When we got home from a busy weekend this afternoon I asked the boys if they fancied watching a film while I got their dinner. Blue Bear has been staying with Grandma and Grandpa and Brown Bear has been with my parents this weekend. They've both missed each other, but immediately that they see each other they argue and bicker. Perfectly normal for brothers I guess, but exhausting for me and Hubbie who rarely get child free time and when we do it's all too short-lived. I popped on Stuart Little for them and sort of watched it myself - which I don't usually do - and it inspired this post.
I've mentioned before how open we are about adoption in our family and we have always answered truthfully when Brown Bear asks questions about it. With Blue Bear starting school in September I am guessing he will start to ask questions and be curious too. I find that movies are a great shorthand for the emotional topics that are difficult to talk about. Here are the top ones that have helped me talk about adoption, fostering and different families.
Inside Out: is obviously about emotions - what with them being the central characters. However, it's also about friendship, life changes and how out of control children can feel when adults make difficult decisions that they cannot influence. Each time Brown Bear has watched it we have talked about different emotions and how he feels about things. It has given us a common a language to address difficult feelings he experiences and it's given me an 'in' to talk to him about them.
Paddington: was the first movie that we really identified as being explicitly about adoption. When Paddington first arrives from Peru he's alone, frightened and the Brown family know very little about him. When Blue Bear arrived with us it was very similar and we talked about how hard it must have been for him to understand our home and habits when he wasn't used to us. Brown Bear also recognised that being the new one in a family is difficult and we talked about how he must have felt when Blue Bear came into his home and shared his family.
Stuart Little: We only watched this today, but the themes of not fitting in and being different were really interesting. We talked about how George finds it hard to accept his new brother and while the adoption is a little simple and easy for my liking, the relationship between the brothers is the bit that works well for me. I like that they work towards loving each other and that Stuart even wins over the family cat Snowbell (who looks a lot like Neo so that works for us too).
Star Wars: Ok bear with me here, because it's an out there concept, but the family at the centre of the 'proper' Star Wars movies is a scruffy Nerf Herder, a princess, a trainee jedi and a wookie. The family that is thrown together in adversity. Luke is raised by his aunt and uncle and doesn't find out who his real father is and when he does it's not what he was hoping for. It's a messy situation all round, but I think it's a great metaphor for the complicated nature of families and nature vs nurture. Not a conversation that I'm planning to have with Blue Bear at this point, but useful to have in the locker for later.
Annie: The Albert Finney version is great fun and the new version has an interesting take on the story that includes social media and technology. Annie's search for her 'real parents' and the doggedness with which she pursues the tiny bits of information she has is heartbreaking. The determination to find out anything she can is something I am prepared for when Blue Bear is older. Whatever we can tell him we will, but there are gaps that we may never be able to fill for him. Miss Hannigan may not be the best advert for fostering, but the cameraderie of the girls in her 'care' is amazing. Oh and I like the dog.
Despicable Me: While it's not the central storyline, the take away for me in the first movie was how adoption isn't always straightforward or wholly positive. Gru adopts the girls for his own selfish motives and when he thinks he has lost them forever he realises how much he has grown to love them. The girls accept the crazy life they are adopted into complete with minions and plans for world domination and in turn they bring something to Gru's life that he didn't know he needed. The really profound part of this for me is seeing his mother develop a loving relationship with the girls which she didn't have with her own son. There's adoption breakdown, a genuine family relationship and fluffy unicorns. Honestly, what's not to love ?
So those are my top few movies that helped me talk about adoption with Brown Bear. I'm sure there will be others that will appeal to Blue Bear as he will have different questions and probably responses that I'm not prepared for yet. I'm not sure what he's going to make of Boss Baby this week though.