Since the premiere, I’ve been wondering: why do I love this show? Of all things, the last thing I need right now is to get hooked to a television show. Money, more sleep, more time in my day…sure. But another television show? Not really. And yet, I find myself eagerly waiting to watch each new episode.
Why is that? What has me hooked?
And I may have figured it out. This isn’t just an hour long show that fills a time slot that works out in my schedule. I’m hooked to this hour long show because it’s laced with struggle and hope. Those two combined hold great power. Add the fact that they are tackling a demographic that hasn’t gotten this much attention on the screen before, and you got yourself a This Is Us addict.
More than any other drama I’ve watched, I feel like this so beautifully portrays life. Furthermore, it highlights a large and growing population of people and families who have never seen themselves represented in televised characters. I’m talking about adoptive families, adoptees, and birth parents. Take it a step further, and we’re delving into real issues that transracially adoptive families face. These are real issues and struggle, real love and connection.
The constant battle to be “normal” and “fit in,” while recognizing individual differences and needs is a battle I feel our family faces every single day. When we adopted our black daughter, I thought parenting her would be like parenting our biological child. Of course we’d need to make sure she knew her story, but wouldn’t the rest be the same? Because all you need is love. I was so naïve.
As she has grown older, she has to explain to more and more people that yes, that white woman over there is her mom. Just yesterday I was on a field trip with her in the California Redwoods. It was beautiful and refreshing and we had a lot of fun together. In excitement, she called, “Mom! Look! I found another banana slug!” The woman passing by looked around, confused, then at me, confused, then at my daughter, still confused…and then she seemed to understand on some level that I was her mom.
This is something that Callie faces constantly, and I wonder if, like Randall, she keeps track of these moments, or of the moments she feels “normal.” This is why, in particular, the transracial adoption community is anxiously watching This Is Us. In a very real way, it is giving our challenges, our kids’ challenges–and also our joy and family love–not only validity, but a real voice in this world. And because I feel so strongly about it, I constantly have this hope in my heart that they continue to treat the adoptive storyline as delicately and real as they have been so far. Listen, I know it’s only tv, but we all know how powerful the media is and the influence it has on our society.
Absolutely there are times when I’ve been upset. Mandi Stevens, a member of the adoption community, said, “What I have seen so far seems to include some of the pitfalls and complexities of adoption (especially transracial adoption) that I think often get left out of more rose-colored adoption stories.”
As much as this show is teaching the world about adoption, it also teaches us, in the adoption world, by giving us a fictional case study to ponder. Mandi continues, “I am glad to see some of the tougher topics being discussed and I hope they continue to handle the topic with the complexity it deserves. Watching the show makes me think more critically about the issues my children may struggle with as they grow older and what I can do to help them with it.”
It’s just a show, but it’s more than just entertainment. Before I had kids, I taught high school English. What I loved about exploring fictional literature is the opportunity it gave me and the students to discuss topics and situation, and then how we would handle them. When I was a little girl I was taught to think of situations that may come up in the future and decide now what I want to do. That way, the decision to “Just Say No” was already done. It’s a proactive approach to preparing for life. Perhaps I am giving too much credit to a tv show, but if I’m right, this Tuesday night wonder will help so many adoptive families prepare for the moments when our child(ren) want friends that look more like them, or even to help our kids feel more secure in who they are.
Terra Cooper, a friend and fellow adoptive mom, said it just as I feel, “I love This is Us because it shows very real and raw emotions, especially with the adoption story line. It isn’t painting adoption as something that is easy or perfect. I love watching the dynamics of the transracial adoption story line and the challenges that come with it. I also loved the doctor scene after they lost their baby. It was heart wrenching, but so real. I have been in many rooms with moms who have lost their babies and [the doctor] had such powerful and sweet words for the dad. The show is super triggering because of how real it is—but it always seem to end with hope.”
Yes, I’m hooked because of all the reasons I said before, but ultimately, if each episode didn’t end with hope, I’m not sure I’d continue to watch.
Our world is so burdened with hatred, anger, and sadness, and yet I believe there is goodness and kindness that fills this little globe we dwell on. That goodness may not get all the news, but I still believe there is more of it than what makes us have fear. At the close of each episode, even when Rebecca handles things differently than I would as a mother–and even when it angers me–I feel hope. I remember that we are all trying our best where we are. Truly, that’s good enough for me.