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Adoption Blog: Improv Mom
An Adoptive Mom’s Movie Review of Lion
Okay, this post isn’t actually a review of the Oscar-nominated movie Lion. It’s more like—here’s what deeply moved this adoptive mama after watching, tissue box in hand, the true story of Saroo. This little boy from a tiny village in India fell asleep on a train, became lost, and was eventually adopted by an Australian couple. As a young man, remarkably, he found his way back to his first family. So, here’s what stayed with me long after my tears had dried and I could finally breathe through my nose again….
So much love from Saroo’s first family. Yes, they were poor, lacking food, running water, medical care, schooling…. Yet, even in the face of this extreme poverty, the love and devotion of this family was palpable. And it made me think about the comments that we, adoptive families, hear about our adopted children—“She’s so lucky!” or “Can you imagine what his life could have been like?” Perhaps our kids wouldn’t have the same financial resources, or stability, or educational opportunities, or, in some cases, the attention and care had they stayed with their biological families. Yet these gains, while significant and meaningful, cannot override the fundamental loss of growing up apart from one’s biological family. Every scene of Saroo with his brother or his mother cried out to me how important it is for adoptive families to acknowledge the love, the good, or something positive if you find yourself struggling with “love” or “good,” that comes from our kids’ birth families. It could be as simple as, “You have the same beautiful smile as your birth mom.” Find the love. Value the love. Voice the love. Often.
Oy vey, so much guilt. I could easily see how an adoptee could grow up feeling that they should be grateful to their adoptive parents for “rescuing” them, and feel guilty about searching for or having a relationship with their birth family. There was an emotional scene between Saroo and his adoptive mom, Sue, when she explains her “calling” to adopt Saroo and his brother:
“We both felt the world had more than enough people in it already. Because to have a child—that’s no guarantee that’s going to make things better. But to take a child who’s suffering—like you boys were—and to give him a chance in the world. Well, then. Now there’s something.”
My face was cringing through this part. I think the primary reason to adopt is to become a parent, not to save a child. Even if “helping a child in need” was on your short-list of reasons to adopt, once you adopt you realize—it’s the child who has added immeasurable meaning and merit to your life. Yes, there are specific circumstances that led to our children being placed for adoption and some of those reasons could be life threatening. And sure, we want our kids to cultivate gratitude just like any other non-serial-killing member of society. However, as adoptive parents, regardless of how our children came to us, why would we ever want our kids to feel like they owe us a depth of gratitude for adopting them? Guilty feelings don’t serve our children.
The Lack of Talking.
It seems that talking about adoption, or culture, or ethnicity wasn’t something that occurred all too often between Saroo and his parents. It downright shocked me when a college-aged Saroo said, “I’m not really Indian.” I believe that, if he and his family had talked more, had had more childhood experiences involving his Indian heritage and culture, Saroo would have benefited greatly. Talking regularly about his adoption story might have given Saroo the confidence to confide in his parents about his need to find his birth family. His adoptive parents, who are portrayed as loving and engaged, might actually been able to help, or, at the very least, would have been an incredible source of comfort and support to their son. It hurt my heart to see Saroo search on his own; to see Saroo stop his life, at time when his adult life was just beginning, to begin processing and talking about his adoption.
Is this film worth seeing? Most definitely. It’s a simple, poignant story, beautifully told. And it does an excellent job of shedding light on the complexities of growing up adopted. See it. Then let me know what you thought.
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Barbara HerelNew York
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