Friday, July 9, 2010

Review: Wo Ai Ni Mommy

I got to view Wo Ai Ni Mommy today, with the filmmaker, Stephanie Wong-Breal, available for Q & A.  I'm glad I got to see it, but I did not find it the feel-good, happy-ever-after film that many (but not all) of the adoptive parents around me seemed to be watching.  The film tells the story of a little girl adopted from China at age 8, after spending 4 years with a foster family there.  The foster mom says, though it tears her heart out, she encouraged the child, renamed Faith, to agree to the adoption because she thought it was best for Faith.  The foster dad added that because of Faith's limb difference she would have no future in China.

The scene at first meeting between adoptive mom and child is heart-wrenching, as Faith stands there stone-faced and terrified, shrinking away from her new grandpa as he comes in for a hug, later crying silent tears.  An orphanage official is translating for the adoptive mom, who speaks no Chinese, and  the official is really ordering Faith to accept things as they are instead of simply translating.  When the adoptive mom says, "Ask her what she thinks of the American name 'Faith?'"  the translater says instead to Faith, "Your new name is Faith.  You answer to Faith from now on." The orphanage official tells Faith, "Do not call your foster parents."  Faith asks, "Why not?"  The official says, "Don't call your foster parents until you are home in America."  Faith, "Why not?"  The official: "This is your new mommy.  Give your new mommy a hug.  Say 'I love you, mommy'."  Faith dutifully follows directions. (To the adoptive mom's credit, later in Guangzhou she lets Faith call her foster family, and they arrange a meeting and lunch.)

The shots in China show the adoptive mom running flashcards with Faith for her to learn English, and in fact she was very insistent on doing so even when Faith didn't want to.  Yes, Faith's frustration level would be lessened if she could communicate easier with her new family, but I thought the adoptive mom's expectations were really unrealistic.  When Faith, on day 3, threw herself on the bed saying she didn't want to learn English because it was too hard, instead of offering sympathy, the mom kept insisting, "Faith, sit up.  Faith, sit up!"  Who even knows if Faith understood that her mom wanted her to sit up!  It struck me that the family wasn't really very prepared to adopt an older child.

I thought the film really showed the worst part of adoption -- the expectation that the CHILD would do all the changing.  She was the only one who had the responsibility of learning a new language so that there could be communication between her and the rest of the family.  Her struggle to comply seemed emblematic of the larger identity struggle going on -- it wasn't just about language, it was the  "process" of becoming American instead of Chinese, of becoming Faith instead of Fang Sui Yong, of becoming a Sandusky instead of a child of "Guangzhou MaMa & BaBa."

In one scene, the parents meet with Dr. Amanda Baden, psychologist adopted from Korea as a child, to ask about issues related to retaining culture, transracial adoption, etc. They reveal that Faith has said that she doesn't feel Chinese anymore since she can't speak it with fluency anymore.  They say that Faith keeps asking WHY they wanted to adopt a girl from China, which to mean indicates some self-loathing going on. The parents were obviously frustrated not to get quick silver-bullet answers from Dr. Baden about how to parent so that Faith would "get over" these issues.  During the Q & A, I asked if the family maintained a counseling relationship with Dr. Baden, which I thought would be extremely beneficial to Faith.  She said no, and confirmed that the parents were frustrated not to get "answers" from her.  Seemed par for the course for these adoptive parents -- they wanted something easy to solve all problems.  It seems that Faith is the only one expected to work to create a relationship.

The film was remiss, I think, in failing to give any attention to the issue of race.  Dr. Baden mentioned it, but the film really focused on cultural rather than racial issues in international/transracial adoption.  During the Q & A session, the filmmaker mentioned race, but again reverted to culture, saying that she felt that the Chinese-American community (she herself is Chinese-American) had an obligation to help adoptive parents raise this new generation of Chinese-Americans.

To me, the film was very honest in showing what Faith lost, as well as what she gained, through this adoption.  It does not take long before Faith has lost her Chinese language so that she was no longer able to communicate with her Guangzhou foster family.  Her foster sister is in tears as they try to talk over the internet .  I was really saddened by the breakdown in the relationship, but the filmmaker saw it differently.  During the Q & A, she said the scene showed her how far Faith had come in 17 months, and that Guangzhou Mei-Mei had just stayed the same ("not that that is bad," she added, but she certainly seemed to think it was!).  And one of the last things we hear Faith say is in answering a question from the filmmaker:  "Do you think of yourself as Chinese or as American?"  Faith says, "American."  And she doesn't seem to be all that happy about it.

During the Q & A, one of the first questions was from a mom who had adopted an older child -- she asked, "Didn't they have any bad days?"  She really felt that the film didn't show just how HARD it is for the older child to be adopted.  She didn't think that the scenes of Faith crying and saying she wanted to go back to China really conveyed what she experienced with her son throwing tantrums, sobbing for hours on end, banging his head on the floor. . . . A couple of other parents who adopted older children echoed that comment.  From my perspective as someone who adopted at infant/toddler age, there sure seemed to be enough "bad days" for me!  Boy, differing experiences sure color our perspectives.

I was frustrated during the Q & A that several of the commenting parents told stories, in approving tones, about how easily their China-adopted children became completely "American."  They absolutely did not get that the struggle was painful, and that it meant that Faith was having identity issues relating to her loss of the Chinese language. To them, this was the happy ending to the adoption -- Faith changing, Faith shedding her Chinese identity, Faith assimilating.

One  pleasant point after the film -- I got to meet adult adoptee and fellow-blogger Peach of Neither Here Nor There, who also attended the film.  Be sure to go to her blog to read her reaction to the film -- I agree with every word she wrote!

57 comments:

Jerri said...

I've written and erased and writing again and still not sure I can get the words just right to convey my feelings, especially because they are such deep feelings and emotions. I am glad you posted this. I've heard a lot about this movie but did not know what it was about. I feel you gave a very honest review and have no interest in seeing it now.

I can't imagine trying to tell our story without showing the active grieving my daughters have experienced.

I did not adopt my two older daughters to "rescue" them and make them miniatures of me. I want my daughters to be proud they are Chinese. This is difficult and at times they fight against it so they can "fit in".

Being a mom is hard. Being a mom of children who have left the only family they ever knew behind is at times heart breaking.

I've made plenty of mistakes in our journey and expect to make more, but forcing their adaptation into being an American has not been one.

Thank you again!

Jessica Pegis said...

Arrrgh! I am linking to you. So jealous that you guys got to see this! Even the trailer gave me the shivers. Come visit, because I'm hoping Diane, who eerily adopted an 8-year-old from foster care in China, will share more thoughts. She has posted one comment and will post again.

http://tinyurl.com/37gsux8

Gotta wonder at: “It’s so nice to hear people speak English!”

And I agreed with everything Peach said too based on the trailer.

Anonymous said...

I find it amusing that one commenter mentioned NOT wanting to see the documentary after reading this post, and one commenter mentioned a desire to see it...

No matter what the experience of watching it is like, I guess the important part is the attitude that one takes away. You have wonderful empathy.

Jerri said...

To anonymous: I don't want to see it because I don't like horror movies! I feel this way especially after reading Peach's review.

I blog about your life if you are interested: www.mysandwichlife.blogspot.com.

Claudia said...

Thanks so much for this very thoughtful review. It's not out here yet (and I haven't seen any publicity so it might be a while). I'm not sure whether I can bear to watch!

Joanne said...

Faith and her family belong to my FCC group here in NY - I was unable to see the preview when they had it here, but it will be on TV here Aug 31st(I believe that is the date). Your review is very interesting and I am anxious to see the film! I do know that Faith and her sister go to Chinese language/culture school every weekend; although I'm not sure when that started. I thought your review was very powerful and thought provoking!

*Peach* said...

Malinda,
I just read your post and am wanting to cry because of how well you described the contests of this film...I wish I could write as thoroughly and accurately. It is spot on. Thank you for your comments about my post. It truly does make this adult adoptee want to melt knowing someone "gets it" and stands up for it. I'm embarrassed at try to blog through the emotions of being adopted and the way it feels like society rejects anything that isn't rosy. It is very hard. I'm so thankful I got to meet you and for your writing. Bless you!

*Peach* said...

Meant to type "contents" of the movie...sorry.

Mei Ling said...

I kind of want to see it.

But on the other hand, I know it will just make me very angry and tearful. I can barely get through the trailer, especially at the part where she's saying "I want to return to China."

Anonymous said...

I would love to know if the parents had learned any Mandarin before they decided to adopt an older Chinese child. It would be really strange if they didn't because how could they expect her to learn English fast enough to communicate with them? Also, it's sad that they apparently didn't make provisions for her to have frequent Mandarin exposure so she wouldn't lose the language. Kids (adopted and non-adopted) will lose their first languages very fast if they move to a monolingual environment.

Mei Ling said...

"Also, it's sad that they apparently didn't make provisions for her to have frequent Mandarin exposure so she wouldn't lose the language."

If she ended up living in a mostly-English environment, she would have lost most or all of her Chinese anyway. The only way to fully maintain a language is to be immersed in it at least part of the time - constantly hearing, interacting, and using the language.

Chances are, no matter where you go in America, you'd never end up having to use the language on a daily basis, and thus you'd forget it in time.

Diane said...

Malinda- I am certain that the flash cards that the AP is using are the same ones that we used. There is a visual on one side and the other shows the character, pinyin, and english translations.

Question- did the AP purely teach the English translation or did she also include the Chinese translation? Was the experience interactive?

For us- the cards were a learning and sharing tool. I would give my oldest the English word and she would give us the Chinese word. We shared our native languages through the cards. We had many a good laugh over my use (or lack of usage)of Chinese tones!

Those cards were such a great resource for us and we had a lot of fun with them. It breaks me up to see Faith struggling so much with what could have been a positive learning/sharing experience for the entire family.

malinda said...

Diane,

Yes, I can see how the cards could have been great for mutual learning -- I didn't see much mutuality there, more like drill, baby, drill!

Diane said...

Thanks Malinda- but I am saddened by your answer. Ack. What is the point of purchasing bilingual flash cards if they were intended for purely monolingual use? I don’t get it. At all.

Steve said...

After reading the reviews of "Wo Ai Ni Mommy" by Malinda and Peach, I think that I must have seen a different documentary -- or it is true that men and women view the same things very differently.

Rather than a horror film, I saw "Wo Ai Ni Mommy" as an honest portrayal of the struggles of a young girl leaving her native country where she would have limited opportunities in education and in her adult life for a life in a new country with a new family where her opportunities would be much more abundant.

I thought the foster parents were true heroes in the film. Although they loved Faith very deeply, they encouraged her to be adopted internationally for a better future. As the foster father said, Faith would be shunned in Chinese society because of her disabilities. This point was corroborated during a presentation by Amy Eldridge where she relayed the difficulties of obtaining education or good jobs for orphans in China.

I do agree that Donna came off as harsh at times -- especially in the flash card scene. That said, I think that, if any of our lives were videotaped, there would be moments where our parenting was harsh, insensitive or just too pushy.

One criticism I have of the film was that it was too Mommy-centric. I would have been interested in seeing Faith's evolving relationship with Jeff. Of course, I think much of the adoption conversation neglects the roles of men/fathers in the equation.

I would agree with Malinda that some of the parents in the Q&A left me uneasy. I think some of these parents are quite naive.

I would encourage people to see "Wo Ai Ni Mommy" because, regardless of your perspective, it raises worthy questions.

Anonymous said...

With all the differences of opinions on this film, I know now that I must see it. Also, thank you Steve, for the male opinion. In the adoption world, we so rarely hear from the adoptive fathers, so it is very refreshing to hear from an adoptive dad.

Mei-Ling said...

Is the movie available to Canada at all? ;_;

Jessi NY said...

You have it all wrong. I know the adoptive family from this film and can confirm that you misconstrue many many things.

MKBookWorks said...

As both an adoptive mom of an older child (he was allegedly 7 at adoption) and as a good friend of Donna's...and her family. Your take on the film was unnecessarily harsh and your words on Donna - not even close to the reality. There are lots of leaping to conclusions that I can assure you are false.. for one the Mom did learn Mandarin, but the child spoke Cantonese and very little Mandarin - but has been in Chinese language school since arriving home.. she does not have a limb difference but a serious joint contracture condition that without medical treatment surely would have resulted in complete loss of use of her arm and leg.. you are viewing some 76 minutes out of a nearly 3 week trip AND you do not know the amazing family at all... Donna is an amazing Mom and, in my opinion, was brave to allow her trip to be filmed so that MORE people would consider adopting an older child.. and unless you HAVE adopted an older child.. not sure you are in a position to judge those of us who have. It is not all a bed of roses nor is it a horror show.. what you do see (and what you didn't see) is a family struggling to do right by a child who has indeed lost everything.. but who has a chance to grow up with a loving family... you can not possibly believe that what you saw in 76 minutes is the whole story... and frankly.. as a Mom of two (waiting on a third.. older child SN adoption again) I would not welcome a film crew on the best day.. knowing that being a Mom (even to the two best kids on earth) is a hard job and sometimes - what I do may not look pretty to people who don't know me or my kids. Can you truthfully say - that you would love to have film crew follow YOU around for 2 or 3 weeks... or how about - during YOUR ADOPTION TRIP - far away from home and your comfort zone.. and then say - ok, use whatever you need and don't worry? Doubt it.

Unless you HAVE brought home a child who was older and who would shortly be immersed in English.. and who you know would face some frustration and fear.. and you, as the Mom, want to do everything you can (including having translators, going to Chinese school as a family... )to prevent the child from feeling overwhelmed and anxious because he/she can't ask for a simple thing.. you have no right to judge another Mom.

Additionally - which is not news - Faith herself is doing amazingly well.. thriving, happy and completely utterly loved by her whole family.. including her dad (Jeff) who had to wait to meet her when they returned - and they are all awesome kids.. all FOUR that Donna has parented including another daughter adopted from China and two amazing young men who are among the nicest and kindest brothers any sister could hope for. None of these kids got there without their Mom or Dad.


In the end we are all Moms doing our best to parent the children we are so fortunate to have in our lives. Rather than throw one courageous adoptive Mom to the wolves for her efforts on behalf of older special need kids.. why not ask yourself some of the hard questions? I know Donna's heart.. and HERS was in the right place.. where is yours?

malinda said...

MKBookWorks -- this is the review of a FILM, not of a family. I'm judging the FILM, not the family. YOU are judging me, not the review. Have you seen the film? If so, feel free to tell me how I got the FILM wrong, not what I got wrong about the family that wasn't in the film.

And if you want to know where my heart is, feel free to stick around and read my blog! You'll find it!

MKBookWorks said...

Except your comments were about the MOM not the filming.. comments that she was unprepared.. that the child was suffering.. at the hands of the mother.... the mother is not an actress and this was not a script.. Actually - the language issues.. Faith DID teach Donna the cantonese words for the English words and on most days the cards/English lessons were no big deal... a few minutes out of a whole day - would that have been better to see? 12 days of ok English lessons and Cantonese lessons or the frustration and lightening quick mood change that comes with the disorientation of adoption at an older age? It was honest and the Mom did her best and while the filmmaker chose that specific episode to put in the film... it IS frustrating and hard to learn another language.

Did you discuss wishing that there was MORE film.. so that some ambiguous parts were more clear.. or even admit that the film represented a SLICE of a much much bigger issue? YES - I have seen the film.. and the child and the family.. and the film I saw - bears no resemblance to the review as written...

I would review it as showing SOME of what happens for some families when a child joins a family.. halfway across the world.. and as showing that yes, it is hard to adopt an older child - but not at all impossible... that ALL children (not just the small cute ones) DESERVE families.. even the older children with significant special needs. THAT'S what I would have said. Because that is what the film was about.

malinda said...

MK, you're obviously a very loyal friend. Is it possible that your friendship has colored your view of the film? I'm sure you resolved every ambiguity in favor of your friend; I'm sure I'd do the same if it was about my friend. But if others view the ambiguities differently, your problem is with the filmmaker, not the reviewer.

The filmmaker said that when Donna saw it she said, "I came across as a real bitch." I didn't think so, I said she was unprepared instead.

For example, you note that Donna studied Mandarin. How long did she know she was adopting a child from Guangzhou? Didn't she know that the child was likely to speak Cantonese instead of Mandarin?

Again, loyalty is a good quality. But you should probably get used to the fact that people are going to see your friend Donna differently from how you see her, based on the film.

When it gets a wider viewing on PBS I'm sure there are going to be a lot of people who see the film exactly like you do. But there will also be a lot of people who see it like I do. And even more who see it like neither of us do.

I'm curious -- you say that Faith does not have any limb difference. I thought she had a repaired club foot. Is that not so?

Anonymous said...

Malinda,

76 minutes. 76 minutes out of a year and a half. You could not possibly determine that I was unprepared after watching a 76 minute movie. I was as prepared as one could be when adopting an 8 year old girl. To clarify, I had 6 months time to prepare to adopt my older daughter. 6 months time to read everything I could get my hands on regarding not only adopting an older child, but also to familiarize myself with a condition that is not in any way shape or form a "limb difference". My daughter has Arthrogryposis, which is not simply "a repaired club foot" She has had a major surgery on her foot since she's been home and is scheduled for another major surgery on her hand next month. She'll need at least one more after that and will continue to need physical and occupational therapy 3 times a week each for the foreseeable future. Not that I need to defend myself to anyone, but since you seem to think I went into this adoption blindly, I was initially told that Faith spoke Mandarin and was in the process of taking private mandarin lessons when I was told by my agency that there was a mistake and my daughter didn't speak mandarin, but cantonese. By then it was too late to change, and it turned out that she spoke both. Your followers seemed disgusted with my use of flash cards. I asked my daughter to work with me for 15 minutes a day! Not hours, but 15 minutes a day. I do NOT apologize for that. My daughter was going to be coming home to a family, friends and school that did not speak chinese. I wanted her to be able to communicate with everyone. Do you really think I didn't know what my daughter was going through? Do you know that at one point during her adoption we had heard that the foster family was not supportive of the adoption and I was going to stop it so they could keep her? THEY WEREN'T ABLE TO. THEY WEREN'T ALLOWED TO! If she was going to be adopted by anyone it was going to be by me. You saw 2 different viewing days with those flash cards. One, she eager to do it. The next day, she didn't want to have any part of learning english at all. Again, 15 minutes a day was more than fair as far as I'm concerned.

Anonymous said...

My daughter, who is very much involved with chinese culture, goes to chinese language classes, is around others who are asian and is learning that she can be american and chinese and be proud of it, was NEVER stripped of her heritage. This was a struggle within herself that she couldn't understand how she could be both. She thought she had to make a choice.

To respond to Jerri, I DID NOT RESCUE MY DAUGHTERS and if you see the film, I actually state that I HATE when people say it. I gave my daughters a FAMILY that will love them and be with them always. The film is not a horror story, to see my daughter walking properly and using her hands properly is a gift in itself. If you can take the words of others and let them make the decisions for you, well what can I say? I could introduce to to hundreds of people who felt differently than Manlinda and Peaches after seeing the film.

Mei Ling, I DID make provisions for Faith to continue to learn chinese and be exposed to language and it damn near KILLED me when she refused to use it. It's still there and she is starting to be more comfortable using it. When we arrived home, the chinese school year was almost over and I could not get her enrolled until September. Addtionally, my daughter needed extensive medical treatment and yes, I put that as my priority rather than language classes.

To Jessica, I will not apologize for stating I was glad to be home in America to see my other children, husband, family and friends. I was happy to understand what people were saying around me and guess what? It was not lost on me that what I was grateful for was the one thing that would cause my child pain for months! May I remind you, it was 76 MINUTES long! Of course it wouldn't have been pertinent for the film to include our plans for the trip we are planning back to both of my girls provinces and visits with foster families that we will be embarking on in 3 years. I loved China, always will, and yes, mandarin classes are in my future again as well. Incidentally, while Faith is still not comfortable speaking chinese to her foster family (she has a difficult time trying to switch back and forth between languages)we do keep in touch.

Steve, Jeff is very involved with our children. Unfortunately, he could not take off from work for the filming of most of the movie.

Peaches, I will not even dignify your comments with an answer. You are very obviously an angry person and no matter what I would say, you would twist it around.

If there is anything else I can clarify, fire away. I don't make apologies. I did what I thought was best at the time. My daughter is doing amazingly well not that you seemed to care one way or the other, she is a happy, well adjusted chinese american girl who still throws "hissy fits" just like any other girl, chinese, american or any other pre teen girl on the face of the earth. She is my hero and it was never far from my mind what she has gone through, will continue to go through and our family will always be there to help her through it.

Donna Sadowsky

Anonymous said...

My daughter, who is very much involved with chinese culture, goes to chinese language classes, is around others who are asian and is learning that she can be american and chinese and be proud of it, was NEVER stripped of her heritage. This was a struggle within herself that she couldn't understand how she could be both. She thought she had to make a choice.

To respond to Jerri, I DID NOT RESCUE MY DAUGHTERS and if you see the film, I actually state that I HATE when people say it. I gave my daughters a FAMILY that will love them and be with them always. The film is not a horror story, to see my daughter walking properly and using her hands properly is a gift in itself. If you can take the words of others and let them make the decisions for you, well what can I say? I could introduce to to hundreds of people who felt differently than Manlinda and Peaches after seeing the film.

Mei Ling, I DID make provisions for Faith to continue to learn chinese and be exposed to language and it damn near KILLED me when she refused to use it. It's still there and she is starting to be more comfortable using it. When we arrived home, the chinese school year was almost over and I could not get her enrolled until September. Addtionally, my daughter needed extensive medical treatment and yes, I put that as my priority rather than language classes.

To Jessica, I will not apologize for stating I was glad to be home in America to see my other children, husband, family and friends. I was happy to understand what people were saying around me and guess what? It was not lost on me that what I was grateful for was the one thing that would cause my child pain for months! May I remind you, it was 76 MINUTES long! Of course it wouldn't have been pertinent for the film to include our plans for the trip we are planning back to both of my girls provinces and visits with foster families that we will be embarking on in 3 years. I loved China, always will, and yes, mandarin classes are in my future again as well. Incidentally, while Faith is still not comfortable speaking chinese to her foster family (she has a difficult time trying to switch back and forth between languages)we do keep in touch.

Steve, Jeff is very involved with our children. Unfortunately, he could not take off from work for the filming of most of the movie.

Peaches, I will not even dignify your comments with an answer. You are very obviously an angry person and no matter what I would say, you would twist it around.

If there is anything else I can clarify, fire away. I don't make apologies. I did what I thought was best at the time. My daughter is doing amazingly well not that you seemed to care one way or the other, she is a happy, well adjusted chinese american girl who still throws "hissy fits" just like any other girl, chinese, american or any other pre teen girl on the face of the earth. She is my hero and it was never far from my mind what she has gone through, will continue to go through and our family will always be there to help her through it.

Donna Sadowsky

Anonymous said...

My daughter, who is very much involved with chinese culture, goes to chinese language classes, is around others who are asian and is learning that she can be american and chinese and be proud of it, was NEVER stripped of her heritage. This was a struggle within herself that she couldn't understand how she could be both. She thought she had to make a choice.

To respond to Jerri, I DID NOT RESCUE MY DAUGHTERS and if you see the film, I actually state that I HATE when people say it. I gave my daughters a FAMILY that will love them and be with them always. The film is not a horror story, to see my daughter walking properly and using her hands properly is a gift in itself. If you can take the words of others and let them make the decisions for you, well what can I say? I could introduce to to hundreds of people who felt differently than Manlinda and Peaches after seeing the film.

Mei Ling, I DID make provisions for Faith to continue to learn chinese and be exposed to language and it damn near KILLED me when she refused to use it. It's still there and she is starting to be more comfortable using it. When we arrived home, the chinese school year was almost over and I could not get her enrolled until September. Addtionally, my daughter needed extensive medical treatment and yes, I put that as my priority rather than language classes.

To Jessica, I will not apologize for stating I was glad to be home in America to see my other children, husband, family and friends. I was happy to understand what people were saying around me and guess what? It was not lost on me that what I was grateful for was the one thing that would cause my child pain for months! May I remind you, it was 76 MINUTES long! Of course it wouldn't have been pertinent for the film to include our plans for the trip we are planning back to both of my girls provinces and visits with foster families that we will be embarking on in 3 years. I loved China, always will, and yes, mandarin classes are in my future again as well. Incidentally, while Faith is still not comfortable speaking chinese to her foster family (she has a difficult time trying to switch back and forth between languages)we do keep in touch.

Steve, Jeff is very involved with our children. Unfortunately, he could not take off from work for the filming of most of the movie.

Peaches, I will not even dignify your comments with an answer. You are very obviously an angry person and no matter what I would say, you would twist it around.

If there is anything else I can clarify, fire away. I don't make apologies. I did what I thought was best at the time. My daughter is doing amazingly well not that you seemed to care one way or the other, she is a happy, well adjusted chinese american girl who still throws "hissy fits" just like any other girl, chinese, american or any other pre teen girl on the face of the earth. She is my hero and it was never far from my mind what she has gone through, will continue to go through and our family will always be there to help her through it.

Donna Sadowsky

Anonymous said...

Malinda,
Disclaimer, I too know the Sadowsky's (not Sandusky- that's a town in Ohio.) My daughter and their youngest daughter attended an FCC run Chinese class together for Mandarin (there’s a snip of the class Lunar New Year party on the film). The parents were expected to stay and learn also, but it was not intensive enough for Faith's needs, so they switched to a school oriented to children from Chinese families.
Faith special need was not accurately described in her file, but Donna and Jeff had recognized there was more going on and sought additional medical help BEFORE they signed their LOA. They knew it was going to be harder, and it has been, involving following the Dr. who has worked with Faith out of state for appointments.
Personally I think the Sadowsky's were incredibly brave to allow an honest "warts and all" portrait of their life during Faith’s adoption, since they had no way of knowing how things were going to go. MKBookworks has already made many good points, and since you felt no problem going beyond the film to toss the first stone, and gave the Sadowsky’s zero benefit of the doubt, I will toss it back.
Exactly how many of the condemners here would allow their apparently picture perfect adoptions to be exposed this way? There was never any crying in the bathroom, wondering "What in the hell have we done?, less than perfect parenting due to jet lag and sleep deprivation, stupid remarks due to the fact that your agency had failed to tell you important information, like, “nope, all older kids will NOT be speaking Mandarin, despite that being the official language and party line we get from the CCAA.”
Apparently you have not read Dr Gindis’ work on subtractive bi-lingualism and loss of first language in adopted children – of course – your children speak fluent Mandarin and so do you.
http://www.adoptionarticlesdirectory.com/Article/Abrupt-native-language-loss-in-international-adoptees/31721
http://www.adoptionarticlesdirectory.com/Article/Pros-and-cons-of-keeping-the-native-language-of-the-adopted-child/621
No? Oh I forgot, you have zero older adoption experience, but your children had no trauma, no grieving, and didn’t become Americanized by your expectations, consumer goods, TV choices, full immersion in English as an only language……
But I see Donna has chimed in now, so you are hearing it form the horse’s mouth.

Yes I am being a bit sarcastic but I am matching my tone to yours. A little charity in your writing would have gone a long way to making it accurate and insightful instead of a biased, “I can say this because I’m so perfect” chest thumping. I will leave you with Max Regar, “I am sitting in the smallest room in my house. I have your review in front of me. In a moment it will be behind me.”

Anonymous said...

Malinda,
Disclaimer, I too know the Sadowsky's (not Sandusky- that's a town in Ohio.) My daughter and their youngest daughter attended an FCC run Chinese class together for Mandarin (there’s a snip of the class Lunar New Year party on the film). The parents were expected to stay and learn also, but it was not intensive enough for Faith's needs, so they switched to a school oriented to children from Chinese families.
Faith special need was not accurately described in her file, but Donna and Jeff had recognized there was more going on and sought additional medical help BEFORE they signed their LOA. They knew it was going to be harder, and it has been, involving following the Dr. who has worked with Faith out of state for appointments.
Personally I think the Sadowsky's were incredibly brave to allow an honest "warts and all" portrait of their life during Faith’s adoption, since they had no way of knowing how things were going to go. MKBookworks has already made many good points, and since you felt no problem going beyond the film to toss the first stone, and gave the Sadowsky’s zero benefit of the doubt, I will toss it back.
Exactly how many of the condemners here would allow their apparently picture perfect adoptions to be exposed this way? There was never any crying in the bathroom, wondering "What in the hell have we done?, less than perfect parenting due to jet lag and sleep deprivation, stupid remarks due to the fact that your agency had failed to tell you important information, like, “nope, all older kids will NOT be speaking Mandarin, despite that being the official language and party line we get from the CCAA.”
Apparently you have not read Dr Gindis’ work on subtractive bi-lingualism and loss of first language in adopted children – of course – your children speak fluent Mandarin and so do you.
http://www.adoptionarticlesdirectory.com/Article/Abrupt-native-language-loss-in-international-adoptees/31721
http://www.adoptionarticlesdirectory.com/Article/Pros-and-cons-of-keeping-the-native-language-of-the-adopted-child/621
No? Oh I forgot, you have zero older adoption experience, but your children had no trauma, no grieving, and didn’t become Americanized by your expectations, consumer goods, TV choices, full immersion in English as an only language……
But I see Donna has chimed in now, so you are hearing it form the horse’s mouth.

Yes I am being a bit sarcastic but I am matching my tone to yours. A little charity in your writing would have gone a long way to making it accurate and insightful instead of a biased, “I can say this because I’m so perfect” chest thumping. I will leave you with Max Regar, “I am sitting in the smallest room in my house. I have your review in front of me. In a moment it will be behind me.”

Sandy said...

Malinda,

Thank you for writing your honest feelings of what you felt when you viewed this film. You always manage to find the words to describe what you see.

Annonymous said:

"Peaches I will not even dignify your comments with an answer. You are very obviously an angry person and no matter what I would say, you would twist it around."

- your statement speaks volumes - just volumes - label her an "angry adoptee" and everything becomes okay?

Anonymous said...

I do not know Donna, but I was happy to recently view this documentary. When it becomes available on DVD, I will add it to my library of DVDs and books about China adoption. I thought it was a moving, thought provoking and powerful documentary about leaving everything you've evern known, loss, the incredible gift of the love of a famiy of your very own, and of the human capacity to adjust and adapt in times of difficulty. I do not know the Sadowsky family. But I was watching the movie feeling great admiration and respect for Donna. I admired and respected her bravery and her willingness to show one family's story so that it might plant a seed in other families hearts to consider bringing a beautifl older child with special needs into their own home. I walked away from the film knowing how very much Faith is loved, seeing the sacrafices that both she and her family have made so that she has unlimited options to be whatever she wants to be in this life.

Paige

malinda said...

Donna, thanks for commenting. I have a feeling you'll be handling negative comments about the film better than your friends will!

I understand the desire to dismiss what adult adoptees have to say by labeling them "angry," because it is painful and scary to listen to them. But you of all people, having adopted an older child who could verbalize her anger at the lack of control she has, should recognize that an adoptee's anger is often justified, no matter how much "better" their life is post-adoption. Listening to and accepting that anger makes us better parents to our adopted children.

Again, thanks for your input.

malinda said...

Donna, as to comment about lack of preparation, you would know if you'd visited my blog before that one of my recurring themes is that AGENCIES do not do an adequate job of preparing families for what they will face with adoption. So my regular readers would have read what I said in that context. And your comment confirms PRECISELY what I've found -- your agency failed you with regard to the language issue.

malinda said...

Anon, read the blog for a while and you'll find out what I know about subtractive bi-lingualism. I love that those who condemn me for judging the Sadowskys based on a 76 minute documentary are willing to judge me based on reading one post! Tee hee!

Anonymous said...

TeeHee - so how does being condemned for a fractional aspect of your life feel? How about cutting the same slack you expect to others? And since you know all about subtractive bilingualism (and clearly many, many of your pc'er commenters do not, so you are not doing the job at passing on the knowledge) do you not clarify what was happening to Faith, rather than being "saddened" and judging?
PS I am annon only because the new computer will not recognize my password, grr.
Jennifer W

Donna said...

Malinda,

I did not use the word "adoptee". Peaches is obviously angry, quite venomous towards me, actually. Reasoning with someone who is set in their ways is near impossible. That has nothing to do with whether or not she was adopted. I don't dismiss older adoptee's anger, as a matter of fact I try and gain as much knowlege as I can to try and prevent my daughters from having the same anger. I have attended several AKA panels to try and make sure that I don't make some of the same mistakes that adoptive parents have made in the past. I don't dismiss my daughter's anger about anything. I NEVER made light of what she was feeling, still don't. We have open dialogue about her adoption and any other problems that come up and would have no problem seeking professional help if necessary. As far as the language thing goes, even if I was aware from the beginning that Faith's main language was in cantonese, there are not many options if any, for learning cantonese in this area. There is also NO way that anyone could learn cantonese in 6 months, just as I knew that my daughter wouldn't be fluent in english just because I used some flash cards. I was merely trying to teach her some simple basic words to communicate her needs. I also never relied on agency information. I'm well aware of the shortcomings of adoption agencies and the lack of information that prepares families for adoption. I am truly sorry that you missed the point of this film and chose to villify me instead. I do apologize for the multiple posts. I'm not sure why my response was posted so many times. Donna

The Shea Family said...

I know everyone has different opinions in life and nothing I say will change your mind and I really don't care to, you are entitled to your own opinion. I just had to say, you've obviously missed the point of this film.

malinda said...

Donna, I'm sorry you thought I "villified" YOU in this review. Nowhere did I say you were evil. If the film failed to reflect your many many attempts to prepare for the adoption, etc., your complaint is with the filmmaker, not me. Re-read the review and you'll see three places where I mentioned anything the adoptive parents did or failed to do. The rest of what I talked about is what has become a "normal" incident of adoption -- the requirement that the child adapt, which leads to losses and identity issues. My harshest words were reserved for the officials in China and adoption as currently practiced.

I'm also sorry you think the movie only has "one" point that you feel I've missed. I'd say the film was susceptible to MANY interpretations.

Again, thanks for commenting.

malinda said...

Jennifer W asks: "so how does being condemned for a fractional aspect of your life feel?"

Par for the course, that's how it feels. Happens all the time when you put your life out there in movie or blog form. I've been blogging for over 2 years (at this blog), and I'm quite comfortable with being judged, because I know what the truth is and know that what is being judged is what I put out there, not necessarily what is. I don't feel the need to defend my life, because the blog isn't my life. And I find that my friends get more upset about what people say about me than I do!

Only way to handle it is to have a sense of humor about it all, and to avoid being defensive. Because having made the decision to put myself out there, I really can't complain, now can I?

Anonymous said...

Dr. Baden is actually adopted from Hong Kong, not Korea.

Steve said...

Donna:

I hope that you did not view my comments as any criticism of your husband. It is apparent from the documentary that he is a very loving father, and that he and Faith have a tremendous bond.

My comments were more of a general observation that the role of fathers is rarely discussed in discussions about adoption.

Peach said...

Dear Donna,
I obviously don't know you at all, so when I saw the film I was simply writing my own reaction to it as an adult adoptee. The lens I saw the film was different and the comments I made about the way the adoption was handled and the documentary spoke more towards the lack of societal understanding and pre- and post-adoptive preparation and lack thereof given by the adoption industry. It is a tragedy for adoptees and I am so thankful for adoptive parents who are beginning to see this and become active in changing it. I feel as though adoptive parents, birth families, and adoptees are all fed wrong information about adoption by the agencies andprofessionals who make their living doing adoption...and we all suffer for it. That is where my anger lies. I'm sorry if it sounded directly towards you, because it wasn't.

Kathy said...

Malinda,

You have made quite a few errors...from the name of the Sadowsky family to Amanda Baden's ethnicity...Chinese, not Korean. You clearly did not like the film--fine, it's your opinion. Everyone has different reactions based on their own experiences, as well as the simple and obvious fact that every CHILD and every adoption is different. Faith is being raised in a multicultural area of New York. She attends Chinese school, FCC functions, and culture camps. There are Chinese role models in her life. I adopted an 11 year old last fall from China. I was inspired to adopt an older child because of Donna, Faith, and their family. Has my daughter also said she wanted to go back to China...yes! She is human and gets sad and frustrated, as we all do. As much as I loved being in China, I wanted to come back to the US-my home and the place where I am most comfortable. Now I am finding that my daughter's life in China was not very good-she has opened up about many things that she didn't want to tell or didn't have the language to tell 8 months ago. Are the older kids forgetting some Chinese? Yes-it's hard to be immersed in English, work hard to learn English, and still maintain perfect Chinese. We,( Donna's and I and everyone I know in FCC-Long Island) as parents, are doing our best. Our children are doing their best. I can tell you from personal experience that our kids are healthy and happy. They are being raised by parents who love them and will do anything for them. We pride ourselves on being educated and sensitive regarding adoption issues, and we have a HUGE support system through the FCC. Many of us stay in touch with China...we write, Skype, call, and will eventually return with our children to China. Our daughters can do whatever they want with their lives...this would not have been possible for older, SN kids in China. BTW, our kids WANT to be Chinese-AMERICAN. They want to eat and dress and listen to music and play video games like their American family and friends. I urge everyone to see this beautiful documentary...take what you like and leave the rest. I am hearing so many unfavorable comments, that I wonder how the negative emotions affect your families. Where is your open mind, your tolerance, your acceptance of difference? These things transcend race and ethnicity...it's part of being in the HUMAN race!

Sandy said...

I do not understand why some parents cannot wrap their heads around the fact that...

You can be happy and have the best and healthiest relationship with your adopted family and be positive and joyfull and love one another.

And still...

Have negative feelings about being adopted, feel the loss, fears, trust, indentity confusion which would be compounded by far in loosing your family, nation, culture and language.

Adoptees can live with both sets of feelings and parents need to recognise that both can exist simultaneously and coexist within ones soul.

But yet instead of discussing how to ensure your children know you see and recognise these feelings and do not dismiss them as wrong - they are swept under the rug? Talk about denial. I'd rather talk. Talk heals, denial and silence dismisses.

Donna said...

Sandy, I can only speak for myself, but I can tell you that I EXPECT my daughters to feel the losses you mentioned. I cannot take that away, I can only help them get through it and cope with it the best they can. In my household, it has never been swept under the rug and it never will be. Should my daughter's choose to return to China to try and find out some of those answers, I will move heaven and earth to help them and be beside them when they do, if they choose.

Donna Sadowsky

malinda said...

Thanks for chiming in, Kathy, and recognizing that everyone is entitled to their own opinion. But strangely it seems that if that opinion differs from yours, your tolerance ends! You might want to ask yourself the same questions you pose to me: "Where is your open mind, your tolerance, your acceptance of difference?"

osolomama said...

Just want to agree with Malinda that if you're going to put yourself out there, expect to be excoriated by members of the adoption community if there is anything in the piece that could be looked at from a contrary perspective. It's happened to all of us. That is just the name of the game with adoption. Someone's win is another person's loss. Someone's attempt to do the right thing reeks of privilege and entitlement to somebody else. The inspirational? (wasn't that the word someone used?) Heck, it may actively disgust and turn off some people. Can't fight that one.

Kathy said...

I have no idea what I wrote that makes you think my tolerance ends with a differing opinion!! If anything, I wrote that you, or anyone else for that matter, are entitled to your own opinion. I mean that sincerely, with no sarcasm intended. All I did was present another side of the adoption story, and ask people to have an open mind while viewing this documentary. IMHO, it seems more like certain people want to argue for the sake of arguing. I enjoy a good discussion that is fair and respectful. I didn't get that feeling here...And I don't have the desire or time to argue with anyone!

Anonymous said...

Malinda,
This is about a review where in you expressed an opinion (your right!) that was based on certain assumptions and projections that you now know to be in error. You have been given a lot more information by a variety of people who know the facts first hand, and we're not into conspiracy on LI so it's unlikely that' we're all making it up. So the question is not, "why can't we tolerate your opinion?" but "are you big enough to admit you might have made a mistake?" That's the big thing to do.
Jennifer W

LisaLew said...

I'd just like to clarify the obvious: this is a BLOG. The review stated here is one person's opinion. Although Malinda clearly gives research oriented data and links on a regular basis, she also regularly states what she thinks. Isn't that what blogging is all about?

A journal is more likely to have a need for great accuracy.

Honestly, if I were Malinda and this were MY blog I would delete off all the personal attacks. But clearly, this is a woman who believes EVERYONE should share their opinion. That is the spirit of her blog. If you know her blog, then you'll know she is also here to grow and learn.

Not everyone agrees?
Get a blog then, and write about it!

Carol W. said...

Some food for thought:
At the screening I attended, I met a 12 year old girl from Russia and her mother. They had been joined as a family just 2 years before.

Both the mother and the daughter were moved and thrilled by the film. They both found it very meaningful and nostalgic to watch another family go through the same (yet some different) issues. The mother confided in me that it was cathartic for her to see that Donna and Jeff made some mistakes but still did a wonderful job as parents. It gave her hope that her mistakes were normal too.

The daughter (albeit in a typical 12 year old way) said that seeing someone else go through what she had, despite the age difference and the country difference made her feel less alone.

So at least two people found that film as meaningful and important as I did. I suspect many more people feel the same.

Basia said...

I stopped watching the documentary, I did not find it heartwarming at all. If Donna Sadowsky was portrayed negatively (I certainly hope that was the case!!!) then that is a shame and certainly detracts from the documentary's credibility. I switched it off when Faith was crying at leaving her foster family. It was just too painful. I have thought of international adoption but now I feel like another naive American, hoping to save an orphan when staying in her culture and community might be best for her development and happiness. I feel this especially when there are so many foster kids here who need loving homes. I have volunteered with foster kids and have seen this firsthand.

If anything, the documentary demonstrated that the issues in international adoption, especially with an older child, are anything but simple.

canon said...

I must definately agree with melinda, the 76 min film was all we had to go on to walk away with any type of feeling, and the film, for some one who does not know you and your journey personally outside of the film, did not portray you in the best light. It made it look as though you didn't appreciate faiths difficulty with the language and relished in the fact that she was loosing her identify when she couldn't communicate with her foster sister, it also made it appear that you were searching for easy answers and was frustrated when you didn't get them from the therapist. Your were able to clear up alot of things here that were not shown in the movie. Giving the movie a review it makes it seem like you were treating faith more like a newly adopted family pet. With the name change and the shoving english down her throat. Because you can love a dog very much. After reading what you wrote here it shows that your actually put in alot more work then what what shown .so melinda is correct, if you take offense to anything it should be whoever edited the film, because they made you and your husband come off as well intentioned but naive and ignorant, and also insensitive to your daughters plight, they was definately the risk you ran by putting everything you had on the table, and then allowing someone else to cut and paste it to tell the story they wanted.

Anonymous said...

We are in the process of adopting our third child, an older girl like Faith with some special medical needs. We certainly are grateful for this family's willingness to let us learn from/with them. I found the family to be very responsible and loving and yet, Mom had a patterned response of placing logic before emotion, which is a parenting challenge I see everyday as a family therapist. May I recommend to Mom and (to all of us Moms and Dads) the book "Raising an Emotionally Intelligent Child" by John Gottman. This book is not written specifically for adoption issues, but certainly helps all of us with learning to recognize and honor emotional experiences in our children. I kept thinking, "Oh, gosh, I wish I could show Donna a couple of pages from this book that might inspire her to use a little different approach..."
Thanks again for sharing!

Reena said...

Reading through all these comments-- especially Donna's now gives me the impression that the director shooting the film didn't do a very good job-- or the film should not really be billed as an Adoption Film so much as a language acquisition film.

I didn't really care for the film when I watched it and I still don't care for it-- but now I have a different reason for not liking the film.

Anonymous said...

I couldn't agree more with the last few posts, if the film maker left out many important parts of your story, then that is on her. People are going to draw their own conclusions from watching. You and your friends are not going to be there with everyone watching this across America to explain the background.

If the point of a documentary is not clear ("language acquisition") or if the way the film is constructed interferes with that point being made, who is to blame ~ the people watching or the film maker?

I can undertand at being upset at being portrayed in a harsh light, but can you really criticize adoptees and adoptive parents for what they actually saw in the film?

Unfortunately, I think while the film maker had very good intentions and clearly cares about your family, she was hampered by at least two things 1) a lack of real knowledge and lived, ongoing experience in the adoption community, 2) being a relatively new film maker and falling into the trap that many writers, artists, film makers do ~ confusing the vision in their head with what's actually been created.

The film maker was not able to really see what was on the screen because it was so blocked by the vision in her head. She was not able to see the narrative that had actually been created on the film and did not have enough knowledge of adoption and the adoption community to understand why and how there would be adoptive parents and adoptees that would find it upsetting.

Despite the unncecessary attack on Malinda and Peaches, you've cleared some things up. Hopefully PAPs that would wrongly take their cues only from what was shown in the film will come across your comments and know there's a whole lot more that goes into it!

Best of luck to your family!

Susan said...

I was curious this morning to read what I could find on the internet about "Wo Ai Ni Mommy" because the film was presented to a large group of Chinese adoptive parents at an event this past Saturday in Connecticut, and the majority of the audience was appalled by the seemingly heartless manner in which Ms. Sadowsky treated Faith.

I am pleased that Donna Sadowsky and some of her friends have posted their "side" of the story and relieved to hear that they feel the film was not an entirely accurate portrayal of their cumulative experience.

The moments that are included in the film may well have been taken out of some type of context, but, if so, there are so many moments that are very disturbing to those of us who have adopted that I would honestly consider suing the filmmaker for defamation of character. This film is going to be 'out there' and available for a very long time, and as such could have emotional ramifications for the entire Sadowsky family, and most importantly for Faith.

If this film is inaccurate, then it almost seems that, consciously or unconsciously, it was the filmmaker's intent with the editing to portray "the villainous, insensitive families that are stealing away the Chinese children," and I am sure (or I certainly hope) that that is not what is going on in the Sadowsky family on a day-to-day basis.

I'm an adoptive parent, and a pretty 'strict' parent, but I still found this film, overall, to be a very disturbing, heartwrenching film to watch.

The Stevens said...

Love this post. Tomorrow my husband and I will leave for Beijing to adopt our first child, Dang Tian Ai who will be known as Tian Aiden Stevens. He is 8 years old. Luckily, after our adoption paperwork went through we were able to get him in an English speaking expat family foster home 6 months prior to our arrival. We have participated on skype, sent gifts, emails, pics, and videos while he was in the foster home. He also attended and English speaking school. I have EVERY intention in keeping his Chinese language and culture an active part of his life. We have a local chinese community that provide chinese language/culture classes weekly and will be attending those. We will also switch churchs to attend a chinese church. One thing that moved me and is powerful and so true....we require these children to change everything......why can we not meet them half way or more than half way....they never asked to be orphans...Thank you for the reminder as we embark on bring home our CHINESE-AMERICAN son!!!