Review – I Am Sam

I learned about this movie from my all things adoption group and I wrote an initial blog on July 19th titled I Am Sam. I promised to come back with a review and last night I actually watched the movie on dvd from Netflix. Sean Penn and Dakota Fanning are both remarkable in their performances for this movie.

It is easy to understand the attraction of this movie to the all things adoption and foster care group because the core story is the lived experience of many members of that group. Not so much having a mentally challenged (ie as the movie says explicitly more than once – retarded) parent but as in the Division of Family and Child Welfare taking a child or children from the parents. In fact, when my sons were young, I did worry that our parenting might be adversely challenged by so do-gooder. Thankfully, my sons are now almost grown (one is already 20 and the other one is 17) and beyond such concerns in our own family. It is also true to the lived experience of so many that foster parents often do eventually want to adopt a child placed in their care. However, the movie is enlightened to the trends now occurring in adoptionland that family reunification and in the case of this movie, an eventual recognition on the part of the parent that he is lacking something (a mother – the child’s mother abandoned the child to the father shortly after birth) brings into the resolution a kind of co-parenting solution that is satisfying to watch (I don’t think that saying this is a spoiler for this movie as the ending leaves as many questions as it answers).

The movie was very progressive for its time in the portrayal of people with a variety of cognitive disabilities. In fact, I recognized that I do know one woman who has effectively lost her children due to just such a challenge. The take-away message for me was how incredibly hard it is parent a child regardless of the circumstances. This is clearly portrayed in the contrasting and yet similar parenting challenges of the main character and his lawyer. Every parent needs support of some kind at some time or other.

In an LA Times review, the writer shares this story – “I’m smart enough to know when I need help, I ask for it,” a 46-year-old mother with a learning disability told me recently. She receives support from a parents-with-special-needs program. If she needs help with parenting skills of any kind, a parent counselor is just a call away. If she feels frustrated, she attends the program’s parents support group.

Also from that LA Times review, In one critical scene of the movie, Sam is questioned by state agency officials about why he thinks he has the ability to be a father. He responds, “It’s about constancy and it’s about patience. And it’s about listening and it’s about pretending to listen when you can’t listen any more, and it’s about love.” In the case of parents with special needs, we must provide the kind of support services that will offer practical help and an ear to listen. Parents with special needs benefit from help with tutoring, after-school activities, transportation, budgeting money and, like every parent in the universe, a little baby-sitting now and then.

The movie helps everyone who watches it to understand “that persons with disabilities have needs and desires just like everyone else,” as the parent with a disability mentioned above explained. “They need to take care of someone and love someone else.”

Feelings Of Rejection

Feelings of rejection may be one of the most common impacts for any person who was adopted. Today’s story breaks my heart . . .

It’s never going to stop. These feelings of rejection are going to be part of my life forever. I have worked so hard in therapy these past 5 years to learn all the coping skills and most of the time they have worked.

Today, not so much. I am sitting here with tears running down my face for the stupidest reasons. The irrational thoughts of rejection in my head triggered by conversations that anyone else would consider completely normal, logical and with no ill intent. I can type that, I can say it out loud, but my brain cannot stop these feelings of being rejected. It’s a freight train out of control.

This is the life adoption created for me and no amount of therapy or positive reunion or being the administer of a group that allows me to speak freely is going to change the fact that a simple statement telling me not to come to my adoptive brother’s on Christmas Eve in the middle of Covid but learning that all my nieces and nephews and my adoptive mother will be there, set’s off a chain reaction of feeling personal rejection.

We are in a pandemic, my adoptive mom goes there weekly anyway, my nieces and nephews are their children. It makes logical sense they would/could be there. Yet the second my adoptive mom told me she was going there and I told her we were not asked to come, I instantly had to put on my sunglasses and hide my eyes. Hide the tears that were forming quickly.

I desperately want to avoid being irrational, but the chain reaction starts. My husband’s phone dings and I wonder who is texting him. I have no reason to be concerned, yet I can’t help it in this moment. My adoptive mom mentions my out of state niece sent a big batch of cookies to my adoptive brother. I sit and wonder why him and not me.

Cookies…..text messages…..keeping distance during a pandemic…..anyone would consider all that innocuous. I should too. There are real issues going on in this world. There are people that don’t have family, there are people that are struggling. I try hard to get it in check, to move past it. Then I walk my adoptive mom to the door and she says “Don’t worry so much about things. You worry too much” and the tears start up again.

I’ve been told this all my life and I want to scream back at her and say do you think I WANT to be like this? To let these inconsequential things set me off at 55 years old, stupid shit that should be irrelevant? I don’t, because in this moment, my brain cannot make my mouth do that. The risk is too great. I just weakly smile and walk away.

They will never understand. Not my adoptive family, not my natural family. They will never understand that I CANNOT control this. Our brains are not wired like everyone else’s and this is the result. Me…..crying over a gathering during covid, cookies and text messages…..SIGH….tell me again how much adoption rocks. I could not hate myself more right now, for not being able to avoid this spiral over nonsense.

Becoming Whole

This is what it is like to relinquish a child and then one day find them again and realize you are coming full circle and putting your pieces back together to become whole again. One birth mother’s story for today.

Summer 2018:

While working with my husband (repo agent) doing research on debtors, I stumble across a Facebook profile pic that makes my heart stop. After years of searching with very limited info, I finally saw a picture of the man my son grew to become. (He happened to be FB friends with a debtor we were looking for). My own eyes were staring back at me.

I chew nervously for days on what to do. Do I reach out? What if he doesn’t want to meet me? My heart is racing almost non-stop, and I’m functioning barely in a constant state of fight or flight.

I bite the bullet and send a message. Crickets for a few days, and then a very guarded/nervous response. I back off because I can’t even imagine what he’s thinking/feeling. And then, I receive a friend request.

I can see his life in posts, pics, and a piece of who he is. It’s such a gift…one I had long ago conceded I’d never receive. We tread carefully back and forth on social media for some time. I immediately put myself into intensive therapy to deal with the unresolved trauma and PTSD issues I had ignored forever. I search for and join multiple groups both for support and adoptee perspective. I, for the first time in my life, focus on self-improvement instead of self-destruction.

February 2019:

We meet face to face for the first time in a neutral location. He hugs me, and I’m shaking externally from all the emotions I’m feeling. I’m trying to absorb everything because I’m so scared this is going to be it. I have gifts for him in the car (a hand written letter, framed pic of me holding him as a newborn, and a watch engraved with

Always loved… Never forgotten…

I wait until our lunch is over and ask if he’d be ok with a couple of gifts. He readily accepts them, and we part ways. I’m terrified that I’ve done too much, but only 30 mins later I receive a message thanking me for everything. He goes on to say that the picture and letter would have been more than enough, but absolutely loves the watch.

Today:

I honestly could write a book on our journey so far. There are so many things that have occurred that aren’t included in this small recap – but I’ll save that for another day.

This is what I want to share –

Less than 2 years after reuniting, he joined us on our annual family vacation. He left his car at my house and endured a 10 hour drive with myself, hubby, his half brother and our dog.

He loves hiking and the outdoors!!! I’ve spent many family vacations dragging my husband and other 2 kiddos hiking only to hear complaints. This year, I had an Ally!!! I listened for hours to my husband and him talk cars, my youngest son and him talk video games, and my daughter and him talk science and politics.

I don’t ever want to forget these moments.

My son asked me during our first meeting…”Does your husband know about me?”… My response was “Of course! I told him about you only 2 weeks after meeting him. I hoped I would find you one day, and I could only be with someone who could accept and support that.”

My husband has done more than just support me….he’s accepted my son, included him and embraced him. I’m still a broken woman, but my pieces are coming together. And my family is finally whole.