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Thread: School Project - Child life/time line help needed

  1. #1
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    Unhappy School Project - Child life/time line help needed

    Okay - so the day has come, as I knew that it would, where my child (adopted as of June 1st) is being required by his 5th grade teacher to present a life/time line of his 10 years in class.

    My child's life line is going to look something along these lines:

    born - 1997
    dad abandoned me (1st time) - 1997
    started school - Sept. 2004
    dad abandoned me (2nd time) - Dec. 2004
    entered foster care (1st time) - June 2005
    left foster care/returned to mother - Jan. 2006
    mom died (accidental overdose) - April 2006
    entered foster care (2nd time) - April 2006
    left foster care/entered maternal uncle's home - June 2006
    left maternal uncle's home/entered foster care (3rd time) - September 2006


    you get the idea don't you............


    what are some ideas I can use to help my son with this? He is not wanting to do this work. Although he talks freely about his mom with DH and I - its not something he shares with just anyone PLUS this is just going to make him be tagged as "different" again - not that starting a brand new school in a brand new state with brand new parents doesn't already.

    ARGHHH!!!!!! I am SO not wanting him to have to go through this at this stage. I mean, school just started and he hasn't had a chance yet for people to get to know him without all the baggage.

    TIA and thanks for letting me vent just a little bit.

  2. #2
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    Is there a way you could talk to his teacher about this assignment and let her know what the background is? She or one of her colleagues may have encountered something like this before, and might be able to give some insight on how to handle the assignment.
    “When one door of happiness closes, another opens; but often we look so long at the closed
    door that we do not see the one which has been opened for us.”

    Helen Keller (1880–1968)

  3. #3
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    Does his teacher know his background? Can his teacher tell the class as a whole that she's had this wonderful idea, that an alternate assignment will be for the kids to chart the *next* 10 years of what they hope for, instead of the last 10 years? Perhaps other kids would choose that option also, but at least your son, instead of having to reveal his history when he's trying to make friends and not be "different," could just seem to have chosen the second assignment option.

    Hugs to you. At least with "bring your mom/dad to breakfast" days, the schools are getting pretty good about saying "or someone else who's special to you." In this case, it seems that the teacher is expecting that everyone has had a rosy 10 years--but you know, since probably not 100% of the class is excited about this project, I bet Assignment Choice #2 would have a few takers, not just your son, so he wouldn't be alone.
    If you're afraid of butter, use cream. ~~ Julia Child

    As you cook, you enjoy omniscience about food that no amount of label reading can match. Having retaken control of the meal from the food scientists, you know exactly what is in it. (Unless you start w/cream of mushroom soup, in which case all bets are off.) To reclaim control over one's food, to take it back from industry & science, is no small thing; indeed, in our time, cooking from scratch qualifies as subversive. ~~ Michael Pollan

  4. #4
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    Why would he share that with his entire class? That's deeply personal and I can't imagine requiring any adult or child to do it.

    There is SO much more to your son than his family history; where he lived (regardless of the circumstances), when he started school, when he first discovered the sport or activity he loves, vacations he remembered, etc. I'd focus on that and leave the Oprah-ing to Oprah.

    On a personal note I really wish teachers would think twice before these kinds of assignments. I actually found out from my seventh-grade biology teacher that my mother was adopted. He told me that it wasn't possible for my blue-eyed grandparents to produce my brown-eyed mother. Helluva way to find out.
    "Why should you go to jail for a crime someone else noticed?" - attorney Bob Loblaw, Arrested Development

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  5. #5
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    If DS is receptive to the idea, I would talk to the teacher. Given his circumstances I expect she would be able to come up with an alternative project. The only potential difficulty I see with this (for DS) is sometimes teachers have students present these types of projects, or hang them all in or near the classroom as a kind of "get to know you" thing at the beginning of the year. Your DS may be concerned about standing out when he has a different project, so you may want to make sure that issue is addressed with the teacher as well.

    I like testkitchen's idea of presenting an alternative assignment to the entire class, so that it is not obvious that an accomodation is being made for your DS.

    Good luck. I have found most teachers to be very sensitive and flexible when it comes to working with a particular childs' circumstances. You do have to let them know what you need, though.
    Claire

    It doesn't matter what you think, just that you do.

  6. #6
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    Thanks everyone - I LOVE the idea of charting out the next 10 years - that would be an awesome alternative.

    There is SO much more to your son than his family history; where he lived (regardless of the circumstances), when he started school, when he first discovered the sport or activity he loves, vacations he remembered, etc. I'd focus on that and leave the Oprah-ing to Oprah.
    Stefanie - under the conditions this kid has lived in there have been no vacations, sports, or activities (other than Nintendo DS) in which he has been able to participate. Quite literally, the time-line I shared with you is all this kid has. I can "pretty it up" by simply stating moved to this city - moved to that city - went to this school, etc. but even THAT is going to be disturbing as this is his 8th new school in 3 years with just as many new cities.

    I sent an email to his teacher - she is very understanding and knows about his background and has been very easy and willing to work with since the beginning of school. The problem now appears to be the fact that this assignment was given yesterday and is due Thursday. If she doesn't respond to my email until after school there may not be time to change or offer the entire class the option of another time-line.

    Thanks for letting me share.

  7. #7
    DmOrtega Guest
    It may seem harsh to ask a timeline of anyone's life but it isn't unusual. My kids have done it lots of times for different classes. I would concentrate on any important and positive times in his life. I certainly would not elaborate on moves or changing schools or anything that he is not comfortable with sharing. It's not important for the teacher or the other kids. In fact start the timeline when he is born and then next important time is when he comes with you and some major times with him since then. Nothing more.

  8. #8
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    Under the circumstances, I would expect the teacher to do the right thing by not singling out the child or penalizing him for not completing the assignment in a timely manner.

    Honestly I think it's a rather odd assignment for school children anyway since many families have "skeletons" in the closet or events/histories that shouldn't be shared indiscriminately.

    My mother was a teacher MANY years ago and I STILL remember her eyes rolling when she heard that one of my teachers had been asking what she felt were personal questions in the context of a classroom -- i.e. to be shared by all the students in the room.

    While I think it's important that the teacher know background to be helpful, I really don't see that other children should know about this kind of stuff -- again keeping in mind that many children don't have the kind of idyllic "time lines" and experiences or otherwise had events in their life that shouldn't be shared.
    Some days I pray for Silence, Some days I pray for Soul,
    Some days I just pray to the God of Sex and Drums and Rock 'N' Roll.

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    I assumed he hadn't had many sports or vacations prior to his adoption; I thought he may have been with you longer as a foster parent.

    My lax morals are rising to the surface but honestly, I'd make a timeline up. One hundred percent fabrication. Age two, moved to X. Age four, discovered tee ball. Age five, started kindergarten. Age seven, trip to the beach with Grandma.
    "Why should you go to jail for a crime someone else noticed?" - attorney Bob Loblaw, Arrested Development

    "Spend time with your kids so we don't have to" - Florida Dept. of Juvenile Justice bumper sticker

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  10. #10
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    I think Steph has the right idea, adn if all you can do is what DM has sugested -- go for that. Maybe the events are as simple as first McDonald's burger, first bike, first bedroom of my own -- adn maybe they all happen since he came to you. So what. Get some input from the teacher, and see what that adds.

    Depending on how your son feels about this and can deal with it, he might want to put a couple/few of those events in his timeline and not gloss over it completely. He may feel different, but he migth make his new best friend because he shares that his father left him (I'm sure there are other kids with at least divorced parents), because his mother dies (he may not be alone there) or because he has lived in a lot of different places. I wouldn't put it all in, and I would look for what positive elements you can add -- including the fact that they all led him to you and where he is now. He needs that iin his life with or without this timeline. You need to help him stop focussing on the negative and to build on the positive. Help him see himself not as damaged goods or different but as full of potential as anyone else and maybe more full of surprises.

  11. #11
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    No advice, I just wanted to say that when reading your son's lifeline, all I could think was how much I'd love to give him a hug. I'm so happy that now he has a great mom to give him the hugs he needs and deserves. I hope the teacher gets back to you quickly with a good alternative for the assignment.

    And on second thought, I guess I can't resist making a suggestion. If the teacher doesn't get back with you in time, perhaps you could just modify the assignment as you and your son see fit - the 10 years he wishes he had, the next 10 years he hopes he has, whatever. I can't believe that any changes you would make would thwart whatever educational goal she is trying to reach with this assignment, as long as he does some kind of lifeline.
    Anne

    When you start to cook, as when you begin to live, you think that the point is to improve the technique until you end up with something perfect, and that the reason you haven’t been able to break the cycle of desire and disillusion is that you haven’t yet mastered the rules. Then you grow up, and you learn that that’s the game.

    Adam Gopnik, The New Yorker

  12. #12
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    As a teacher, I cannot believe she will not be willing to come up with an alternate assignment for him, at least. If the purpose of the assignment is "getting to know you" then there are plenty of other assignments that would serve that purpose. If the purpose is to create a timeline, then perhaps he could create a timeline about a favorite historical figure etc. Obviously you wouldn't want him feeling singled out for having a different assignment, so depending on the options that the teacher gives you when she gets back to you I think Stefania's suggestion to "create" a bit more of a traditional timeline is not entirely inappropriate. Obviously your son would need to be part of the discussion. He may prefer to fabricate so as to seem most like his peers while including some real events he's comfortable sharing. Or he may prefer to do something altogether.

    I hope a solution that pleases everyone can be reached. Sadly the teacher probably planned the assignment before knowing the kids in her class (it may be an assignment she gives every year etc) and I'm sure she is not intending to seem insensitive. But hopefully this experience will make her consider future assignments with a more sensitive eye. Good luck!

  13. #13
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    Quote Originally Posted by blazedog View Post
    Under the circumstances, I would expect the teacher to do the right thing by not singling out the child or penalizing him for not completing the assignment in a timely manner.
    I think not doing the assignment at all -- or making it all up, would reinforce the negativity in your son's life and the idea that he is different and should be ashamed. I think you will help him more by teaching him how to make the best of it and himself. He won't have the trips to Disneyland or little league trophies, but dig down for what he does have and celebarte that.

    Look for things he has seen, done, learned. Keep it simple. The people and circumstances around him may have been the pits, but has he never seen a rainbow, watched a hawk circle in the sky, met a doctor, policeman or fireman who seemed stong, smart or made some impression on him? What does he want to be when he grows up? Where did he get that? What does he want? (I'm thinking he saw a big house nad would like to live inone someday, met a dog at the park and decided he'd like to get a puppy someday -- maybe tying the ide of simple things and the next 10 years without making it a fantasy. Maybe you can look at some local or national news events and relate them to where he was or his reaction to them. There are a lot of ways to do the assignment, not make it a fantasy, and still not focus on the negative.

    Because of his background, I know this is challenging for both of you, but I think he will be better off in the long run if you figure out how to adapt the assignment to fit him or to put his own spin on it rather than trying to dodge it. I promise it won't be the last time and what he does now will be teaching him lessons for the future.

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    Quote Originally Posted by Beth View Post
    I think not doing the assignment at all -- or making it all up, would reinforce the negativity in your son's life and the idea that he is different and should be ashamed. I think you will help him more by teaching him how to make the best of it and himself. He won't have the trips to Disneyland or little league trophies, but dig down for what he does have and celebarte that.

    Look for things he has seen, done, learned. Keep it simple. The people and circumstances around him may have been the pits, but has he never seen a rainbow, watched a hawk circle in the sky, met a doctor, policeman or fireman who seemed stong, smart or made some impression on him? What does he want to be when he grows up? Where did he get that? What does he want? (I'm thinking he saw a big house nad would like to live inone someday, met a dog at the park and decided he'd like to get a puppy someday -- maybe tying the ide of simple things and the next 10 years without making it a fantasy. Maybe you can look at some local or national news events and relate them to where he was or his reaction to them. There are a lot of ways to do the assignment, not make it a fantasy, and still not focus on the negative.

    Because of his background, I know this is challenging for both of you, but I think he will be better off in the long run if you figure out how to adapt the assignment to fit him or to put his own spin on it rather than trying to dodge it. I promise it won't be the last time and what he does now will be teaching him lessons for the future.
    I agree with what you are saying in the long term and assume that the OP is working on self worth issues with the child and with the help of experts.

    However, in the short term, I think the assignment is problematic -- and perhaps not just for this child.

    I wouldn't have the child make up an idyllic past since that is counter-productive to enabling the child to eventually come to terms with the past.

    However, I think the teacher should squash the whole idea of having the students share this assignment. As I posted originally, there may or may not be other children who have had difficult posts.

    Perhaps it will help the teacher realize that these kinds of "sharing" assignments might not be appropriate.

    What I was trying to say was the child should turn in an assignment which evinces having done some work (i.e. what the NEXT ten years will be like for example) and shouldn't be penalized for not doing exactly what the assignment states and the class should not share all their assignments as this would single out the child.

    Spoken as a child whose sturdy oxford shoes were the bane of HER existence in elementary school and the horror I felt when an insensitive teacher snarkily brought attention to them.
    Some days I pray for Silence, Some days I pray for Soul,
    Some days I just pray to the God of Sex and Drums and Rock 'N' Roll.

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    Does the timeline have to be all significant events? I mean, could you just have him list ANY memories, pull out the non-negative ones, and make a timeline from those. No timeline includes every life event anyway.

    For example:

    Year he was born

    Age 3 - went swimming with mom

    age 5 - started school
    - painted a pumpkin for Halloween in art class

    age 6 - chased by the neighbors dog, got away

    age 7 - climbed a tree without help
    - favorite book was __________

    age 9 - started 4th grade
    - had Mrs. Jones for my teacher
    - sat by Frank in class

    age 10 - moved to (current town)
    - got a ___________ for my birthday

    That sort of thing. Honestly, a lot of the others will probably be similar, and actually, this kind is probably more interesting for other kids to read than a recitation of places lived and people lived with.
    kathyb


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    Well - I got an email back from his homeroom teacher who knows nothing about the project (with regards to what information needed to be included). She has forwarded the email to his Social Studies teacher so that she can get back with me this afternoon about this. In the meantime, she, the homeroom teacher, stated that if his timeline showed his date of birth and then picked back up in June of 2008 when he came to live with us then she wouldn't have a problem with that given his background.

    I pick him up in about an hour so I'm going to write down some of your suggestions and go from there.

    Thanks so much everyone - I think the biggest thing is that it just broke my heart this morning that this 10-year old kid couldn't come up with 1 single good thing in the past 10-years except the day he was born and trust me, since he's been with us even the goodness of THAT day has been questioned by him.

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    Quote Originally Posted by raka1214 View Post
    Thanks so much everyone - I think the biggest thing is that it just broke my heart this morning that this 10-year old kid couldn't come up with 1 single good thing in the past 10-years except the day he was born and trust me, since he's been with us even the goodness of THAT day has been questioned by him.
    This brings me to tears. No child should ever, ever have to question that their birth was a good thing. But, knowing that he is in your loving home now Kim gives me great hope in his future.


    "Life isn't about finding yourself. Life is about creating yourself" ~ George Bernard Shaw


  18. #18
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    I am reminded of The Wire -- especially Season 4 which just about broke my heart in terms of the fates of Duquie, Michael, Raymond and Namonde -- lucky that someone like yourself intervened to give him a future.
    Some days I pray for Silence, Some days I pray for Soul,
    Some days I just pray to the God of Sex and Drums and Rock 'N' Roll.

    Meatloaf

  19. #19
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    If I were to help a child of similar background with this, I would turn it into a travelogue of sorts. If he's lived in several cities, find interesting info out about them, even if he never "experienced" it, complete w/ pictures from the web. For example:

    2001--lived in Sioux City, Iowa--one-time home of the world's largest indoor cattle yard! (Then, a picture of a New York Strip could complete the image.)
    As the arc of history bends towards justice, it's a new, more progressive day. --Steve Benen, The Maddow Blog, 11-07-12

  20. #20
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    I LOVE leebee's idea - what a great way to meet the requirements of the assignment, be sensitive to your son's feelings, and put a positive slant on his experiences.
    Anne

    When you start to cook, as when you begin to live, you think that the point is to improve the technique until you end up with something perfect, and that the reason you haven’t been able to break the cycle of desire and disillusion is that you haven’t yet mastered the rules. Then you grow up, and you learn that that’s the game.

    Adam Gopnik, The New Yorker

  21. #21
    I sincerely hope that they get rid of the assignment. The "alternate" answers will be spotted by the other ten year olds, and will single the poor guy out as different on the first day of school. The kid has enough issues just being the new kid, and now for his history to be displayed. My heart is just aching for him. Childhood is tough for all of us, but way too tough for him.

    Congratulations on his adoption, and I am sure he will value that his parents love him enough to fight on his behalf. If nothing else, I am sure that is very comforting to him.

  22. #22
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    Quote Originally Posted by beacooker View Post
    I LOVE leebee's idea - what a great way to meet the requirements of the assignment, be sensitive to your son's feelings, and put a positive slant on his experiences.
    I totally agree! Nice thinking Leebee!


    "Life isn't about finding yourself. Life is about creating yourself" ~ George Bernard Shaw


  23. #23
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    Quote Originally Posted by leebee View Post
    If I were to help a child of similar background with this, I would turn it into a travelogue of sorts. If he's lived in several cities, find interesting info out about them, even if he never "experienced" it, complete w/ pictures from the web. For example:

    2001--lived in Sioux City, Iowa--one-time home of the world's largest indoor cattle yard! (Then, a picture of a New York Strip could complete the image.)

    That's a great idea and I can recall when I was 10 that I had already lived in 5 different houses in 4 different cities and my family was intact. I do remember also having to do a sort of autobiography in the 6th grade and no one else in my class had ever lived anywhere else...I thought that very strange!

    I hope that you're able to put a positive spin on his timeline.
    Well-behaved women seldom make history!

  24. #24
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    I'm sorry that you had your DS have to be dealing with this, especially so early in the school year. With all the transitions your DS has had to handle recently, one would hope that his teachers would be making things easier for him, not more difficult.

    And I agree that this is a poor choice of assignment -- I'm sure there are other children who have had difficult milestones in their lives that they would prefer not to revisit or share with the entire class, or even just with the teacher. There are many other ways to teach the concept of creating a timeline, or for students to get to know one another. I do think leebee's suggestion is a good one.

    I would also strongly suggest that you check out the website for Adoptive Families magazine, if you haven't already. They have a wonderful section all about adoption and the schools, with lots of good advice and first-hand accounts from other adoptive parents and adoption professionals. They even have an article specifically dealing with "Tricky Assignments":

    http://www.adoptivefamilies.com/articles.php?aid=295

    Good luck, and hugs to you and DS!

    Helene
    "We reject as false the choice between our safety and our ideals. Our founding fathers, faced with perils we can scarcely imagine, drafted a charter to assure the rule of law and the rights of man, a charter expanded by the blood of generations. Those ideals still light the world, and we will not give them up for expedience's sake."
    --President Barack Obama, 1/20/09

  25. #25
    I think that it is a little disappointing that the teacher gave out this particular assignment, especially if she knew some of your sons backgound. I realize that teachers cannot always tailor their assignments to suit every member of the class but I think this qualifies as an exception.

    I am so sorry for the life that he had to live before he came to you. No child should ever, ever have to endure that and wonder about his worth. Thank goodness he has you now and can start on making happy memories from now on.
    All That's Left Are The Crumbs

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    "Great minds talk about ideas; small minds talk about people" - Eleanor Roosevelt

  26. #26
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    Kathy B and leebee are demonstrating better with examples the kind of thing I was trying to describe. I think you can make it work and he will feel beter about himself and his place in the class if he does. I do think that he or any other student who is not comfortable sharing a personal project should have the option of not presenting it to the class. This is one of those times a teacher can ask for those who would like to present and not press everyone to share. Teachers can have students work on their presentation skills with things that are not personal.

    Good luck, and I hope working on this timeline will be a positive experience for both of you. And good luck with the next 10 years too.

  27. #27
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    Quote Originally Posted by raka1214 View Post
    I think the biggest thing is that it just broke my heart this morning that this 10-year old kid couldn't come up with 1 single good thing in the past 10-years except the day he was born and trust me, since he's been with us even the goodness of THAT day has been questioned by him.
    I can only imagine how heartbreaking this must be. But he has a different beginning than many of the kids he's around, and nothing you can do or feel will change it. He needs to be able to make some sort of peace with it (only IMO, of course! I don't presume to know what's best in practice--only in my own made up theory!). He's likely going to be confronted by it time & again. Maybe this is an opportunity to help him find a way to do so comfortably.

    I had a dear, dear friend as a child that had a very difficult home life. We had assignments like this, and she would find a way to make them her own. She dealt with them using an honest, tough-as-nails humor, which I know doesn't work for everyone (one of her milestones would be something like, "1979--Back of the house blew off in a storm, lost the dog, Dad slept through it all"--seriously). But she basically took her own history and reframed how she looked at her life. I lost touch with her (well, she moved away when she turned 15 & was pregnant) but reconnected a couple of years ago. She is as happy a person as I know. She doesn't dwell on the bad stuff, but she doesn't shy away from the truth of her life. You can't take away all of the negatives, but he can discover there were always good things in the world, no matter where he was. It's like another friend, whose birthday falls on 9/11--he says all too often these days it's hard to remember anything good that happened on that day. So, every year, I remind him that good and important things have happened since the beginning of time, even on such a notorious day. It doesn't change what happened one year, but he says it helps him look at that day in a new light again.

    Best of luck. You're a good person to care about something like this for him. He's very, very lucky to have you (I think that should be the most important date on his timeline, BTW--really celebrate that!).
    As the arc of history bends towards justice, it's a new, more progressive day. --Steve Benen, The Maddow Blog, 11-07-12

  28. #28
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    if it's not too late to refine the project, how about including some things such as:

    Age 5: Lost my first tooth during breakfast (or whatever circumstances he can remember. even though he may not have grown up in a home where the tooth fairy visited, perhaps he remembers some details around it?)

    Age 7: First time I saw my favorite move, "Shrek" (or whatever it might be, or perhaps a favorite book?)

    During his moves, did he ever fly in plane? Go on a long car drive? These could be interesting to include, even if the circumstances around them are less than heartwarming.

    I think you mentioned he had Nintendo, maybe he remembers getting a new game or something? Just because it's not "significant" doesn't meant it doesn't merit inclusion. I think you could include some points along the timeline between birth and joining your family in this way.

    Good luck with both this assignment and helping your DS process his childhood and transition into the new stability you're creating for him.

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