Of Dinosaur Eggs and Lifebooks

A few days ago, Anita, a friend of ours who recently adopted a child, explained how she role-plays dinosaurs with her five-year-old son. Role-play offers great opportunities for exploring lifeís mysteries with children of all ages, especially regarding the topic of adoption.

Anita told us how she plays the mother dinosaur and her son, Anthony, plays the baby dinosaur. They start out with how she makes the egg, cares for it, and hopes and prays that one day she can see her baby dinosaur. Then, when the right time comes for that egg to hatch, she tells her son how happy she is to finally see him and how she waited so long for him to emerge from his eggÖ

And so it goes for our adopted children as well.

This story offers so many parallels to the process that we, as adoptive parents, and our children live through to become a complete family. The shell is like all the layers of legal, bureaucratic, and physical boundaries that separate us from our child. These boundaries serve to protect the child until all the elements of that process coalesce and allow us to unite him with us.

Our child canít see through the shell to sense the world around him. Whether through an orphanage or foster care, heís been provided with the basic needs to keep him healthy, warm, and secure. At the same time, heís shielded from most, if not all, of the events that are shaping up to change his life forever.

Likewise, we have only limited capabilities to see through that shell ourselves. We might visit our child to find out more about him, much like a scientist might use an x-ray or a farmer a bright light to see inside the egg. These fleeting moments really tell us little about him. We compare our observations to those provided by medical professionals, foster families, social workers, and adoption agencies to draw conclusions about the personality, temperament, and health of our little "chick".

Though we canít see through the shell itself, we can observe what happens to the egg during its incubation and record the milestones that let us know how close our chick is to completing the journey to his new life. We must rely on our own knowledge and those helping us to guide the process appropriately. Since our chick is neither able to make these observations nor tell us about them, we do this for him.

Herein lies one of our greatest responsibilities. Most adopted children will have few, if any, memories about what happened during the adoption journey. The facts and circumstances of his life prior to adoption are ephemeral and known to only a few people in the world. Since most adoptive parents have so little contact with the child during this time period, we must pay careful attention to all the facts and details presented and put forth effort to gather any additional information that is available.

Like a scientistís journal, we can use a lifebook to capture the essence of this incubation period while itís happening, or shortly thereafter, and create a lasting history for ourselves, our children, and our posterity.

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Written by John and Jennifer Demar, adoptive parents of two and owners of www.scrapandtell.com, an online store specializing in adoption scrapbooking supplies and multi-cultural products perfect for lifebooks.