When I was 5 years old, I was adopted (for the whole adoption story check out THIS POST). It's something I've known about all my life, as my parents were always open and honest with me, and something that has never bothered me as it has always been a part of who I am.
As my daughter approaches 5, my feelings about my adoption and my past are starting to change. I had never thought about my earlier years - the life I had lived before I was 5. My life with my adopted parents was so wonderful, and the memories so vivid and precious, that I had never even thought to venture deeper into the memories of my past.
I have recently reunited with my biological father, and he has lots of great stories about our earlier days together - how I acted, what we did together, things I said and did. I love hearing his stories, and reuniting with someone who made me is surreal, but what bothers me is that I don't have any memories from my earlier days. I can't remember anything from before I was 5.
In the last (almost) 5 years, my daughter and I have created so many special memories together, we have developed an indescribable bond, and enjoyed so many new experiences as mother and daughter. The fact that I can't remember any of those years from my own life suddenly leaves me feeling devastated. Will she remember the times we've shared together up until now? Will the memories I've created for her fade and become forgotten once she's grown?
I've decided that there are a few key things that help children to maintain their childhood memories.
Stories. Most children grow up with parents who retell stories of when they were young. Silly stories, sad stories, detailed stories that keep their memories fresh in their minds.
Photos. Being surrounded by photos of your early days, your memorable moments, and the special people in your life definitely keeps the images from the past alive.
Consistency. Surrounding your child with a loving and constant support system definitely keeps the mind fresh and the memories alive. It's easier to retain early memories when the people who were present in your life at those times are still present in your life today.
I think the trauma of being uprooted to a new family - without stories, photos and the consistency of having the people who made me in my life - accounts for why I don't have those early memories. I'm going to do my best to ensure that my children remember everything - I'm going to retell stories, I'm going to take hundreds of pictures, and I'm going to ensure that they are always surrounded by loving and supportive people as they grow. I want them to remember everything, and I pray that they will.