November is National Adoption Month. Over the next couple of weeks, we are going to highlight posts from those whose lives have been touched by adoption, and in some cases, foster children as well. We hope to bring awareness to the very real need of adoptive families…all children deserve to experience the love of a forever family! For more information on how you can get involved, see National Adoption Month 2012.
My boys love their lifebooks. Reading them together over the years as a family has allowed us to make some wonderful memories. We also have other photo books that document our family through the years and special books for each boy of school and sports. I love how both my sons will pull out a photo album to look at the photos and remember the people and places they know and love. The lifebooks have been a real bonding experience for us as a family. They have also given us some great opportunities to talk about adoption and what it really means. One of my favorite times was while reading my younger son’s lifebook to him as my older son was looking over my shoulder. When we reached the part about the adoption, my older son blurted out, “You adopted him?!” To which I responded, “Yes, just like we adopted you!” I did not anticipate my son’s next reaction. He replied, “Oh, you mean like Moses.” The boys had been watching Prince of Egypt, and knew the story from Sunday school. His reaction gave us the opportunity to go in a totally different direction than what I was planning and expand on their story. I would never have known how my son was thinking about his adoption had we not been reading the lifebook together. The lifebooks have also given us a way to correct some fantasies and misconceptions about their early days. Pictures speak in different ways to different people. When you discuss those photos, you then discover just how differently people interpret them. That is why having the written story along with the photos is so important.
Now fast forward a few years to the same son’s birthday party. While he and his friends were enjoying cake and ice cream, my son ran to the living room to get his lifebook so that he can show all of his buddies where he was born. When you have seventy sticky fingers all wanting to touch the pages of the book, you are so glad you put page protectors on! My boys have begun to understand that sharing photos and stories bond people together in very real ways. When you have the desire to share a part of yourself with your friends, having photos and the ability to tell the pictures’ stories connects people at a deeper level.
Most recently, I watched as my sons were getting to know some new kids on the block. After they had played for a few months and my boys were feeling safe with these new friends, out came the photo books and lifebooks! It was time to take the relationships to a deeper level and share who they are with these new friends. I am always amazed as I watch how children respond to this way of introducing adoption. It becomes matter of fact and normal, which is exactly how I want my sons to see it! They have the ability to talk about their story in a normal, everyday way that other children can relate to.
If you would like to make a lifebook for your child there are many resources available for you to do it yourself, or you can contact a Personal Photo Organizer through APPO to help. Many Personal Photo Organizers have made adoption lifebooks personally or for their clients.
Philip Griffith is a Certified Personal Photo Organizer and member of APPO. He teaches workshops on making lifebooks and speaks on photo organization and telling your story with photos. Philip and his wife Susan own PSG Photo Solutions, a company that helps people enjoy their photos again. Philip and Susan are the adoptive parents of two boys. You can read his blog series on “Questions from the back seat” on the PSG Photo Solutions website.