The passage of time has always been uppermost in my mind during my ‘adoption journey’, perhaps inevitably given that my daughter was ‘old’ (in adoption-speak) when she came to live with me.
Right from the start I found myself paying attention to a series of milestones – one month, six months, one year, etc since she came to live with me. And always I have had in mind the big milestones: she has lived with me more than she lived in foster care, she has lived with me longer than she lived in her birth family, she has lived with me longer than the time spent in both the birth family and foster care (we’re not yet at that last one). To me these milestones reinforce the permanence of this particular family arrangement, with roots growing deeper as time moves on.
There are also physical ways of demonstrating this.
She likes to keep things, so with my support we’ve kept lots of mementos, favourite old books, favourite old clothes, favourite toys, all her stuffed animals (we have a lot of boxes in the loft!). I’ve got thousands of photos, many of which I’ve put into albums so that she has quick and easy access to them. It’s painful to contrast this with the few physical items she has from before – her other pasts – but it helps her to construct her more recent past.
To use another metaphor, water – our family experiences; her life at school, activities, and with friends; her past before her life with me – keeps flowing under the bridge and gathers in an ever deepening reservoir, in which the volume of water from her time before coming to live with me is ever so gradually being equalled by the time she has spent with me; one day there’ll be more water in the reservoir from after she came to live with me. And so when she dips into that reservoir for memories (‘when I was young’) they are increasingly memories from the more recent past. And it makes me giggle when they’re the normal sort of memories we all have: ‘why on earth did I wear that outfit to school?’ So I like to think it’s progress when the ‘past’ now can include embarrassment at a choice of clothing captured in a photograph.