Yesterday, I took two hours and rewrote the girls’ story, pre-Canada.
The last time I wrote the lifebooks, I did it for three year olds. Then, I focused on the details that were meaningful at the time: what they ate in the orphanage, who their friends were, and the little that we knew about their family.
What a difference almost 5 years and several trips to Ethiopia does make. Of course now I’m writing it for almost 8-year-olds, but the level of detail is so much higher. I don’t think I could tell the girls as much as we do know, if we didn’t have an open adoption and I haven’t been to visit their family. The story is so much more complete… And make sense when you have multiple viewpoints. I’ve spoken to the orphanage, the adoption agency, their caregivers, their family, and even included little details from things I have learned while traveling.
If you’re not familiar with lifebooks, the point is to facilitate your child’s understanding of their life before they came to you. Lifebooks are not about the adoption process… There about the child’s life, and what is important to them. We all know how children forget details as they grow, and so the lifebook is a concrete reminder of where they came from. It also helps prevent magical thinking and filling in the gaps.
When people hear that I have a life book for the girls, they often ask about format. But the format is very simple. I just chose a pretty page layout, put a picture at the top of each page, and wrote little paragraphs of the story along the bottom. Some wonderful tips I got about lifebooks are:
What I don’t do is include the official documents of their adoption. This is recommended for children who need concrete evidence of their adoption and their legitimacy in the family. However, my girls always remember through the process of stories. So for them, the more storybook approach is more relevant.
To celebrate the new lifebook, we all laid on the bed last night and read through one of the copies. The girls were engaged and interested, and the language is easy enough that they could even read parts of it themselves. One of my daughters is very uncomfortable with feelings, so she pretty much jumped on the bed the whole time. But she said she enjoyed herself afterwards, and thanked me with a big hug. The other one craves for information and pictures, so she sat quietly, reading along with me. Funny how twins are so different, even if they share the same story.
Oh, about the twin thing. I actually have exactly the same book for each of my twins. They really do have the same story… There are only a couple of details that are individual. So I just change the name on the cover. I do have a copy for each, printed and slid into plastic sleeves. That way, they can play with their own book, as much as they like, without worrying about damaging it. They each keep it in their “private” suitcase under the bed, and haul it out whenever they like. We also make a routine of dragging it out every few months, and reading it through. It’s a wonderful conversation starter.
I would love to know how often people update their lifebooks. After all, their life pre-adoption doesn’t change… But sometimes, especially in open adoptions, our understanding does. And of course, there is a language development as they grow.
Have any of you dear readers updated your lifebooks?