It's interesting to see, as an adoptive mama, how many kids' movies and shows have a blatant adoption theme that I never thought much about when I was a child, like Annie, and The Jungle Book. I used to love Punky Brewster...but was naïve enough to never realized that she was abandoned in a grocery store until I was an adult. Until Eli came along, I never really thought about how these storylines might be interpreted or what opinions will be absorbed by little minds. I found myself being very, very careful with what I allowed Eli to see when it came to adoption-related movies - including fictional children's stories/movies, as I was concerned that certain themes or storylines, like that of Matilda (which again, was a childhood favorite of mine), might be confusing or upsetting to him. The one exception I made in the beginning was the movie, Elf. And, honestly, the differences between child and adoptive father are not truly apparent to Eli yet (if you ask him, he just repeats one of my personal catchphrases and says "different people are different."). However, the scene in the orphanage has been discussed in our home many, many times, as Eli is fascinated by it.
In the last year, I've very much relaxed about what Eli sees (in regards to fostering/adoption). With children in and out of our home this year, he's seen the losses that some other children experience firsthand. He doesn't know the complete story of every child we've fostered, but he knows enough to realize that there are always some similarities and some vast differences between their stories and his, and that his story is uniquely his. Being exposed to foster and adoption stories in our home AND in movies, radio, and TV have sparked some truly excellent conversations that have helped me understand that this type of information (or misinformation) seems to not only help us to grow closer through our discussions, but it gives him more peace regarding his own past.
As I made the realization that I was being unnecessarily overprotective, right on cue, Kung Fu Panda 3 was released to theaters. And other than some references to Po's "real father" that grated on my nerves, the story played out in a positive way. Eli barely noticed the adoption theme at first; he's still kind of at an age where he thinks like Po, and thought nothing of the differences between Po and his father. Truly, he was caught up primarily in the "kung fu" action sequences and slapstick humor than anything else. But, as this is a movie he loves, and I know we'll be seeing it again and again, I'm sure that we will be having lots of conversations about it in the future. I do like that it showed that Po's panda parents AND goose parent truly love/treasure him, as I think many adoption stories in the media do not emphasize this enough.
Not long after, the new Star Wars movie came out. Eli has been truly Star Wars obsessed for two years now. A season finale of his favorite Star Wars cartoons once resulted in a two hour meltdown. He devours all things Star Wars...books, comic books, movies, cartoons, Legos, etc. Eli has not yet been permitted to see the newest movie yet, though, as there are two scenes that I thought were a bit too much for his young, 5 year old mind to process. But, Patrick took the time recently to re-watch the first few movies with him (episodes 4-6). Eli refused...and I mean ADAMENTLY refused...to believe that Darth Vader was Luke's birthfather. He was convinced that Vader was lying to take advantage of Luke (conspiracy theories, anyone?). But...as he began to accept the truth behind Vader's words, he realized that one of his heroes, Luke Skywalker, as well as his sister Leia, were both heroes AND adoptees...he was excited to have this in common with them : ). I, for one, particularly love that Luke, in particular, chose his own paths in life and was strong enough to be his own person...even when faced with the fact that, the person he's been fighting this entire time, Darth Vader, was his biological father. This, I hope, will be helpful knowledge for Eli (and my other children), too, as they mature.
In the meantime..."May the Force be With You!"