Dear all kinds of parents, fellow adoptees and foster kids…
Every year, I watch the Christmas movie called ELF, mostly because my beliefs about Christmas, myself, and others in my story–adoptive mother and dad, ring familiar. We can use the movie as a springboard for discussing the challenges of Christmas that many adopted and foster children experience. By watching his struggles and happiness, you may readily identify. I will reveal main themes and then ask you to fill in“The Elf Questionnaire,” which contains ten attributes we may identify with as adopted people, and then watch the movie. I will speak from my own experience without implication that my insights apply to all of you.
Themes in the Movie Elf:
- Mysterious Beginnings. In the movie, there is the presence of a nun caring for a baby in an orphanage. Then, out of nowhere, a plate of cookies emerges along with the presence of Santa. Sometimes, adoptees feel this way, especially those adopted internationally. Especially around Christmastime, we think about where the missing relatives are. We may search high school photographs for the face of our birth mother or spend hours on Ancestry.com trying to figure out the pieces of our lives. It’s good to be curious, but don’t expect to be understood. Find a fellow adoptee to share with.
- Criticized Himself. Buddy called himself names, like “cotton-headed ninimander.” Adoptees today probably wouldn’t criticize themselves this way, but may have a secret inner dialogue of self-condemnation going on. The majority of adoptees I’ve met have low to no self esteem. Our psyche is wondering why we were given away, whether adoption happened to us as a baby, school child, teen, or adult. We conclude that there must be something wrong with us.
- Wondered Why He Didn’t Fit In. The movie makes it clear how Elf didn’t fit in amidst the elves. Humorous scenes show him trying to sit on an elf-sized toilet, sleep in an el-sized bed, and shower in a small shower. The movie presents this in a humorous way, but sensing that you don’t fit in within your adoptive family is real and it’s painful. We may feel like a square peg in a round hole, even though we may try to please our parents by putting on the mask of happiness.
- Adoptive Dad Tells Him About Real Dad. Buddy’s story begins unfolding when his adoptive dad tells him how his real father once fell in love with a beautiful woman. Then, he hands him a snowglobe with the NY skyline and then tells him that his real dad is on the “naughty list.” Buddy has hope that life will begin to make more sense. Or, does it actually help make more sense? Actually, it complicates life, with two dads and two moms. Then, many adoptees ask, “Who are my real parents? If my adoptive parents didn’t give birth to me, why are they called parents? Who am I? Am I a mix of both sets of parents?” When we access negative information about our birth family, it’s tempting to believe that because we’re blood of their blood, we’ll be exactly like them. This is surely not true.
- Leaves Adoptive Home to Find Out Who He Is. Buddy makes the big decision to go to NY and search for his real dad and more importantly, to see who he is as a person. He was energized and pumped, expecting great things to unfold. It’s easy in the midst of discovery to feel joy about a possible reunion. This is called “the honeymoon stage” of adoption. Enjoy the joy.
- Felt Scared and Alone When Leaving Home to Search. The scene of Buddy jumping onto a floating piece of ice which floats into the ocean communicated depths without words. He felt alone and lonely, but in a different way than he felt when he was living with the elves. It is daunting to launch out and search because usually outsiders can’t understand why we’d want to do that. The only person that truly supported me was a cousin, who housed me overnight on the day I found my birth family. Other relatives may have not known what to say, but at least they could have said that!
- Expressed Every Thought with An Apostrophe. Buddy had such strong emotions. A friend once told me that “Adoptees put an exclamation point after their thoughts.” This is a result of the loss he was feeling. His behaviors became extreme and inappropriate with those he longed to be accepted by. For example, when his real dad took him to work in corporate America, he wanted to hug everyone on the elevator. When the elevator door opened, he boldly proclaimed, “I’m here with my Dad and we’ve never met.” I still struggle with this….we’re all human, right?
- Found Girlfriend to Love. Buddy falls in love with a beautiful young woman who is working on the same project–decorating the department’s toy section for Christmas. She isn’t judgmental of his exuberant joy and fun-loving spirit. In fact, they sing together. We can all evaluate relationships with others by asking ourselves, “Does this person want to fix and then counsel me, or join in my life’s journey?” Counseling that’s un-asked for is judgment. Watch out, friends.
- Ran Away When Brother Rejected Him. For quite some time, it seemed like all that happened to Buddy was rejection. The crowning blow came when his birth brother rejected him. A gang of kids was attacking Buddy and his brother joined in the attack. It’s no fun when a sibling rejects you. When I was stepping off the banana-shaped plane to meet my birth mother, my birth sister was there also. As I descended the steps, I heard her mockingly cry out, “Look at the nose! Look at the nose!”
- Thought About Suicide. Buddy felt hopeless at this time and entertained thoughts of committing suicide. Adoptees and foster kids are at high risk for this–4 times more likely. I’ll never forget standing with an adoptive mom at the casket of her teenage son. He became so depressed that he believed he had no friends. At the funeral, scores of classmates showed up to pay their respects. If you even have an inking thought of suicide, please tell your parents or another trusted person. That happened to me only once in my journey. I’ve been through two clinical depressions and one evening when my husband was away on business, I went to Kroger to get a script filled. When the pharmacist was filling it, this thought came to mind: “I could go home and take all these pills without anyone objecting.” Frankly, I had enough self-awareness to know that was a red flag. I was in too much danger of hurting myself to stay alone. Thus, upon returning home, I called my best friend and then she and her husband came and held me in their arms until my husband returned home. Moses Farrow has a wonderful outreach nationally to help adoptees not commit suicide. Reach out to him if there isn’t anyone in your life that you feel safe to share with. Santa came to save Buddy.
- Couldn’t Sleep Buddy couldn’t sleep. His real dad tucks him in because that was what the doc recommended at Buddy’s check up. Insomnia is nothing to mess with. Call your doc today.
- Ate Sugar Endlessly After Buddy’s check up at the doc, he guzzled a liter of soda and poured maple syrup on spaghetti noodles, with a topping of cotton balls.
- Found His Life Purpose Buddy’s purpose was to communicate this message as he and his reunited family take off in Santa’s sleigh toward the North Pole, “I don’t belong here. I will never forget you.”
The ELF Questionnaire…
what words on the following list stand out like neon:
- I am curious about my birth family, especially at Christmas time. Where are they? Would they want to meet me?
- I feel like a square peg in a round hole with my adoptive family.
- I’m scared that my anger will never go away.
- Sometimes, I have silly thoughts about “ending it all.”
- If my real dad or mom are losers, I must be too.
- I have to pretend to be happy so my parents aren’t disappointed.
- Whenever I look at my bellybutton, I think about my birth mother.
- Why can’t I do anything right?
- Was something wrong with me? Is that why they gave me away?
- I feel rejected…especially at family gatherings
- When I think about my birth mother giving me away because she loved me, I don’t want anything to do with love.
- Sugar makes me feel good!
- I feel upset inside when I’m with others.
- I’m so tired but I can’t go to sleep.
- I’m incredibly happy about finding my birth relatives.
- I hope my real dad will grow to like me, like Buddy’s.
- Sometimes I do fun things like eating cottontails.
- My ears hurt when people talk loud.
- I dream about my real mom as a queen in a faraway land.
- Why am I so mad at Christmastime?
What Parents Can Do
- Get a weighted blanket for your child.
- Buy a rocking chair for your child.
- Suggest a hot bath when emotions get triggered.
- Invite child to watch Anne of Green Gables movie after Elf. Be sure and not get “Anne with an E” series-it contains several woke issues that won’t edify your child.
- Find a healthy adoptee online group that will remain active over the holiday, especially Christmas Day.
- Encourage your child to get a fellow adoptee to text with when you visit relatives.
ELF MOVIE: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=xjxieexfDyU
SUICIDE PREVENTION: Moses Farrow: https://MosesFarrow.com
ANNE OF GREEN GABLES MOVIE: tinyurl.com/2p98cu4r
There we have it, fellow adoptees and parents.
I hope this post is helpful to you!
Love and hugs….