This Thursday I will be waking up at 5:30am so that I can do something for the very last time in my life. For the past 23 years, I have been posing my children in front of our house to photograph them on their first day of school each year. I started this tradition because I remember my parents doing the same with me and my two siblings. I’ve been interested in photography and photographs since I was a kid, so I’m not surprised that something like this became important to me.

Every year, I break out the photos from kindergarten to whichever year each of my three children was starting and marvel at how they’ve grown. Back when I started doing this in 1994, I was using a film camera. I didn’t buy my first digital camera until after baby #3 came along in 2000. And I ended up losing some of my precious First Day of School photos when I lost a computer hard drive, which is a reminder to everyone to store your photos in multiple locations or in the cloud. I use Dropbox.

I encourage parents not only to simply capture the first day of school for your child/ren, but to attempt to do it in the same location each year. That way, you can really see their growth. I was fortunate to be in the same home for 17 years, which saw my first and second children through high school. My third child moved with us from house to house for the last 6 years. But that doesn’t mean her photos are any less dramatic or special. I still took them in the front of our house. She’ll always be able to remember where she lived when she was in which grade.

Unfortunately, hers are the only complete set I have, due to the hard drive crash. I already warned her that I will be shedding some tears on Thursday. It’s what I do. Photos become my memories of special times. It’s why I became a photographer.

To see these as a slideshow, click on the first photo on the left to launch it.