The Gift of Their Life Story

Want to give your child a graduation gift that they’ll treasure forever? Give them a biography of their lives. I gave Nicole, my oldest daughter, her biography when she finished her ER residency and Jaclyn, my youngest, her biography when she completed her MBA. I’ve always kept a diary and continued when my girls were born. It was my way of sorting through my thoughts and debriefing when life threw obstacles in my path.  When the girls began to talk, I would ask them questions and take dictation as they responded. As they grew older, I would include their friends, and even their boyfriends as they became teens. When we read these biographies together today, it’s the little quotations and stories taken from their dictations that bring laughter and fond memories.

I made it a point to make journal entries at least once per month to catch up on all they were doing. It would only take me about 15 minutes, and I usually wrote after they went to bed. Back in the ‘80s when I started these biographies, we had film cameras, which required developing and waiting days to get the photos back. I’d rush to put the photos into photo albums and created over 150 to date. Knowing that photos only last about 30 years, my husband scanned the albums and I edited and organized the photos into folders on my computer by year, month and event. Then I added photos for every paragraph in their biographies. I even scanned poems they wrote, drawings and paintings, and holiday newsletters. I thought this would take a few months to prepare but it took 15 years!

Here’s my advice: Don’t wait until they’re ready to graduate to start their biographies! Write your biography using a word processor or desktop publishing software. Add high resolution photos (300 dpi) and documents directly to your biography right away so you don’t have to search through thousands of photos and documents in multiple locations later.  Add captions to indicate who’s in the photos and what they’re doing. You can publish these full-color books from on-demand publishers like IngramSpark for under $100.  If you don’t want to wait until graduation, you can give them biographies every birthday, or every five birthdays. Historians say that these biographies will be what future generations will read to learn about society today. This will be a gift they treasure forever.