Friday, September 3, 2010

Wo Ai Ni, Mommy ~ My Heart on It

So you know up front where I stand on this documentary, I applaud the Sodowsky family (and others like them) who have allowed a camera to capture some of the most difficult moments of their lives.

As the film began, I could sense the anticipation of a family bringing their child home. There was paperwork to be done, last-minute errands to run, arrangements to be made as they prepared to bring home their 8-year-old daughter from China, who, until now, had only been real in their hearts and on paper. No doubt, everybody’s life was about to change.

As Donna Sodowsky and her father waited nervously in the Civil Affairs office, her daughter Faith arrived, silent, stoic and obviously frightened. A Chinese woman, possibly Faith’s nanny or an orphanage representative, began to talk to Faith about her Mommy, her new name, her home in America and the rest of her family waiting for her.

And because 10 months ago, I was just like that mommy, meeting my teen son, I think I know exactly what Donna was feeling. I know the questions running through her mind, the concern for her daughter, the lack of confidence in herself as a parent.

Before the family ever left the Civil Affairs office we begin to see Faith open up, even smile, and we breathe a sigh of relief that everything just might be okay after all. The rest of the film reveals some of the transition, including both frustration and blossoming. It's hard to capture months of transition in a 90-minute documentary, so we are left to fill in the gaps. As the parent of an adopted teen, I can imagine the process, and it is left to the filmmaker to determine what would be most beneficial to show.

The day after the film aired, I read a few opinions from adoptive parents, prospective adoptive parents and adult adoptees. I stopped reading when I saw a pattern of criticism from people who have clearly never adopted an older child. Why is it easier to parent someone else’s child? Probably the same reason it’s easier to judge others from our limited perspective. And sometimes our criticism of others is the only way we know how to deal with our own hurts and misgivings.

There is criticism of the family ‘trying to Americanize’ the child so quickly. I’ve really been pondering what is meant by this statement. It seems many were outraged that Donna ‘brought out the flash cards’ in an attempt to teach Faith English while they were still in China.

I can only speak from my experience, and I have no criticism of this at all. Because when we see Faith roll over on the bed in frustration from trying to learn new words, we forget that this is only a segment of their long days in China. They have shared meals together, watched cartoons, gone shopping, maybe gone swimming, played games, colored together, and now they are learning together. Why? It’s about communication, which is about relationship!

This mom is not trying to ‘Americanize’ her child; she’s trying to communicate with her! She desperately wants to connect. When we adopt children who are much younger and completely dependent upon us, we begin to bond through touch, carrying the child, feeding the child, bathing the child, and talking to the child. We are building a relationship. When the child is less dependent and speaks a different language, we must take a different approach. If we intended to stay in China with our child, we would learn Chinese. Why? So we could communicate and relate. But the truth is, we are coming home to America, and as much as we adapt to our child, the child must adapt to his or her new environment as well. Is it hard? Of course! As parents, it is our job to make that transition as smooth and painless as possible for everyone.

We are often parenting children who have never known love or nurture before. They often think they know what is best; they grieve; they tantrum; they regress; they self soothe; they fight back. And we must teach them how to be loved and to love.

I don’t know any parent who claims to be perfect. In fact, most of the parents I know are sinners saved by grace. We struggle with our human nature every day. We think we know what is best; we tantrum; we regress; we fight back…

Among the criticism I read that the adoption process is ‘evil and horrendous.’ So my question is what are we to do? Sit on our hands and do nothing? Are we to believe that children orphaned in another country are better off left in a temporary care facility for the sake of remaining in their birth country, rather than having their world turned upside down in the process called adoption? It is true that orphans are victimized and marginalized…before they are adopted.

If it weren’t for the process of adoption, five of my children would still be in China. Three of them would likely be victimized again as young women, sold into prostitution and slavery. One of them would have already aged out of the orphanage and would be left to fend for himself, with little education or life experience to stand on. I can’t bear the thought!

I’m sorry that some are so unhappy with their lives that they must criticize others. I would like to introduce you to the Redeemer. He is the One who turns ashes into beauty. He is the One who takes the messes we make, like the orphan crisis, and redeems it. He even uses imperfect vessels in the process. Just as He has redeemed my selfish, wretched life, He longs to redeem others.

Orphans are the victims. Adoptive parents are not the perpetrators! I want to encourage adoptive parents to move forward with the courage of Christ and the confidence of the Spirit! And for those willing to let the cameras roll during your transition, my hat’s off to you for exposing yourselves to the public. Your motive is not selfish. You are trying to educate, and in the process we see an amazing transformation. Hopefully, much like the transformation Christ is making in our lives every day as we learn to communicate and relate to Him.




Amy P. said...

Well said Connie! I LOVED the documentary and cried thru 90% of it. I ordered a copy of it for home. God joined my family in that same room in GZ also!

The Kings said...

So well said Connie! Thank you!

Jodi said...

Amen!!!! I loved the documentary also and was impressed with Donna and their family! I thought the film maker did a great job of balancing the transition. We had a lot more temper tantrums then they did - both from me and my daughter! :)
It was sad that she couldn't communicate with her foster family any longer - but so thankful that Faith and her foster sister would both have forever families.

Love you Connie! And so thankful that God made us friends!

Shonni said...

Boy do I agree with what you wrote! Thank you for sharing this!!!

Chris said...

The thing I found very interesting in the movie,was the interview w/ the foster father. He asked if the Dara could speak English....
I was glad to see that the family was very supportive or at least it appeared that way to me.

Mandi said...

Amen!!! What a fabulous post about adopting and especially older kiddos. I cannot imagine where my 3 kids would be today if I didn't take a leap of faith and following what He was saying.


The Vickerman's said...

Loved your post about this and i too loved the documentary!

I haven't stopped by your blog in awhile but sure glad that i did today:) Looks like you are doing wonderfully well and so happy to hear the news of Kasidi Joy!


Donna said...

I wonder why the film maker decided to make Donna look so horrible. Obviously she could have edited out the flash card incident if it was likely to be taken out of context.

When I watched that part of the movie, I was so angry with Donna! We didn't know that she did anything fun with Faith while they were in China. All we saw was the flash cards and the frustration and that whole "Do you think I'm ugly because I'm white" scene. It made us sympathize with Faith and it made Donna look really bad! Now that I've watched the entire movie and followed Donna's painful attempt to set the record straight, I'm left wondering what the motive was. Why did they make her look so wicked?

I'm afraid that this movie just gave the anti-adoption folks something to point at to support their twisted viewpoint. And it probably made some families who were considering an older child adoption nervous enough to not move pursue it. Sad.

Our Blog: Double Happiness!

Donna said...

... meant to say 'to not move in that direction or pursue it'.

Denise said...

Thank you so much for your post. I agree with your opinion 100%. I wish there didn't have to be a thing called adoption - that every child could be loved and cared for by their birth parents. The fallen and cruel world we live in doesn't allow that to happen. I love my adopted children with all of my heart and soul, but I also grieve for them that they will never know their birth families. What is the alternative? Children with disabilities such as Faith would never be successful in today's China - maybe someday, but not now. My son's cleft palate was not repaired until he was 9 years old! It was done by LWB and not the Chinese government. He was also severely malnourished. A loving home with the OPPORTUNITY for medical care and an education is what is most important for these children. Their connectedness to their birth culture can be worked on later.

Maslow's hierarchy of needs says that self-esteem and self-actualization cannot not occur if our basic needs are not met. The critics can criticize away, but until China can provide medical care, education and opportunity for these children something else has to be done. I don't believe God wants us to sit back and do nothing because these children will lose their Chinese culture! After all, God created all of us - not just white Americans!

God bless you and your family.

Peter and Nancy said...

My husband and I watched the last half of the documentary -- it was very moving. I am sad to hear that kind of anti-adoption sentiment . . . in a perfect world, poverty, anti-girl bias, HIV, and a host of other factors would not mean that children are abandoned. But we do not live in a perfect world, and adoption is one solution for our children.

I always wonder what people will answer if I ask them about what happens to girls who age out of institutions and are tricked or forced into prostitution? Maybe I will have to start asking that question.

LJ said...

Beautifully written...'nuf said.

Mama D.'s Dozen said...

Well said.

I haven't heard about this movie, but we got some very negative responses (from other adoptive parents) when we began to "Americanize" our 3 older adopted children while we were with them in Ghana for 6 weeks.

Being that we were bringing home a teenage boy ... into a house with several bio. teen girls ... we thought it was important to teach him things like: knock on a door before entering; close the door when you go to the bathroom; don't dress in front of your sisters; you can't just pull down your pants and go to the bathroom by the side of the street in America; etc...

Anyway ... it can be TOUGH to adopt older children. Been there. Done that.

Blessings to you and your family as you work hard to raise the funds to bring home another precious little one.


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