We went to FCC Chinese Culture Day today, which was great fun. The girls listened to live Chinese music, learned about famous Chinese inventions, watched a Chinese tea ceremony, made a Chinese flag, learned about Chinese embroidery, colored a panda mask, listened to Chinese stories, watched a kung fu demonstration and lion dances. A fun time was had by all!
I met some waiting families there, and we chatted a little about adoption talk. They are in the how-to-tell-the story phase, and I thought it might be helpful if we all gave them advice! Here are some initial questions that I hope will help newbies craft their stories, and I hope y'all will add more advice in the comments.
1. Where do you start?
I say start with birth. It's tempted to start with "I/We wanted a child sooooo much . . . ," but that makes the story about you, not your child. Sure, you should talk about your side of it, including how much you wanted a child, how you loved her before you met, etc., but if you start with birth, it seems to me that the story stays more focused on your child. And you HAVE to include birth, so your child doesn't figure she was hatched from an egg, so why not put it at the beginning?
2. What will you name the characters in your tale?
You need to think about what you're going to call the biological family and its members. We use birth family, birth parents, birth mother, birth father, but I hear lots of variations out there: first family, first mother, etc. (one concern I have with this nomenclature is that it suggests there can be third and fourth and fifth families); China family; tummy lady for birth mother (then what do you call birth father?).
What are you going to call yourselves? Some people feel more comfortable using the formal "mother" and "father" for birth parents, and reserving mommy and daddy for the adoptive parents. We use mom, mommy, mother for birth mother; my kids call me mama, and though we haven't deliberately chosen to, I don't think any of us, including the kids, have said birth mama.
3. What should you include in the story?
That, of course, depends on the age/attention span of the kids, and how much time you've got! We have long versions we use when we have plenty of time, and short ones for its-late-you-need-to-be-in-bed times. We've added things as the girls have been more or less interested in parts of the story -- at first, it was just the you were born, we met, we lived happily ever after story. When we were about to visit their finding spots, we included the part where they were found. When Zoe started asking tough questions, we included the OCPSPFB part (ok, I'm not sure the acronym will work -- that's one child policy, social preference for boys!).
Our basic story includes: a) you grew in your birth mother's tummy and were born in China; b) your birthparents couldn't take care of you as parents would want to, so they made sure you were safely found; c) the nannies took good care of you; d) meanwhile, mama wrote China and asked if she could be the mama for a baby; e) referral (woohoo!); f) mama packed (long list of things -- bottles, diapers, tiny clothes, toys, etc. etc. etc. (they really love this part)); g) mama and mimi flew on a big airplane to China; h) first meeting (how pretty, how sweet, how little, how brave baby was!); i) fly home in big airplane; j) everyone so happy to meet you; k) mama so happy when you fell asleep in your new crib in your new home. THE END! (As you can tell, I've borrowed heavily from several kids' books about adoption. Don't call in plagiarism, call it research!)
4) How do you deal with no information, hard information?
TELL THE TRUTH! If you don't know, say so. If you speculate, make sure you say so: "I don't really know, but I think/I believe/I feel that they wanted you to be safe and warm, and that's why they wrapped you in 3 layers of clothing." "I believe they loved you very much and did the best they could to take care of you."
So, what other advice should we give to those working out the story they will tell? What of my advice is off-base? How do you tell your story? Please comment!