Jason and I sat down and watched Adopted: The Movie last night. I suppose this movie is “old news” in the adoption community–it has been out for about 2 years. I have been wanting to see it forever, but couldn’t find it anywhere locally. We just joined Netflix though, and it was immediately available. Let me say to all of you adoptive parents out there, you need to watch it ASAP.
The movie is a documentary. It follows a 32 year old Korean adoptee who is trying to confront a lot of the issues she has ignored and suppressed (with great help from her adoptive parents, who live in denial) during her life while her (adoptive) mother is facing a terminal illness. On the other side of things it follows a couple who is in the process of adopting a baby girl from China.
I have done a good bit of reading online from the point of view of adults who were adopted from Korea as infants and children–in no way am I an expert because I haven’t lived that life, but it has helped to make me more sensitive and aware of Matthew’s situation. The generosity in which others share their feelings like this is very helpful to us adoptive parents who really want to do our best for our kids. Anyway, because of this, I can say that the experiences and feelings of Jen, the 32 year old adoptee in the movie, did not surprise or shock me, butI still felt like I had been punched in the guts after watching it…..and I woke up feeling the same way. It really hit Jason hard as well, and we spent a long time talking afterwards.
One of the things that really stuck out to us were Jen’s pain at being the only child of color in her school and her community. And yes, being Asian IS being of color. It IS different. For whatever reason, it seems that a lot of (white) people don’t find this to be that big of a deal. In explaining our reasons of wanting to move to a more diverse community, I have had people ask me why I would really want to do that. They seem to think that I am under the impression that Matthew will be ruthlessly mocked. That isn’t it. It is simply cruel (yes, I am going to go so far as to say cruel) to put him in a situation where he is the only kid who looks like him. That is HARD, in a way that white people will never be able to grasp. He is a child who did not ask for this life. WE chose it, and it is our responsibility to make it as good and fair for him as we can. You could compare it to giving birth to a deaf child. Wouldn’t you learn sign language so that they wouldn’t be so alone in the world? Wouldn’t you seek out activities that put your child in contact with their peers? You wouldn’t think twice about it–it would be cruel to expect them to face that on their own.
In another part of the movie, Jen really wants to talk to her dying mother about her birth family. It is so sad the way she is trying to drag things out of her adoptive parents who simply refuse to “go there” with her. She imagines out loud what the circumstances might have been that her birth mother had to give her up. She wants to talk about the fact that there is a woman on the other side of the world with her face, a woman that may live in pain every day missing her. And her mom just WON’T. And I wanted to shake this woman by her shoulders. The mom keeps saying that no, she never thinks of the birth mother and then she says (not direct quotes here), I am happy that she gave you up, because I am happy that I have you. Other than that I don’t care.
There is another scene where Jen is helping her father with some family geneaology. She discovers that he and his brother are eligible to join the Sons of the Revolution. As someone from this group explains this (so called) wonderful privilege to her father and uncle, he tells them that their sons and daughters are eligible too…..but only sons and daughters of biological lineage. As he makes this announcement, her clueless father pats her on the shoulder and says but we still love you….when he should have just walked out telling this silly club exactly where they can shove it.
Then there is the part where she sobs because her adoption is celebrated and her abandonment is ignored.
She loves and adores this family that she was adopted into. She even extends a lot of grace towards her parents by saying they didn’t know any better, they did the best they could do….back then. But now she is asking for more. One major blessing is her brother who is a bio son to the same parents. It warmed my heart to see how he “got her” and their close relationship. It made me hope that Isaac will be as compassionate and empathetic with Matthew.
As for the part of the movie that dealt with the couple adopting a daughter from China, it didn’t resonate as much with me. The biggest standout from that portion of the movie was when it shows them being handed their daughter for the first time. She stiffened and immediately pulled away from them and it was heartbreaking to watch. It was exactly the way Matthew reacted to us, and it kills me to think of the emotions a child that young has to process.
I know I have gone on and on about this movie, but don’t let my commentary be a substitute for seeing this, if you are an adoptive parent. We need to feel punched in the gut every once in a while. We need to remember to acknowledge pain and loss even when things look fabulous from our point of view. We need to learn from other peoples mistakes and experiences. We owe it to our kids.