I Am Sam

I just read about this movie and have added it to our Netflix list – so I can’t personally review it yet. Netflix tells me that “After fathering a child with a homeless woman, Sam (Sean Penn) — a grown man with the mental capacity of a 7-year-old — raises the baby himself until an incident at a birthday party finds the Child Protective Services deeming him an unfit guardian. With the help of yuppie lawyer Michelle Pfeiffer, Sam attempts to regain custody of his daughter and prove that, despite his handicap, he’s a truly loving father.” Certainly, the homeless issue means something to me. And thanks to a growing awareness about the dangers of the Child Protective Services via my all things adoption group, it certainly seems like a movie I should see.

The film’s title is derived from the opening lines “I am Sam / Sam I am” of the book Green Eggs and Ham by Dr. Seuss, which is read in the movie. Kevin Thomas of the Los Angeles Times reviewed it positively as a “most inviting and accessible film that turns upon a mental condition that most people would prefer not to think about.” Maybe that is why overall it was not well liked.

The first comment in my all things adoption group was – “oh my god the foster mom is a piece of shit, typical foster parent that just wants to steal the child, it’s so disgusting and sadly it’s so freaking real.” And this – “with the proper support he will 100% be the best father for her.”

Part of it was that they didn’t take the time to understand neurodivergence. How someone interacts with the world through different fandoms. I got everything Sam was trying to say right away because I’m neurodivergent and I love the Beatles. The abled neurotypicals in I Am Sam didn’t even want to try. They just tried to force their model of the world, which in this case, means deeming the disabled parent inferior by default.

Welcome to ableism 101. Even biological parents will do this with their own kids. Hiding illness, limiting contact, and/or stifling relationships. Ableism states that the disabled parent is always inferior, and a burden to their children. A hindrance to “normalcy.”

Someone else wrote this –

I have seen it. It is actually on our state’s list for alternative training for foster parents, which okay but with alternative training you simply fill out a form writing down what you learned and no one like processes or follows up wjth you to point out that people with disabilities have a right to parent and are often preyed upon by Child Protective Services (CPS).

I am usually shocked to learn that most caseworkers in my state are so unfamiliar with any rights for parents with disabilities including the right to an adult advocate. They absolutely can parent successfully, sometimes needing education or support to meet our cultural or white definition of parenting standards. That movie is controversial for many reasons including that a non-disabled actor was chosen to play someone with a disability. And absolutely, the foster parent says what the societal thoughts are that are being held against Sean Penn’s character – that only abled bodied people in mind and body or mental health are deemed capable to parent – so not true. Even convincing the child they “deserve better” than a loving, devoted father simply because he has a disability.

Another person adds the reality check – it’s actually super unrealistic cuz in real life disabled parents never get good legal representation and almost never get their kids back.

And yet another notes – it happens in real life too. CPS targets parents with disabilities and it’s hard for them to get their kids back.

Knowing One Is Adopted

I believe, from the time they were old enough to even understand the concept, both of my parents knew they were adopted.  Therefore, as their children, we also grew up always knowing our parents had both been adopted, even though we had no idea of what that really meant.  I thought my parents were orphans until rather late in life when I learned that my mom’s adoption had been part of the Georgia Tann scandal and that my mom believed she had actually been stolen from her original parents.  It is a fact, she died still believing that.

Adoption is not something that should be a secret or something that anyone should be ashamed of. It is how an adoptee came to be in the family they grew up in. If you always know, then it just IS.  It is better to know that no one ever kept something really important from your knowledge.

Growing up, adoption seemed very normal to me.  It has always been a core circumstance of my family’s life.  Therefore, both of my sisters also gave up children for adoption.  They never thought it was harmful or wrong because to think that would have been to judge how we ended up with the parents that we were born to.

My family’s experiences are not unique, there are many many families that have been impacted by the process of adoption.  It is important to me. I am grateful that my mom shared with me how she felt about her own adoption.  I believe I am the only person she shared those feelings with.

The main reason most adoptees don’t talk about their struggles is generally the same. When they are young, they lack the ability to identify how they should or do feel about their origins.  They are not able to articulate their feelings. As an adoptee gets older, if no one is talking about adoption, they get the sense that their feelings won’t be understood or validated.