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Tuesday, December 30, 2014

Annie

God love my brother and sister-in-law.  I say "hey lets take 8 kids who call us Mom and Dad and one of their biological mothers to see the refresh of the movie Annie and get pizza afterward" and they show up. It was another one of my crazy "hope for the best" moments that could have exploded. It ended up being a really amazing day! 

Some would question taking 8 current and former foster kids to see a movie about an orphan (in the refresh Annie is a foster child). In fact, the following question was posed on Facebook somewhere (I honestly can't remember if it was a Foster Care support page or a foundation): Should "Foster Kids" go see the movie Annie?  I think it was a valid question but one of the comments really stuck with me.  It was something to the effect of why do you have to label the kids as foster kids? They are kids. So what if they are in foster care. I think I finally landed on why the comment bugged me so much.

Similar to ethnic, racial, and sexual orientation labels, the labels of foster care and adoption are often times attached to other people's emotional reactions and experiences. Should the labels matter? In a perfect world no. But to ignore those categories and experiences that go along with being black, woman, adoptee, gay, etc. is to continue to assign them a negative connotation and to dismiss the negative and positive feelings that individuals with those attributes have. I don't believe its healthy to pretend that everyone's experiences are the same because they aren't. 

My children are foster kids. That is a fact. Does it make them less than other kids? No. Could other people think that? Sure. They would be wrong, but sure. My job as their Mom is to break that stigma while protecting their privacy and their right to tell their own story. Are there instances where I wouldn't share their history? Absolutely, but I will always do my best to make sure they never feel shame about being foster children. But that doesn't mean I ignore it.

Being aware starts by being thoughtful of movies, tv, books, and music that might trigger feelings of shame or unnecessary sadness and worry. My "foster kids" have PTSD. It entirely probable that seeing a movie that included domestic violence would send at least one of my kids into a full blown panic attack. My "foster kids" were neglected.  A movie about a child being left behind might be really hard for them to watch even if it is a beloved Christmas classic. 

So I'll say it again, I need to be thoughtful about what my "foster children" are exposed to. And here is how I arrived at the decision to take all 8 of my "foster children" (and Maria) to see Annie.

1) The story is about creating a unique family despite hardship.

2)They really wanted to see it.  It wasn't being forced on them. 

3) The reviews did not mention violence.

4) It might give them something to identify with in terms of feelings and experience of the main character. Here was a little girl wish and hoping her parents would find her. They don't see others have their same experience often.

Overall I was happy we went to see it. There were some references to addiction by Ms. Hannigan (the foster mom) and there was a line that made me cringe in the song "Hard Knock Life" that went "no one cares for you one bit, when you're a foster kid" (different from the original musical lyrics). But other than that it was a pretty safe movie from a foster parent perspective. 

The kids all really liked it and even asked me to download some of the music.  We then had a really nice lunch where all 8 of the kids sat and chatted and played happily together. (Well mostly, Jelly Bean tried really hard to garner additional attention but we managed to keep the attitude down to a minimum.)

It's hard to believe that 4 years ago I had no idea that all of these people were on the planet and now they make up the center of my world. My "foster kids" rock and if they didn't have that label my life would be so empty.










 

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