One of the most discouraging things I have heard people say about adopting a child is that “you never know what you are going to get.” I supposed there is some truth to that statement, but I feel that it is usually said with some air of genetic superiority . . . that somehow a person’s own familiar chromosomal makeup would be preferable to the “crap shoot” of adopting. It’s interesting to me that this notion is held in a society that seems to blame bad parenting on every childhood deviation from perfect behavior. I also think it is interesting that anyone should think that their own family blood line to be better than another without taking into account the mitigating factors of education, privilege, prenatal care, and good parenting. In fact, even in the presence of these things, families from all walks of life have some blips in the tree here and there. Which is why I always find it a little rattling when I’ve been asked about Jafta’s birth family in a way that indicated the answer would be some sort of an indictment on his character or potential. (This is also why I am tight-lipped about it, because I know the prejudice of “guilt by genetic association” is still pervasive).
Don’t get me wrong, I realize that there are genetic components to things like mental illness, addiction, cancer, diabetes, etc. But if those were deterrents to parenting, then Mark and I should never have had our own biological children, because Lord knows we’ve got enough of that crap in our own family of origins. Most of us probably do. Then there are a host of other issues that can crop up during pregnancy or childhood that have no foreshadowing in the genetic code. Because the universal truth is, when you decide to be a parent, whatever way that happens, you don’t know what you are going to get. That’s a risk you take whether you get pregnant or adopt. So forgive me when I get annoyed at that truth being applied so liberally and exclusively to adoption.
The reason I’m feeling a little testy about this today is that I just saw a preview for a movie called Orphan. Now I am so not the type to send out boycott emails, or jump on the latest bandwagon of Things to Be Alarmed About. But one of the things that stuck out to me in a preview is someone whispering that very warning to a prospective adoptive couple: you never know what you are going to get. I’ve not seen the movie, but from the looks of the preview, the couple adopt a little girl who ends up being some sort of a monster who wreaks havoc on the lives of an idyllic suburban couple. I am not blind to the fact that the adoption of hurting children can really wreak havoc on a family, but an exploration of attachment issues does not seem to be the goal of this movie. (I would love to see a mainstream movie about that). Orphan is a horror film, and it’s perpetuating an insidious notion about parenting orphans. I think it is bringing unneccesary fear and stigma to the adoption of older children, and I’m kinda pissed about it. And yes, I’m rattling off about a movie I haven’t even seen yet, and I HATE when people do that. But based upon the entire plot premise I don’t think I need to waste my time, and no matter how it ends, the moral of the story is clear: this couple shouldn’t have adopted.
There are 140 million orphans in this world, and I can’t think of a population in greater need of compassion. Why a movie company would choose to vilify orphans for a cheap thrill is beyond me. I’m not going to link to a petition or call for a boycott. I don’t really think that stuff effects much change. Instead, perhaps it’s a call for all of us to contemplate how we can honor and respect the least of these when our entertainment industry does not.