Friday, September 3, 2010

I must have seen a different film--Wo Ai Ni Mommy

Wo Ai Ni Mommy is a documentary about a family in New York that adopts an 8 year old, special needs girl from China.   There is a lot of conversation going about this film in the on-line adoption community.    A lot of the discussion seems to be centered on every action the mom did or didn't do and more kindly on how badly the film portrayed the mother which in some ways makes sense.  After all most of the commentators are moms, and we often feel more qualified to judge and criticize the people we are most like.

All I can say is I must be the worst Mommy in the world.  I did not see the unprepared adoptive mom who lacked empathy that others seemed to see; I saw a mom doing the best she could in a difficult situation and doing a whole lot better than I expect to be able to do (which is why my husband absolutely must travel to China with me). The nit-picking on the words that the adoptive mom said I found particularly ludicrous as Faith couldn't understand the nuances of every word and even when it was translated it didn't seem always to represent exactly what the mom intended.  In the times when Faith was most upset, I thought the tone and touch were the important parts of the comforting process.  Occasionally I saw the mom make some comments to the camera or people around her that if they had been directed at her newly adopted child would have been inappropriate--"So good to hear English again" (in the busy US airport), "Tomorrow, she wants to go Tomorrow" (while hugging and rocking Faith after telling Faith that they would go back to China someday), and "how far we've come" (in regards to Faith saying she doesn't like her Guangzhou Mei-Mei anymore and that Dara was her sister).  I saw that all as rueful amusement, wry laughter--a way to cope with the intense empathy and love she felt for her child without crying on film or really flipping out.  (Sorry, Donna, if I am also putting words or feelings into your mouth/heart).  This is my personal method of coping and it does sometimes give people an odd idea of me, and I'm not on even on film.

However, I feel like I had two advantages in watching the film.  First, I was able to read some of Donna's answers to questions left unanswered in the film before I watched it.  For instance, Donna explains that she had Faith study flashcards for 15 minutes a day while they were in China, not the hours on end the film implied.  Donna also said she felt it was important to do the cards so her daughter would have a little bit of English to help her communicate when she arrived in the U.S.  She thought it would help Faith's transition to go smoother, and given that Faith seemed to transition fairly well, maybe she was right.  Maybe watching videos would have been an easier way to give Faith some form of communication, but the heart and intent seem pure to me.  In light of that knowledge the scenes were not disturbing to me.   Could she have been more patient in the one scene where she says, sit up, sit up?  Possibly, probably, but honestly she seemed remarkably kind and patient to me.  I really must be the most horrid mom!

My second advantage was I don't have an adopted daughter yet.  This prevented me from having to experience Faith's pain quite as intensely, because I did not naturally identify her with my future adopted child.  I identified Faith with my 6 year old son and her behavior and Donna's response lined up very closely to my experience.  That doesn't mean I can't feel for Faith who has lost more than my son, or that I don't already feel empathy for my future daughter.  It just means I saw my current children in every scene.  I was horrified when we got to the scene in the parking lot--it wasn't a parking lot, it was the driveway.  I was astounded that so many comments mislead me.  How many times have I left my dawdling, cranky, or down right screaming child in my driveway while I took my toddler inside?  I never lock the door or even close it and as soon as the other children are settled or the groceries put down I go back out to deal with the child still outside.  How many times do I not get to cuddle my hurting child because he rejects comfort and forcing it seems to make the fit last longer?  How many times have my children yelled at me the most illogical things instead of identifying his pain?

My six year old often yells that he hates his friend and never wants to see him again after spending six hours with him with no fights because he does not want to leave.  I take that to mean he had a really, really great time, and he is covering his pain of leaving.  The Guangzhou Mei Mei/Darah yell seemed to me the same type of thing.  "I cannot handle the pain of losing Guangzhou Mei Mei unless I am mad at her/I have a new sister, she is mine, and you cannot make me give her up too."  Watching the movie I thought I saw that same kind of understanding on Donna's face.  However, I'd rather not put words into Donna's mouth, so I'll quote,  "(I was) not ecstatic that she was mad at Guangzhou Mei Mei and was moving away from culture, language, etc., ECSTATIC BECAUSE SHE FINALLY CALLED DARAH HER SISTER!!!!!! Guangzhou Mei Mei is still a very big part of her life."

Now that I have fallen into the trap of analyzing and critiquing Donna (though with a thumbs up) in an effort to defend my own parenting style, let me get to the movie.  Donna writes, "I did this film for one reason and one reason only.  To encourage families to adopt older children."  To that end the movie does its job.  You see a pretty girl with a bright mind (how quickly she picked up the words on the cards) who should have had a bright future in her home country, but DID NOT!  Her foster family who loved her so, so much, felt she would be unaccepted and not able to find work; they didn't really have a choice about keeping her, but in affect they put their child up for adoption.  What dark future must be waiting for our daughters for us to do the same thing?  How can we watch this and not feel a tug to bring a similar child home (NOT rescue, but fill our family with a child to love)?  And while coming to America had to be very, very hard for Faith, learning English, and losing her Chinese (not letting go, losing), you see her blossom into a lovely, lovely little girl with tons of spunk and clearly secure in her forever family.  If I had a criticism of the film is that it almost made it look too easy.  I know it took Faith and her family a ton of hard work to achieve that beautiful smile in the end, but something in the story just makes me want to read all the files on the waiting list and see if God leads me to one.  With the new special focus/adopt two at once program going into affect, maybe we'll just go to China for our NSN referral and bring a lovely older child home, too.  (I promise that if we go that route we will read, read, read, prepare, prepare, prepare, and talk, talk, talk to families like Faith and her family).

So do I recommend you watch this movie?  Well, yeah!  Especially my family and friends since our Chinese daughter will appreciate having someone so close that was also adopted.


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