Three photo story

As I mentioned in another post, I’ve been reading Parenting Your Internationally Adopted Child: From Your First Hours Together Through the Teen Years by Patty Cogen, M.A., Ed.D..  It’s a nice resource.  I’m about halfway through it now and I’ve gotten two valuable things from it. 

The first is further validation that BB is doing very well.  I remember when we were still in China and we were so pleased with how well things were going.  Hubs said to me, “now we just don’t want to screw her up.”  We felt so lucky that she was so adaptable.  I mean, for someone to have to go through so much tragedy and change in so little time, with so little to manage it well, she did.  It’s as though her curiosity and adaptability saw her through.  As I watched her adapt to us, I suspected she used those skills to get her through her original abandonment, looking forward and drawing others to her to give her care.  I have no doubt that she received good care at Dianjiang.  None.  It shines through her and I see how she draws it to her – she did with us and again at day care.  Yet, she isn’t indiscriminate.  She was at one time, when we met.  We did have to teach us we are her parents, but she learned that and we became special.  We did have to earn her love.  In fact, it is only now, in the past few weeks that I am hearing “I love you” with regularity, daily even.  It’s pretty special, I gotta say.   The book teaches parents how to teach children family life – what that means, what it means to have parents, to trust, to be cared for.  As I read I think, we went through this so quickly.  She took to us, to those issues quickly.  She adapted.  We are all lucky.

The second is a way to tell her the story of her first year.  I did write a “life book” the story of her birth, abandonment, time at the SWI, adoption, and moving to the U.S. with us, but honestly, it’s too complex for right now.  Sometimes she’ll peak at it and we’d talk about the pictures, but it was too much.  This book has a much better, more accessible way for telling this story to young ones.  It’s the “Three Photo Story.”  All you do is put together a sequence of three pictures:

  1. your child before adoption
  2. the “handover” – your child, the parent(s), and the person from the orphanage or foster care who brings your child to you
  3. your child with current family

You use these pictures to tell the story.  I made ours with 6 photos, because I wanted to include a group picture I have at the SWI that shows BB with other children.  Recently, when I’ve been telling her the story, she’s said about her time in China, “I was all alone.”  I want her to know she wasn’t.  I may include another picture showing her with a nanny whose name we have to help flesh this out.  I also included a picture of the SWI director kissing her, as I want her to know she was loved.  So, ours is a bit more complicated, but it seems to be working.  I made a collage and hung it in a frame by her bed.  Each night we talk about it.  Tonight has only been the third night it’s been up, but it’s been meaningful.  I took it down to take the glass off, because I’m afraid she’ll break it by accident (we’ll replace it with plexiglass) and she starting asking “where’s my picture of the orphanage?”  I hung it back up and we chatted about it tonight with the story going something like this…

You were born in China on ____.  Your Chinese parents couldn’t keep you.  We don’t know why.  You went to live at this orphanage until you were 8 1/2 months old and Mommy and Daddy came to get you. 

Right now it’s about that simple and her main questions have been about being all alone in China and why we weren’t there with her.  She also wants to know who the other children are in the picture and what the nannies are doing in a picture. 

The book suggests that you want to try to answer four important questions:

  1. What happened to me?
  2. Who will take care of  me now?
  3. Did I make this happen?
  4. Will everything change again… will I lose you too?

They also suggest telling it all from your child’s point-of-view, stating that most books on writing life books instruct writing from the parents’ point-of-view, which isn’t engaging for the child. 

When I read about the “Three Photo Story,” I liked the idea a lot and it seems BB does too.  It’s giving us a very nice vehicle for talking about her first year and much simpler than a life book, especially for this age.  I’ve read that about age three is a good time to really begin talking about adoption issues.  We’ve always been talking about it, but it never meant much before.  However recently, BB’s been talking about “when I was a little girl…”  usually followed with “I was a big, huge butterfly” or the animal of the moment, but it made me realize she was really ready to start talking about her beginning.  She seems quite ready for both her wild, wonderful fantasies and the reality.  She’s quite a girl, our BB.


3 Responses

  1. This sounds like another book I need to add to our library. If only I could find the time to read.

  2. Oooh… I don’t have that book.

  3. Hi, Cavatika,
    I read your description of how you used the 3 photo story and it sounds really terrific. I noticed your daughter originally told you she was “all alone in the orphanage”—of course we know that wasn’t true on one level, but I think to her she felt alone, without parents, compared to how she feels now with you. You might want to include her feeling “alone” as part of her story, even though there were other children and adults there—eventually she’ll be able to talk more about what that was like. She has shared so much with you, you must be a truly trustable mom.

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