We enjoyed this thought-provoking essay from the New York Times on the issues surrounding how adoption and foster care are presented in typical kids’ movies.

While media seems to do a better job now than ever in acknowledging that the old stereotype of “2.5-child nuclear family,” doesn’t fit everyone’s family, it does seem that messages surrounding adoption, adoptees, and foster care are not quite as evolved. In fact, the “parentless child — one whose mother or father has been killed, kidnapped, lost or just left” is often the driving character or story line in movies. And those movies are targeted at our children.

We adoptive and foster parents have all been there. It’s that great quandry of deciphering messages of culture balanced against our child’s ability to take in and process those messages, and our resulting strategies that will help them process that which they’ve seen against their own stories and pre-existing messages or insecurities. Tools like Adoption At The Movies and ChicagoNow exist specifically to help us navigate the minefield of culture’s messages and can help us articulate our thoughts in ways that turn the movies into opportunities to process those messages together in light of each child’s own experiences.

But the author poses another valid thought, saying “Admittedly, we parents can wax more indignant about this stuff than the kids ever would.” Striking the right balance for our family is an ongoing effort. Being vigilant and current with our kids is hard work and we don’t always do it expertly. But we do it because we know that adoptive/foster parenting often requires some additional layers or sensitivity to our kids’ hearts as they grow and learn how to reconcile their individual stories with the messages that are all around them about family, adoption, and identity.

Sitting through a Chipmunks movie, of course, is a lot to ask of parents, adoptive or otherwise, and you hate to admit you have done it. But at least you weren’t sandbagged by some antediluvian notion of how family is supposed to work.

I’m no expert. Arguably, anyone incapable of operating a remote control shouldn’t be entrusted with children. But I have some. They possess a variety of origin stories and, some might even say, issues. And it would be nice if, when they watched a movie, they always felt at home.

Photo Credit: Dreamworks Animation, via Associated Press