Life books are a tricky concept, depending on who you ask.
As I sat at my big, wooden table last week, picking out pictures for each of the children in our center, my mind went back to the four times we adopted while still living in America. All of our kids came to us with life books (and one with a CD of photos including birth mom on the day she gave our boy to his child caring agency). She was a beautiful woman.
As an adoptive mom, the life books were both precious to me and they stung. Here, before me, in pictures is a whole host of people who knew my child first. Here is a list of my son's favorite foods and I'm not even sure what some of them ARE . . . Here are people who hugged him when he was three and who called him by a cute nick name I only just learned about. Here are the staff members he ran to for comfort when he was sick or hurt. . . and here is the favorite caregiver he called "Mommy" for years, the one he cries over every time we turn to THAT page. The one he doesn't want to talk about to me because I wouldn't understand and he's not sure if it's okay to feel the way he feels about leaving her.
And in my insecurity and jealousy, I sometimes wanted to hide that life book from my older adopted son. But I never did. I just wanted him to love me best of all and, in the early weeks and months in our home, he didn't. He missed the people who knew him first. He missed them to the point of tears and silence sometimes. He went to a place I wasn't allowed in his own heart and mind. And he grieved there.
And what a heartache for a new, excited, starry-eyed, madly-in-love mother!
But it could not be about ME and my feelings or wants. It had to be about my son and his need to grieve the loss of adoption before he could appreciate the gain.
And I can not promise we did all the right things in relation to our son and his life book but our solution to watching him grieve over it was two fold. First, we kept it in a drawer where he could access it anytime he wanted. Second, we made a commitment to show only positive emotions related to that book no matter how many times he needed to look at it, tell the same stories and call that caregiver "mommy". He set the pace. He managed his memories in the way he felt was best for him.
And it was. In time . . .
In the early days home, that life book came out every single day. As time went on, it became weekly, then monthly and then, maybe twice a year or when an adoptive family visited us. And I am so THANKFUL for that book. How wonderful to see the life he had and the faces he saw! That old jealousy and insecurity has long-since been replaced by curiosity and appreciation. His devotion shifted and my fears that it never would made me laugh at myself when I remembered them.
So, as I sit on this side of the adoption equation, making those life books, I know some of the pictures in them will sting the new parents. But more than that, they will comfort and encourage the children. They will remind the children of us, still loving and praying for them, even when they are far away.
Over time, the children may forget the names of the pets or the visitors or even the staff in those photos, but our prayer is that they will NEVER forget that they were loved twice or even three times by sets of people whom God sent to leave footprints on their hearts . . .until He carried them all the way to you. The final stop.
THE FOREVER FAMILY