Many of us grew up with stories about blond, blue eyed beautiful princesses in our books, our movies and our toy chests. Over the years we have learned the importance of representation. I often use the phrase, "chasing normal". When I am doing life with our modern family there are times that we celebrate our diversity, but other times I just want to feel normal. There are times I find myself trying so hard for my kids to have a normal moments.
One way to help our families bond, laugh, relax and feel normal is to bring stories into our home that are different. Stories that look a little bit more like our homes. Stories that celebrate diversity and bring out the similarities in us all.
So for today's blog I am going to start the conversation. I will admit, I am not fans of all of these story lines and I haven't even seen all of the shows or read all the storylines. For example, I'm more of a DC comics girl than a Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles fan. I am just tossing out a lot of ideas and you can discern what will work best in your home. No strong endorsements (well, except Annie, we love Annie around here)... anyway, here we go...
For younger ones:
Annie with the curly red hair is the one I had on my walls as a little girl and I loved to sing her songs. But now I have been able to introduce the 2014 Annie to my girls and we love her and sing all of the new songs. Whenever they wear their hair natural, they are proud and call it having "Annie Hair".
Also, did you know that Jamie Foxx (one of the stars from the 2014 version) was adopted? Apparently he was born to very young parents and was adopted at 7 months.
Superman is another classic story that involves adoption. Whether you watch the TV shows or the movies this one has story lines for all ages. He was born Kal-el, but his parents sent him to earth just before they died. He was found by Johnathan & Martha Kent (in Smallville, Kansas) who adopt him and name him Clark Kent. Supergirl is his cousin with a dramatically a similar story. Superman finds her also sent to earth and cares for her before she is adopted by Fred & Edna Danvers and goes by the name Linda Lee Danvers. Batman aka Bruce Wayne became an orphan after witnessing his parents’ death. His family butler, Alfred Pennyworth, becomes his legal guardian and helps Bruce create Batman. Batman’s sidekick, Robin was also an orphan. Robins’ true identity is Dick Grayson who lived in a group home until he was adopted by Bruce Wayne. Spiderman was adopted by his Aunt May and Uncle Ben after his parents died in a plane crash when he was very young.
Lilo & Stitch is a much loved movie in our house, partly because Roy has always had a soft spot for curious, active kiddos like Stitch, and also because of it's celebration of modern families. Ohana! We might be Disney freaks. We even named our rescue dog Stitch.
Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles is the story of four turtles, Leonardo, Michelangelo, Donatello, and Raphael raised by their sensei and adoptive father, Splinter. The show does not engage with an emotional perspective of adoption, but it still displays that we don’t all have to be raised by someone that looks like us. There are tv shows and movies all of varying quality and maturity levels.
Simone Biles is an American gymnast who despite having a rough start to life was adopted by her grandparents and went on to win 19 Olympic & World Championships. Her movie is a great family story that our girls have watched over and over again.
Jessie is a Disney show that is now available for streaming. It follows the life of a Texan teen who moves to New York City to follow her dreams and ends up as a nanny for a high profile couple's four children. The oldest child is biological, the second was a domestic adoption, the youngest two were international adoptions (India & Uganda).
Despicable Me is a favourite movie series for us as well. The first movie was seen in the theatre by Roy & our oldest son back in 2010 when Roy was just mentoring him. And then the other movies came out as our family continued to grow. If you haven't watched them yet they are fun stories about a very modern family, a villian (turned good guy) dad, a hero mom and three little girls adopted from a group home. The music is fun, the girls are adorable, the unicorns are fluffy and, we love us some minions.
Ironman was also adopted. It is a very complicated story, but suffice it to say he was born to some secret agents and then was left in a Bulgarian orphanage where he was adopted by Howard & Martha Stark who were very wealthy, but struggling with infertility. So maybe not so similar to your story, but he is pretty smart & cool.
Anne of Green Gables or now Anne with an E (Netflix) is another fun story I grew up with as a kid. The books and earlier movies are quite sweet and good for younger kids. The latest Netflix series does a great job going into more of her trauma history and so is better for older ones. My teen daughter and I love it. The basic premise is that an older set of siblings (Matthew & Marilla Cuthbert) decide to adopt a boy to help them on the farm, and an 11yr old girl shows up instead. Most people only think about the first book, but actually there are a total of eight books in the series making for a lot of hours of family reading time.
For parents & older kiddos:
Instant Family was a fun movie that Roy & I really enjoyed. We laughed a lot (and later thought we could make the movie into a drinking game we shared so many moments with the main characters) and I cried (esp at the part where she is doing her foster daughter's hair). It's the story of a couple who decide to jump in a foster an older sibling group, based on the true story of the director & co-writer's experience of adopting from the foster care system.
The Blind Side is based on the true story of Michael Oher, a homeless and traumatized boy who became an All American football player and first round NFL draft pick with the help of a caring woman and her family who adopt him as a teen.
Storm was born to a tribal princess of Kenya and an American photojournalist father. After being raised in Africa, she was made an orphan when her parents were killed in a middle eastern war. She then went to live in the US and eventually joined her new kind of family, the X-Men, after learning she could control the weather. In the stories she is often respected as a trusted and wise leader.
The Fosters has been watched by most of our teens and Roy & I have seen every episode. We actually have used it as a drinking game a few nights taking a sip of our wine and calling out "cheers" each time we can relate to part of the story line. The five seasons follow Stef & Lena Adams-Foster and their five children (bio, foster & adopted).
The Great Gilly Hopkins is a heartwarming film about a feisty foster kid's outrageous scheme to be reunited with her birth mother. The foster mom is played by Kathy Bates.
This is Us... Ugh! What can I say?
Every episode makes me cry, so depending on what is going on in our house that week, I might be a bit behind cause... I just cannot handle it.
But this might be one of my all time fav shows ever.
Other individuals who have lived in modern families and have led interesting lives:
Steve Jobs was adopted. His biological parents were not married and chose to place their child for adoption at birth. He was said to have been upset when anyone referred to his parents as his "adoptive parents" stating his bio parents were his "sperm & egg bank" and that Paul & Clara Jobs were his parents.
Malcom X's father died suspiciously when he was 6yrs old and then, at age 13, when his mother had an emotional breakdown he was placed in various orphanages and foster care placements.
Keegan-Michael Key was placed for adoption at birth. His biological mother was white and his biological father was her black, married collegue. He was adopted by two social workers. His mother is also white and his father is also black. As a adult he was able to connect with some of his biological family.
Faith Hill was placed for adoption at birth and raised by her adoptive parents. Her husband Tim McGraw was raised by his mother and step father. He didn't find out until he found his birth certificate at age 11. He attempted to meet his biological father (Edwin McGraw) at that time, but he denied his paternity until Tim was an adult and then they established a relationship.
Colin Kaepernick was born to young parents and adopted at birth. His parents had two biological children but had then lost two other children to birth defects prior to adopting Colin.
Nelson Mandela was adopted at age 9 after the death of his father and was raised by the tribe's chief and his family.