Ok, I'm going to get sappy here for a while.  Buckle up.

Senior year is coming.  Whether you're a class of 2017 parent and collision is imminent, or if you're a class of 2018 parent and you already see the dollar signs looming on the horizon, it's coming.  EVERYTHING branded with your child's graduation year.  Everything is now signable, specialized, and meant for collecting memories. 

My favorite product is the signable stuffed dog.  From about age 7-17, stuffed dogs are not a priority.  However, if they happen to have your child's graduation year and a tiny-dog-sized graduation cap, they are now a vital part of your child's graduation experience and YOU. MUST. HAVE. ONE. 

The stuffed dog is just one example of how everything that seemed silly before becomes a NEED for senior year.  A dress for under their graduation gown (that no one will see)?  NEED.  $70 of craft supplies to decorate their graduation cap?  NEED.  Every single school-logo'd item that exists anywhere?  NEED. We see where this is going.

Companies are smart.  They know your teen will want every single thing that has their graduation year on it, because this is THE LAST YEAR (dramatic movie music). Their very last chance to make memories ever, because all the movies they've seen focus on how high school is their very last chance to do absolutely anything fun for the rest of their lives.

Here's where I side with them. To them, this is a HUGE deal.  This is the thing that they've been working for for the majority of their lives.  ELEVEN YEARS out of their seventeen has been spent on this effort.  For them, this is the end of the cliff, the end of every routine, safety net, and comfortable thing in their life.  After this, they're going to take a pretty big leap, without that safety net below. 

Now for you, you can see things from the other side of the cavern.  Looking back, it's not so dramatic.  There is life (and a lot of it) on the other side of high school.  The thing is, though, your kid will never be the same. 

I don't know exactly when it happens, or how, or if there's a specific trigger verses a gradual change, but when my former seniors come to visit me after their first year of college (or work, or whatever), they're different.  They're more confident, not so flighty, not so eager to agree with whatever anyone else is saying.  They stand stronger on their own feet, and don't look to anyone else to see what their answer to a question should be before answering.  It's so subtle, but such a difference. 

Here's where we get sappy.  Grab the Kleenex.  The thing is, that's your kid.  The kid who tossed you a look before their big event, the "I'm way too cool for this but please mom, I'm begging you, show me it'll be ok", the "I screwed up and I shouldn't care but I really do so please offer a hug", or the "If my friends see me I'll never hear the end of it but tell me you're proud of me".  That kid is now more able to carry their own load, knowing that they've handled things before and they can handle whatever else comes their way.  They don't need every glance, reassurance, or gentle push to get them where they need to go.  They can (kind of) do laundry, feed themselves, keep a schedule, and all the other basics that grown-ups need to do.  What's a parent to do now that they're just a little bit less needed?  You joke about your kid living in your basement until they're 30, but... what happens when they don't?

All of this is why everything I do is an EXPERIENCE.  It's not really so much about the pictures. Sure, the pictures are beautiful and stunning and will be there to look at every day that your daughter isn't there with you in person, but that's not REALLY what it's about.  Everything we do at JDP gives you a chance to spend some really important time with your child before they're not your "child" anymore.  Planning outfits, giving your seemingly unwanted opinion, lending some of your jewelry or a hat, helping to iron, steam, hang up those outfits that best tell her story.  Stopping for Starbucks on the way to the studio and praying she doesn't spill that pink tea on her new white dress.  Her eye rolls as you document every pose and smile (but she loves it, trust us).  Her feeling pampered as you help carry her shoes, bag, maybe a reflector.  You remembering all of this when you see her finished images and get your first glimpse of your grown-up girl.  *cue tissues* No one remembers the plush autograph dog, but everyone remembers the time spent laughing, eye-rolling, worrying, crying, and being proud at a JDP senior session.

This is why we do things differently here.  This is why we say "create an experience".  We're not trying to be kitschy or gimmicky.  It really is what we do, for families.  Even if we never see the mom or dad in our finished images, we know they're there, just out of frame, holding a reflector and beaming, or capturing all the behind-the-scenes pictures, or just watching your daughter be in the spotlight and loving every second of it.  The cool thing?  Your child knows you're there too.  That secret support, one of the last times they can toss you a glance and know that they're doing great and you're proud and everything's good.

Loooooooong story short, this all ties in to why we plan destination shoots and contests like the Seniors Ignite Model Competition.  Sure, we love to travel, but I'd have a lot fewer gray hairs if I wasn't spending weeks planning the perfect locations, hotels, and travel arrangements! We do this for YOU.  To have a chance to do a big plan, have a big adventure, a huge bank of memories that both you and your child can dip into when things get lonely. If there's any time for an adventure, it's now.  Right as her wings are spreading but right before she takes off over that ledge, go on a trip!  Document it the right way.

If you're interested in a JDP Destination trip to NYC, Paris, or any location of your choosing, or if your senior is graduating in 2018 and you'd like to give your child the chance at an experience of a lifetime (with you right along with her), call us at (814) 464-1184 or email us at info@jenniferdworek.com.  For the Seniors Ignite Model Competition, entrants MUST have their senior pictures taken at JDP studio, so schedule their session right away!  And for goodness' sake, please don't buy the plush autograph dog!

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