning and joy, but that doesn’t mean the festivities are free. As parents,  the party can be a gift to our kids they will never forget.

14. A Journal. A beautiful blank book, given in advance of a graduation party, can be passed among the guests. The real gifts are the thoughts and bits of advice that family and friends can record, making this a gift both deeply personal and meaningful.

15. A Beautiful Piece of Jewelry. Graduations are one of life’s big milestones and, as such, perhaps a moment for a first piece of real jewelry. A set of pearl earrings or subtle gold necklace can be worn on special occasions or taken out for job interviews.

16. Let the Tailgating Begin. A small portable grill works either outside the stadium or on an apartment rooftop. Grill tools need to be part of this package.

17. Unbreakable Cups. Tervis makes 329 unbreakable mugs, with school logos. College kids are not the most careful with their possessions, so heavy emphasis on the unbreakable.

18. Gift Cards for Local Eateries. For many kids graduation means a new city, either for college or a job. Gift cards from local restaurants will be a great treat in the new neighborhood.

19. Personalized Belts. Smathers & Branson, a luxury retailer of needlepoint goods, will make a personalized belt with meaning for your grad. They also sell wallets, key fobs, hats, flasks and coasters all embroidered with Collegiate or Greek Logos.

default-hero

20. Get Rid of the Backpack. For kids facing their first real job, a brief case, good handbag or okay, an upmarket backpack, might be the thing to send them on their way. Quality leather goods do not come cheap, but the last for years to come.

21. Fleece blankets, with Monograms or Photos. One of my friends gave fleece throws in college colors with their embroidered monograms to our kids and all their friends. With drafty dorm rooms or extra friends spending the night, this is a gift that will get used. Shutterfly will put your photos on a machine-washable blanket for $43.

22. Gym Membership. For those leaving the college campus the days of free exercise facilities might be over. Give the gift of health and fitness, or at least a place to de-stress after a long day at the office.

23. Wallet or Business Card Case. Something everyone needs and it can be upped with a gift card inside.

24. Campus Gifts.  For high school or college grads, sweatshirts or other item from their to-be alma mater or for high school grads, a gift certificate to the college bookstore are classics.

25. Manners Never go out of Style. Personalized stationery may not make them jump for joy but they will never again have the excuse, “I had nothing to write a thank you note on, so I sent an email (or worse, a text!)”

stationery, note cards

26. J. Crew. We are pretty sure that it is not possible to have too many J. Crew gift cards. College grads need clothes for the world of work and high school grads may need warm weather gear now that they will be doing much more walking.

27. Experiences, Not Things. Tickets to concerts or shows, or if your budget stretches to accommodate it, a trip. Many parents mentioned the lasting joy of a post-graduation trip if it fits into the family finances.

28. Money Lei. Feeling crafty? Take those dollar bills and make a traditional lei. One part origami, one part Hawaiian necklace. a quick search on Pinterest will show you a 100 different styles with instructions.

29. Tools of the Trade. Unassembled furniture? A hinge that is coming loose? A small but well equipped tool box might just be what your grad needs. Here are suggestions from The Container Store.

30. The Classics. You can never go wrong with these tried and trues. Watches and pearls might go to the office the first week of the new job, or be tucked away for the first special occasion, but this is the gift that lasts a lifetime.

31. Family Photos. They may have snapshots of the family in their phones, but that is not the same as a beautiful professional photo for their wall or desk. Consider a family photo shoot, complete with family dog, before the kids leave home.

32. Lean in for Graduates. Sheryl Sandberg has rewritten her manifesto for women’s empowerment for the 20-something set. For any young women just starting out, here is a road map.

33. A Picture is Worth….iPhoto, Shutterfly and WeMontage all offer parents an easy way to create a book of memories. Our computers are jam-packed with photos waiting to be liberated. We can pull them off our kids’ Facebook pages and upload them into a perfect keepsake.

34. Time to Make a Home. Think about vouchers from Ikea, West Elm, Crate and Barrel, Design WIthin Reach or Sleepy’s. Credit at any of these stores, or many others, will be appreciated by anyone with an empty new apartment.

35. Their Life on the Page. What are you going to do with all those old report cards and iffy school photos? Here is a chance to put their lives on paper and make a scrapbook with mementos you have saved for years. This is not a last-minute job, but more like a suggestion for parents of juniors.

36. Cookies. Who wouldn’t love a voucher from mom for baked goods that will be sent the following year?

chocolate chip cookies

37. Family Memento. Grandparents looking for gifts might consider some of the family mementos or jewelry that their grandchildren can treasure forever. Passing on family heirlooms (and we use this term broadly) is a moment with meaning for both generations.

38. Steal a Little Time. Finally, one of our wonderful readers suggested something that tugged at my heart. For kids graduating college with jobs, the days and weeks after graduation will be one of the last extended periods of time they will have. A one-on-one parent and child trip, even just an overnight, is an opportunity that will not soon arise again. There really is nothing like the gift of memories.



Did you like this post? The +1 tells Google it's great content! We appreciate your support.


Clean is Sexy and 58 Other Bits of Advice for Young Men

Lisa writes: Our brilliant friend, Becky Blades, has just published her gorgeous book of advice for young women, Do Your Laundry or You’ll Die Alone. Nestled among her beautiful pages were 270 pieces of advice that mothers would give, if they thought their daughters were listening. As a mom with boys, I simply had to weigh in with my own advice for young men.

clean is sexy, advice for young men

If you need a graduation gift for a young women, go right now and buy her book.  If your life is filled with boys staring into the precipice of adulthood, stay right here, read on and then give us your thoughts. Here is what Mary Dell and I might say to our nearly grown sonsif they ever start listening.

[Read more...]



Did you like this post? The +1 tells Google it's great content! We appreciate your support.


Ready for Takeoff? Facing the Question with Autism

April 2 is the seventh annual World Autism Awareness Day and organizations around the globe will raise funds and awareness for the condition that now affects 1 in 68 children and 1 in 42 boys.  This is a cause near to our hearts and Grown and Flown asked two mothers of grown children with autism to share their stories this week. On Monday  we featured Liane Kupferberg Carter’s writing and today, we are honored that Susan Berger, author of the blog, Berger’s Blather offers this heartfelt post:

young adult, teenager, autism

My 19–year–old son is almost ready to launch.  Well, that’s what I tell myself. “Almost,” as in “You can do it,” “You’re nearly there,” has become my lifelong one-word personal prayer. My son is on the cusp of leaving home, the pivotal step toward the rest of his life–ordinarily an expected and desired move most parents and young adults strive for.

[Read more...]



Did you like this post? The +1 tells Google it's great content! We appreciate your support.


Loosening the Ties that Bind: Growing Up with Autism

April 2 is the seventh annual World Autism Awareness Day.  Organizations around the globe will raise funds and awareness for the condition that now affects 1 in 68 children and 1 in 42 boys.  This is a cause near to our hearts and Grown and Flown asked two mothers of grown children with autism to share their stories this week.

We have read Liane Kupferberg Carter for years and hope that her writing, below, will touch you, as it has both of us:

Liane Carter, autism, Autism Awareness Day

I don’t know how to do this.

There’s no book for taking the next step. No Fiske Guide to Colleges. No Barron’s. When our son Jonathan was preparing to leave home for college, we had a whole shelf of books to guide our family.

There’s no book for our autistic son Mickey, who is turning twenty. No U.S. News and World Report ranking best vocational opportunities; no handbook rating residential programs for developmentally disabled young adults. We’re making it up as we go.

[Read more...]



Did you like this post? The +1 tells Google it's great content! We appreciate your support.


Time to Redecorate the Empty Nest

Mary Dell writes: Our college kids and young adults come in and out of our homes but we tend to leave their childhood bedrooms frozen in time, shrines to their younger selves. But once they depart for their own nests, isn’t it time to take a hard look at the space they vacated and redecorate it for our primary use? These photographs by Dona Schwartz of parents moping in their children’s abandoned bedrooms motivated me to get to work on our son’s room now that he has his first job and first apartment. (Yeah! and Yeah!)

Lyn Peterson

My friend and neighbor, Lyn Peterson, is the founder of Motif Designs, a Scarsdale, New York, design company.  She is also an author, mother of four, and grandmother to three. She has first-hand knowledge of these transitions in her own household and has helped hundreds of clients transform their homes as their children grew up and out. She offers her advice here:

Mary Dell: How can we convert a “child’s” bedroom into one that reflects her collegiate status, rather than that of a little girl?

[Read more...]



Did you like this post? The +1 tells Google it's great content! We appreciate your support.


Do Your Laundry Or You’ll Die Alone: The Wit and Wisdom of Becky Blades

Lisa writes: Mary Dell and I have read Becky Blades’ beautiful volume, Do Your Laundry or You’ll Die Alone,  and we love it. We don’t just love it because we have high school (and college!) graduates this year. We love it because it is the perfect gift of wit and wisdom for any girl/young woman, age 15-25, and because of the messages of empowerment, understanding and optimism Becky conveys.  It is a little manual for life, and who doesn’t need that?

Do Your Laundry or You'll Die Alone

But Becky’s book is even better with some of the back story. Her slender and beautifully illustrated volume is very much a “mom story” that so many of us can relate to, and we had the pleasure of interviewing her to hear  firsthand.

Interview With Author Becky Blades

Lisa: You say in the book that you wrote this as a reminder to oldest daughter before she headed off to Harvard? Why did she need reminding and why didn’t you just tell her what you had to say?

Becky: My firstborn, Taylor Kay, was a driven child, and busy, busy, busy. Every minute seemed so intense – with few of those hang-around-and-chat moments where topics just come up. When we WERE in the same room, I shared her attention with the crowd of people who were texting or Facebooking on her phone. Since she was working so hard, and I didn’t want every conversation to be an argument, I gave her a pass on that, and other things – like doing her laundry.

[Read more...]



Did you like this post? The +1 tells Google it's great content! We appreciate your support.


Last Call List for Senior Year

Lisa writes: Here I am, 365 days out from the empty nest.  The temptation is to spend a year boring you with lasts.  The last first day of school, the last birthday at home (trust me, this one is the real killer), or the last varsity game. But I am going to try and resist the pull to be maudlin and instead create a Parent’s Bucket List for senior year in high school, perhaps better thought of as the Last Call List….Everything I wish I had done before my older kids went to to college.

senior year, senior year before college, off to college

 

1. Pay a professional photographer

Try for that one perfect set of family pictures that no amateur can capture.  It seems like the kids are grown, that the need to document their gorgeous faces has lost its urgency as the transitions slow.  Wrong.  That just-finished-childhood-not-quite-adult look is fleeting. Get someone who knows what the are doing to capture it.

 

2. Talk about failure and tell them of your failings

Tell them why you failed and how you recovered and how, for some period of time you thought you might not.  We loom so large in our children’s lives, as the people who once held superpowers. Let them know how those powers have often failed you as both an adult and a parent.

[Read more...]



Did you like this post? The +1 tells Google it's great content! We appreciate your support.


8 Best of the Empty Nest

Here are our 8 Best of the Empty Nest, the handful of beautiful musings that we feel encapsulate the journey from parenting in our homes full of little kids to parenting young adults striking out on their own. Some of these amazing writers offer us up their pain, most their humor and all their love.  Each tells their own story, and like all good writing, it becomes our story.  In no particular order:

 

1. Anna Quindlen, Flown Away, Left Behind, Newsweek

Anna Quindlen

Three rooms empty, full of the ghosts of my very best self.

 

2. Michael Gerson, Saying Goodbye to My Child, the Youngster, The Washington Post

Off to College

He has a wonderful future in which my part naturally diminishes. I have no possible future that is better without him close.

[Read more...]



Did you like this post? The +1 tells Google it's great content! We appreciate your support.


Kids Going to College: Getting Your Heart and Head Ready

Lisa writes: When we published a post last summer about our kids going to college, we thought we had missed a most important moment and had one only chance left, when our youngest leave.  We were wrong.

College Move-in, Dorm Move-In

Parenthood has two big transitions, when our children arrive and when they leave. Mary Dell and I managed the first and, with our older sons, we have faced the second. Our youngest children are leaving for college in a year, a moment we have looked forward to and dreaded for almost two decades. A year ago when we considered this topic we were struck by the real wisdom offered by  Marshall P. Duke, Professor at Emory University in this wonderful piece he wrote for The Huffington Post.

“It is a moment that comes along once in a lifetime. Each child only starts college once. …Such moments are rare. They have power. They give us as parents one-time opportunities to say things to our children that will stick with them not only because of what is said, but because of when it is said.

Here is what I tell the parents: think of what you want to tell your children when you finally take leave of them and they go off to their dorm and the beginning of their new chapter in life and you set out for the slightly emptier house that you will now live in. What thoughts, feelings and advice do you want to stick? “Always make your bed!”? “Don’t wear your hair that way!”? Surely not. This is a moment to tell them the big things. Things you feel about them as children, as people. Wise things. Things that have guided you in your life. Ways that you hope they will live. Ways that you hope they will be. Big things. Life-level things.”

Professor Duke suggests a letter, that I did not write, to impart to  your now independent child all the important things you want them to know.  This letter, he reminds us, will not be deleted but kept and the message absorbed.

When I read his exceptional piece and all I could think was, “I blew it.”  I have sent two sons off to college without any attention to the profound.  I was saddened  for the missed opportunity and hoped I might be redeemed with my third and final opportunity when my youngest son goes to college.

And then I read the very wise professor more carefully (as I urge you to.)  Our children will, hopefully, cross many important thresholds in their young adulthood.  There will be first jobs and real loves.  There will be engagements and marriages.  They will face heart-wrenching disappointments and the joys of parenthood. At each of these moments, if and when they occur, we have a chance to quietly offer our thoughts to be accepted or rejected, but to be heard.

For many of us, the milestone moment on the horizon is our kids going to college. While Professor Duke offers advice for the heart, here are practical suggestions from BTDT* moms.

Off to College:

Last year we asked a group of very experienced moms to share their collective wisdom on saying goodbye to the kids going to college. Their advice spans the gamut from the very practical to the very personal, from the trivial to the monumental.  Other friends, the authors of the great book College Admission: From Application to Acceptance, offer professional advice:

In the end, our job as parents is to leave them with both the right size sheets and a sense that they are well equipped for this next, independent stage of life.  The challenges are no greater or lesser than when they arrived eighteen years ago.

[Read more...]



Did you like this post? The +1 tells Google it's great content! We appreciate your support.


Stalking My Kids

Lisa writes: When my kids were little they stalked me.  They followed me from room to room, they banged on the bathroom door and almost never left my side.  Sometimes I loved it, sometimes it made me mental, and sometimes I worried they would never successfully separate.  I wondered why they wanted to be with me so much, stalking day and night.  I thought it might be a little like our Labrador who follows me around every evening hoping to be fed.  Yet they still seemed to want to be with me even after they knew how to open the refrigerator door.  Now I find,  it is me, stalking my kids.

NYC nightlife, NYC

Sometimes I would say to them, why do you want to come with me?  I realized that whatever I was doing would be slowed down by their presence and when I was in a hurry, I felt frustration.  But they wanted to be with me, even if the task was tedious, and irrelevant to them. If I just wanted to roam, they wanted to know where we were going. I loved being with them, loved everything about their presence, but their questions could wear me out.  They seemed happy just to be with me.
[Read more...]



Did you like this post? The +1 tells Google it's great content! We appreciate your support.


Ready to Go?

Lisa writes: After high school, many of our kids go on to college.  Unlike in other countries, this transition is made seamlessly and without more than a summer break.  We send our eighteen year olds off to their next stage, often without knowing if they are ready to go.    Many have the option to stay home and attend a local university or community college but legions march off into dormitories every year for their first real taste of living alone.

When my older kids made this journey, I was, at first, unsure as to whether they were ready to go.  I looked at them over their high school years and could not fathom their independent life.  But then things began to change.

How did you know your kids were ready to go?

ready to go?, little child walking alone, child

[Read more...]



Did you like this post? The +1 tells Google it's great content! We appreciate your support.


Christmas Traditions – Somewhere Between the Old and the New

Gabby, a Grown and Flown Writer, sent us this post as she prepares for the holidays: My youngest child complained recently that we don’t make as big a deal of Christmas traditions and celebrations as we did when her older brother and sister lived at home. Ironically, it was just about the time I had decided to skip decorating the house for Thanksgiving, something I have always done. And since we planned to be away for Christmas, I was also entertaining the notion of a “quieter” version of Christmas lights and decor.

I’ve written before about all the advantages my third child has in terms of my experienced and wiser approach to parenting, but I have not often considered the downside.

Macy's Thanksgiving Day Parade spider man balloon, parade balloon, Macy's parade, Christmas traditions

I vaguely recall my youngest sister complaining that the focus of our family always seemed to be directed at the lives of her two older sisters.  Whether conversations were about college, first jobs or partners, she was always in an earlier stage and her life was never the topic of family discussions.

There are several precipitating occurrences which have inspired my “toned down” approach to our Christmas traditions. If I am honest with myself, weariness, boredom, and a little bit of cynicism are among the darker factors. However, at the same time, I am working hard within this second phase of life (along with my family) to remake myself so that I can shed certain outdated personas and make room for more originality, purpose and depth…..and isn’t that the point of these holidays to begin with? Finally, there is no denying that we have been forced to shift things around, both to adapt to our children’s new lives as they enter adulthood and also because of  the aging of the generation ahead of us.inflatable balloon, family trip to parade, Macy's Thanksgiving Day parade, Kermit the frog, Kermit balloon

As an example, this was the first time in 20 years that I did not have a household of extended family for Thanksgiving.  Instead, I hosted an early celebration with my husband, our three children, friends, significant others and some extended family before all but four of us traveled in different directions.

Yet in what might become a new tradition, I did something I have wanted to do since I was a little girl….my husband, two of my children and I went to the Macy’s Thanksgiving Day Parade.

During past years when I flew around the house cooking up multiple meals for multiple days of visitors, I wistfully watched the TV’s rendition. This Thanksgiving there was room for a new (perhaps one-time) holiday tradition and I was mindfully present holding my youngest child’s hand as we watched those magical balloons drift by.

Don’t worry….right after my daughter complained, I pulled out the pilgrim candles and went out and bought my kids and my nieces and nephews chocolate advent calendars. However, with the run up to Christmas, I ask fellow bloggers and readers this question.  How do you keep the magic in your Christmas traditions…..while mixing the old with the new?

“Your concern  is not so much to have what you love anymore but to love what you have-right now.” Richard Rohr

Thanksgiving traditions, watching the Macy's parade, Christmas traditions,Thanksgiving in New York City, watching the parade

 



Did you like this post? The +1 tells Google it's great content! We appreciate your support.


After the Last Child

“You will miss me the most.” my last child surprised me by saying, “Because after I’m gone it is going to be really, really quiet here.”  And there it was, the truth out of the mouth of a sixteen year old, a truth that summed up so much about parenting.  There is something special about eldest children.  We don’t love them any more than the others, but it is their very existence that changes us from self-absorbed young adults into doting parents.

Speaking for myself, no one person ever transformed my life so dramatically.  But my youngest son has a point, his departure will bring a similar, massive change to my life. My oldest child may have made me a parent but my youngest child will make me an empty nester.

babies, babies at the beach, toddlers, toddlers at the beach, siblings at the beach, little children at the beach, toddlers

[Read more...]



Did you like this post? The +1 tells Google it's great content! We appreciate your support.


Hello and Goodbye to the Family Dog

Mary Dell writes: Long ago, our house became a favorite destination for our son’s playdates and we have a big, brown, furry family dog to thank. During our 20+ years of marriage, we have actually owned four (!) chocolate Labrador retrievers beginning with our engagement gift puppy and ending with the dog who joined our almost empty nest three years ago.

goodbye to the family dog

 

Of all the dogs, though, Argus, a Christmas present to our then six-year old son, was the rowdiest, matching up in temperament perfectly with the pack of energized little boys who came over to play.  As he trained  (somewhat successfully) his unruly pal, our son gained a playmate and confidante, alarm clock and buddy; in fact, he gained a brother. The years of puppyhood, with chewed possessions and indoor “accidents,” are distressing. But witnessing your grown child saying goodbye to a now-aged dog as he leaves home for college is infinitely harder.

[Read more...]



Did you like this post? The +1 tells Google it's great content! We appreciate your support.


Empty Nest Silver Lining

Lisa writes: I have been preparing for the empty nest for two decades. I hated it when my boys went off to nursery school. I was not one of those mothers who thought sleep away summer camp was a great idea. So when two of my three children went off to college in quick succession, I feared that this might not go very well. For me.

Empty Nest. silver lining, college kids, dorm room, college, university
As I moved them into their dorm rooms, I just about held it together, yet I drove away from each of their schools with tears streaming down my face. I was sad for me but more I was sad for our family. Many moments of unalterable change are not apparent until long after the moment has passed. Within ten steps of walking away [Read more...]



Did you like this post? The +1 tells Google it's great content! We appreciate your support.