Monday, November 2, 2009

Mommas Can Worry, Can't We?

I was recently forwarded a link to a blog on the Rumor Queen site called “Hard Knock Life.”

I have been there and done that on wondering about how my daughter would feel singing the words to this song about life in an orphanage. She was in a production of Annie two years ago, and was given the part of one of the orphans who has to sing this song. I remember her coming home from the first rehearsal very excited, telling me that she got to be an ORPHAN and that they were going to need tattered clothes and rags to wipe the floor. The interesting part to me was that she didn’t react to any of the words in the song. For those of you who have seen any videos of my daughter singing, you know she has an amazing stage voice, and she thought it was great to belt out “no one cares for you a smidge, when you’re in an orphanage.” She sang it with great conviction, without a single reaction that the lyrics bothered her. Her only concern was getting the dance moves just right. When I questioned her on whether the words bothered her in any way, since she had herself lived in an orphanage, she gave me that “moms can be so clueless” look and said, “mom…it’s a play, as in fiction.” End of conversation in her mind.

Reading this blog post today, however, did make me think about how concerned I always am about anything that could hurt the feelings of my kids. When we first adopted our son with a limb difference, I remember watching Toy Story 2 and then actually throwing the DVD away when one of the characters says something about a one armed toy being worthless (I can’t actually even remember the exact line, but I remember audibly gasping and putting the DVD in the trashcan immediately....yes, I really did!) Ditto the movie “Hotel for Dogs”, which had a three legged dog that someone also called worthless. I remember thinking that TJ could never see it as it might hurt him in some way.

Fast forward a few months later and TJ is at a play date with a friend. The mom dropped him off later that night and said, "oh…we went to the movies and saw “Hotel for Dogs”. My heart sank fearing the worst. When TJ came in I asked him about the movie, and he told me again and again how much he loved it. I carefully padded around the issue of the three legged dog, to see if anything had bothered him, and just like Anna singing “Annie”, nothing he saw had bothered him at all. He thought the three legged dog was cute…nothing more, nothing less.

My older kids accuse me sometimes of being “hyper vigilant” when it comes to issues about adoption or special needs that might hurt my kids. What I’ve noticed is that the things that I most think will bother them rarely do, and then the things I never even considered can bring out real grief and sadness. I still remember seeing “Prince of Egypt” with my daughter, a movie I thought she would love, and then having her sob inconsolably when Moses’ mother floats him down the river away from her. That image touched something inside of her that I hadn't imagined. It made me realize that it is impossible to protect my children from every image or event in life that might cause them pain over their adoption. But we as moms sure want to try, don’t we?

Have there been movies or songs that have affected your child in ways that surprised you? Are you also a hyper vigilant mom when it comes to trying to protect your child?


  1. The comment was from Jessie. She said" I am sure Your Precious ANDY is going to want to play with a ONE ARMED cowboy doll". We do not have that one either.
    Hannah(age 10) would not audition for ANNIE because she would have to sing" noone cares for you a smidge when your in an orphanage"...her sister lived in one for a time.
    My children & lots of their friends went on an all-out "SMEAR CAMPAIGN" when the movie ORPHAN was released a few months ago. The theatre here played it for 2 days ONLY!
    These things haven't really affected our adopted children yet because they are 4 and 2...but the rest of the family has been offended and hurt FOR THEM.
    It is our job to protect them. I admit that sometimes I go a little when I came unglued on the TOYS R US manager for not having a SINGLE ASIAN BABY DOLL in the whole store at CHRISTMAS last year(when Mary wanted one). My complaint" MY DAUGHTER WOULD LIKE TO WALK INTO A STORE AND PICK OUT A BABY DOLL JUST LIKE THE WHITE, AFRICAN AMERICAN, & HISPANIC LITTLE GIRLS!"
    Result- TOYS R US in our town NOW carries ASIAN dolls year round.
    I try not to be crazy about it..but I do try to "head things off at the pass".
    Some would argue that children need to learn to deal with such...but I can't help it..I'm just being a MAMA.

  2. I to sometimes become overly sensitive to things I will think will bother my kids, only to find out that they really didn't find issue with it but then something totally out of the dark will take us by surprise. I just always pray for the right words to come out of my mouth with instances like this do come out. For my girls Annie is one of their all time favorite movies, they ask to watch it frequently and we haven't had any issues come out. I always just try to remember that my kids take a que from me about things and if I get overly touchy about things they do to. I remember once sitting in a waiting room after my daughter had celft lip surgery for a follow up appointment, and a kid started staring at us saying really hurtful things about my daughters nose and lip, and his mom just ignored it. I took my daughter by the hand and went to a differant waiting area. In hind sight I was mad at myself because I felt my actions probaly conveyed to my daughter that i was ashamed and hiding her away when what I was really trying to do was protect her from a bad situation. It was a learning experince for me and I explained to my daughter latter on why i did that. Her response was she didn't even rememeber it happening so I guess sometimes us parents do pay more attention to things than our kids do sometimes.

  3. Amy, my daughter is currently singing "Hard Knock Life" in a show choir group and I had the same worries -- however, her story is similar to your daughter's! No real concerns. However, my younger daughter is very confused by the line, "Santa Claus, what's that....who's he?" -- it really bothers her to think that Santa doesn't visit kids in orphanages! I had tried shielding them from Annie and that song for years, and then once they finally saw it and heard it they both really loved it, much to my surprise.

    Last night we watched a classic movie -- The Little Princess -- and my older daughter was crying, hoping we would never leave her off at a boarding school like Sarah Crewe and wondering what would happen to her if we died. Movies with themes of abandonment seem to get to her for reasons she probably cannot yet articulate (or doesn't want to articulate). I think they can be a great vehicle for bringing up hidden sensitive issues.

  4. When our local high school put on Annie, my then first grader begged to go see it, so we did, with a little trepidation on my part. No anxieties from her...she loved it, like all theater.

    The end of the Rumor Queen story is that she spoke to the teacher and the teacher willingly changed the song the children would practice ad naseum to something less sensitive. Fortunately, the song had not be announced publically yet and was easy to change.

    While the hyper-vigilant mamas in us want the world to be safe for our kids, the reality is that is not possible. My wish is to help instill the self-worth in my kids so that any chance comment that may inflict hurt is minimized. We can educate both our children and others along the way as issues unfold.

    I also want to keep the lines of communication open so we can talk about these things without them fearing mama's losing it! Matter of fact discussion about sensitive topics seems to be the best protection we can offer our children.

  5. Thanks for your thoughts on this, and for mentioning "A Little Princess". That was an emotional movie for us as well, when the father can't recognize his daughter. Regarding Annie, my daughter and I had many more discussions about whether or not she could ever be cast as the lead of Annie as an Asian girl versus the issue of it being about orphans.

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  7. I had this same thought as I sat in the movie theaters watching "Meet the Robinson's" with my girls, especially with the abandonment scene and where families came to check him out (I didn't like that at all). It did lead to some conversations after, but not in the way I thought. They were positive comments on adoption - they both loved how we got just the right family for him. Thank you for writing this - great thoughts!

  8. This is a breath of fresh air. I am a hyper vigilant mom, learning my way through this adoption community. It's a subculture in many ways and I find myself wondering if I shouldn't be MORE vigilant/upset/sad/curious/furious, whatever. Thank you for the balance here.

  9. The Tongginator fell apart for days after watching "Meet the Robinsons" and I struggled to let go of my anger because my sister popped in that DVD without giving it a thought... and without first checking with me. I wasn't overly cautious before that experience, but I am now. I did let the Tongginator watch "Annie" last month during our swine flu drama, but I stayed in the room with her, watching carefully to be sure all was well. Does that make me hyper-vigilant? Not when she's five... but maybe when she's eight? Or 12? At some point...

  10. As an adult adoptee I can say from the child side Annie was and still is one of my all time favorite movies. It did not bother me at all that she was an ophange at all. What did often make me very upset and even mad was when someone called me an ophange because as I saw it I was adopted and was no longer an ophange. My advise would be let your child be proud of there past but also of what they are now wonderful loved children.

  11. As a Mom of 2 Chinese girls, I am always vigilant about what they see, and have even put our DVD of Annie in the closet for a time because the "hard knock life" song bothered me. They LOVE Annie and would watch it everyday if they could. It does not seem to bother them (8 and 5yo) at all. In fact, one day last summer I asked them to wash the picnic table so we could have dinner outside and they both grabbed towels and could be heard singing "it's a hard knock life for us" at the top of their lungs in the back yard as they washed the table! I am sure the neighbors loved that!

  12. I brought my 7 year old to see a high school performance of Annie this past weekend. I was very stressed about how she would react, especially to the 'hard knock life' song. She was not bothered by it at all. I kept looking at her out of the corner of my eye to see her reaction but there was none. I am learning to be less sensitive about things I use to freak out about.