THIS IS US. Must See TV…Through Tears

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http://www.nbc.com/this-is-us/

Ok, who here is ready to buy stock in Kleenex thanks to the new NBC show This is Us? I’m convinced this show is going to completely and forever blow out my tear ducts and give me a permanent case of “the feels”…and we’re only on the 3rd episode!!! I have a lot of friends and family (even my husband whose usual TV viewing is limited to the Golf Channel and Forensic Files) who are already in it for the long haul, and I’m so looking forward to the water cooler conversations that will take place on Wednesdays for years to come.

Many of the themes are immediately resonating with me… Kate’s struggle with her weight and self-esteem obviously has me sitting on the edge of the couch wanting to reach through the screen and give that girl a hug. I mean, when she took off her earrings in the first episode before she attempted to stand on the scale…

Ummm, hello…virtual high-five, sister!!

I removed bobby pins from my hair before weighing in at a Weight Watchers’ meeting once. No lie. It’s twisted and it’s real, yo!

But where I’m really covered in goosebumps each week is when the focus turns to Randall’s story.

Can I just say how much I adore him???

I love how collected and stoic he is…until he’s not.  I feel for and relate to that level of pressure and responsibility he has to make everything work…perfectly. But beyond him as a character, I’m so interested to see how the writers dig deeper into his adoption story and how that experience shaped (and continues to shape) who he is as the adult character that we see. The mere thought of it has me all kinds of verklempt! We’re already seeing that so much of Randall’s adult life has been consumed with wonder about his biological family whom he never had an opportunity to know growing up. As an adoptive parent, to watch that play out on screen in such a profound way, pains me.

I think much of how his story is unfolding and the nuances of his life as a transracially adopted child in a closed adoption being raised in a different era might go over the heads of a lot of the viewing public. As I’m sure there will be people watching who think that adoption is just handing over abandoned babies to any willing couple at the hospital nursery, so may many people think that adoptions are still relatively closed with no connection to the birth families. But perhaps what this line of longitudinal storytelling really is, is more of a cautionary tale.

I remember when my husband and I first started on our adoption journey; my ego was so huge. I couldn’t handle the thought of sharing my future child with any other parent. We had to have a closed adoption. I didn’t want any birth parent involvement, save the semi-openess of a few photos and letters exchanged over the years. But as we waded and waited through the adoption journey, my eyes and heart began to open and I came to appreciate and believe in the value of having a true connection between child and birth parent. Some of that growth came from exploring my own feelings about growing up not knowing my own biological father–he was not present in my life and was represented only in a few blurry snapshots when he and my mom were dating and newlyweds. As so many adoptees and people in my position do…as an adult I went searching for answers to questions I wasn’t even sure I knew how to articulate. There was so much angst and wonder about “who is my father?” and there was such a build-up to when we finally established a relationship…

Well, as it turned out, it was a door I opened for a short period of time and had to close again for my own well-being. Who knows if things might have been different if I’d known him earlier, if I hadn’t created scenarios of the type of person he was in my head, if I’d been more open to what our relationship could have been, or if I’d just had more basic information about who he was? Who can say for sure, but one thing I do know is that that’s a lot of pressure and wonder to put on a kid or young adult.

That’s why I want better for my son…I want him to have that information. I want him to have a connection to where he comes from. I want him to know who his biological family is. I want him to grow up knowing and understanding the word “adopted” and feel comfortable with that– not shame, or confusion, or anger. I don’t want him to ever have to dig or beg for information about his beginnings because they were sealed and locked away from him.  I want to continue to foster a healthy relationship with our son’s birth family–for his benefit and theirs…and ours. And finally, I don’t want my son to ever worry about hurting my feelings or feeling like he has to shield me from any relationship he creates with his birth family, because hopefully, my husband and I will have been instrumental in establishing the foundation for those relationships and they will just be.

Anyway, I hope when people not in the know about adoption, and what it means to have an open, semi-open, or closed adoption watch this show (and clearly some of them have to be given the booming viewership and accolades this show is getting), they come away with a better understanding and compassion for how the decision to have a open relationship or not is sometimes made without the input of all those involved, yet can impact everyone in the adoption triad–adoptees, adoptive parents, and birth families. And kudos to the writers for tackling all of this subject-matter that is quite possibly killing me with emotion, one tear drop at a time, and leaving me hanging each week in a puddle of estrogen, rocking back and forth crying, “This is Us??? No, This is so ME!!!”

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