Actually, if you’re new adoptive parents–or new parents, period–you’re doing a bazillion things already, because babies are a huge amount of work. (Or am I the first to notice this?) I’ll never forget what my husband said when we were finally, after three long years on a waiting list, preparing for our first baby’s arrival. “Of course I’m happy to take off a few days’ work…but what are we going to do all day?”
Anyway, I am only giving you one more thing to do because it is super easy and because I really wish someone had told me to do this as soon as we adopted. I’m talking specifically to adoptive parents who will be sending letters and photos to their child’s birth parents. (Everyone ideally should be sending letters and photos to their child’s birth parents, but I realize there are many different circumstances out there.)
So are you ready? Here we go:
1) Buy one of these:
Officially, this is a plastic envelope with a button string tie closure, size 9.75 x 13″. Mine looks well-worn, doesn’t it? When they’re new, they look like this:
Aren’t they pretty and shiny? Don’t you just love office supplies? Anyway, buy one in a color you like.
2) Every time you send letters and photos to your child’s birth parents, print an extra copy of the letter and order an extra set of the photos. (I think you see where I’m going with this…)
3) Put the extra copy of the letters and photos into the envelope. Every time you send new letters and photos, slide them right on top of the pile.
Ta-da! You’re done! You now have an going written and pictorial record of your child’s growth and development–like a baby book, only far more newsy.
But…but…isn’t this a screamingly obvious thing to do, you ask? (Or you would if you weren’t so polite.)
Well, yes. And yet it took until our second baby’s arrival for me to think of it. This may be in part because one’s brain gets addled when one is totally sleep-deprived, which one is as soon as one has children. (Overusing the pronoun “one” also addles one.)
But I think there was something else going on as well: a false sense of security that everything we were sending the birth parents was, after all, on the computer–so why bother with hard copies? But those letters and photos started how many desktops and laptops ago…? Yes, we do backups; whenever we get a new laptop, we copy the contents of the old one onto a separate hard drive, just in case. But how organized are YOU about your backups? Hunting down each letter and photo is harder than it looks, years down the line.
And a third thing was going on: the perfectly good intention to get around to making scrapbooks of our children’s photos. This sort of good intention also addles the brain, tricks you into thinking you’re on the verge of maybe someday getting a certain thing accomplished when in reality it’s just not happening. Are you one of those people who can actually scrapbook in between all the demands of raising children? If so, I applaud you. (And sort of hate you, but not really.) Our children are now 11 and 5, and I have not yet made scrapbooks.
When our younger son was born and received with great joy into our house, somehow the idea clicked, and I think it was all because of those wonderful plastic envelopes. See, my husband used to bring them home from physics conferences, where for some reason they were handed out to the physicists. (Maybe the physicists kept losing their papers? It’s entirely possible.) Anyway, my husband would hand one or two over after a conference, and I just loved these things. They were clear so you could see the contents, and they held things much more securely than files. I used them for special projects and considered them to be rare, coveted items. (I didn’t realize you can just order them from Staples or wherever you buy your office supplies, because I didn’t know what they were called.)
And one day, while printing out birth parent letters, something in my brain veeeerrrrryyyy sssslllllllooooowwwwyyyyy clicked: Hey. Print an extra copy, which is no more work than I’d already done, and stick it in one of those envelopes! And do the same with the photos. (We were already ordering a third set of photos but because I had no plan, they ended up all over the place.) And keep adding to this envelope every time I write new letters.
I felt brilliant.
And to be honest, as obvious as this idea is, I still feel kind of brilliant every time I slide a new set of letters/photos into one of our children’s envelopes. Because some day, perhaps when each child turns 18–or more likely when they are about 35 and nicely settled with a house and decent storage space and maybe a 401k to prove they’ve attained responsible adulthood–I plan to hand over these envelopes. Our children will then have a record of everything we sent to their birth parents, a beautiful record of childhood milestones and funny little things they said. (I save every scrap we get from birth families, as well, but in a different place.)
So, new adoptive parents, do this one thing. Writing those birth parent letters is one of the most important things you do; saving yourself a copy in this way will reap even greater dividends.
Plus, you know: office supplies.