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.