Once Upon a Time, Adoptions can end happily ever after, too.

I love fairy tales. Always have. My favorite books as a small child were filled with them. Snow White and Rose Red, Sleeping Beauty, Rapunzel – those topped my list, but I enjoyed them all and never outgrew them. I liked the old versions. Eyes gorged out, villains dying, lazy pigs eaten, romantic happy endings.

So, last year, when I heard about ABC’s Once Upon a Time, I knew I wanted to see it. We don’t have tv reception of any sort, so I had to wait. We began watching it last week, and are ten episodes into it. We (my daughter and I) are both enjoying it.

However, I’m bothered by it, too. Adoption is a big issue in Once Upon a Time, part of the larger “Who Am I, Really?” theme, and I am disturbed by how it is being presented.

It’s a fairy tale. In fairy tales, stepmothers are evil. I get that. However, adoptive moms are not stepmothers. Adoptive moms choose to adopt; the children don’t come as a package deal with their spouse. (I’m not suggesting that stepmothers are evil, either, just pointing out that they are two different things.)

In Once Upon A Time, the main conflict (at least in Storybrooke) is set into motion when a little boy finds his biological mother, his real mom, who will save all of the fairy tale world.  I’m not at the saving the fairy tale world part yet.  I’m watching the episodes where there is great drama in the tension over who is Henry’s Real Mom, the evil witch who adopted him or the lost princess who gave him birth?  Obviously, everyone is rooting for Emma, the lost princess and savior.  Who would want poor Henry doomed to life with an evil witch?  Not me, I’m opposed to evil witches.

If that were the only depiction of adoption, I would not be writing this, but it’s not.

Last night we watched the episode about Hansel and Gretel, who are threatened with the horrors of foster care, which people do for the money, not for the kids.  Before that there was Cinderella, a sweet 19 year old being coerced into giving up her baby for adoption, even though she is working and going to school to make a better life for herself and her baby.  In the fairy tale world, Prince Charming’s twin was sold for money, then, after his untimely death, Charming was coerced into the role of king’s son – a ruthless, unloving king, whose only concern is the economic viability of his kingdom.  Rumplestiltskin is an evil baby broker of some sort in both worlds.

It seems at every turn, we are presented with another example of adoption as a cold, heartless transaction.  I’m only on episode ten of twenty-two.  I’m wondering how many more horrible adoptive or foster families there can be.

Adoptive families are not perfect.  They have as many faults as biologically intact families.  They aren’t unilaterally evil, though.

Fostercare is not populated by money grubbing people who do not care about the children.  Are there people who might want the money?  I am sure there are.  Just like there are people who have babies for all the wrong reasons.

I am biased. I was adopted as an infant. I adopted my daughter when she was six. Before that, I’d been a foster mom.

My mom, the one who adopted me, raised me, put up with my nonsense for my entire life, she is my real mom.  She is not perfect.  Did I ever doubt that she loved me?  No.  Not once.  Not even when I was not sure how much I loved her.  I always knew how much she loved me.

I am my daughter’s real mom. She remembers her biological mother. Yes, she was a real person, but as she says, “She never wanted to be my mom.”  I do, and she knows it, even when I annoy her, which I do, because I am her mom.  Moms are bothersome when you are fourteen, no matter how they came to be your mom.

I did not make money on foster care. The allowance paid for the formula and pampers and usually covered the cost of clothes and shoes. There was no profit, and I didn’t stay up nights rocking sick and sad children hoping to make one.

I’m not blaming ABC or the writers of Once Upon a Time for creating this myth, but I am sad that it is still being promoted.

I feel like the show would not have been weakened by leaving out Emma’s tirade against the evils of fostercare.

I don’t think the show would be less dramatic if there was one positive representation of an adoptive family. I’m only ten episodes in, so I keep hoping.

We can at least see Gepetto and Pinnochio as a loving adoptive family, right?  Please?  Gepetto was a caring dad; it was not his fault his boy went bad and got eaten by a whale.  Please let Gepetto be a good adoptive dad.  He’s not an adoptive mom, so maybe he can sneak by unnoticed.

What about Aurora?  Those fairies were darned good fostermoms!  To love a child like that, for that long, knowing they will never truly belong to you, let me tell you, it hurts.  That girl had two loving families, each as real and as loving as the next.


10 thoughts on “Once Upon a Time, Adoptions can end happily ever after, too.

  1. I think it is a really important subject that should be shown as a positive step in the right direction. So many people are waiting on lists for years even to be able to adopt a child of their own. I hate it that it is being portrayed this way. Hope they make up for it in the rest of the episodes ;-/. btw, I think it is wonderful that as you were adopted that you ended up adopting a child also.

  2. I only saw a few minutes of an episode of this show earlier, and unfortunately for me it was the scene where Emma is introduced by the bitchy, severe looking adoptive mother. That scene, and the way both characters were portrayed put me off instantly and I went straight online to find out if the show really makes doption look the way that scene seemed to make it look.

    I can safely say now that I’ll be avoiding it, :/

    I always thought of adoption as a really beautiful thing and wanted more than anything to adopt children when I felt ready to start a family. But the more I look into it and the more I see it depicted so horridly on TV, the more I feel like a terrible vindictive person for wanting to give kids a home. Adoption is a wonderful thing, and I shouldn’t have to feel scared of one day having to justify my family to people, but I do and that’s depressing as hell.

  3. I actually feel sorry for Regina. Is she a perfect mother? No, absolutely not, and a lot of it is due to her experiences with her own mother. It’s clear that she feels threatened by Emma and I don’t blame her, when her son and everyone else prefers her. Henry is even cruel enough to take advantage of her desire to be close to him at one point. Regina is trying to change for her son, to be a better mother. I think Henry, and everyone else, needs to give her a chance. She’s the one who raised him. The show never said that she somehow knew that Snow White’s daughter had given a baby up for adoption and adopted him just for that reason out of revenge. She obviously found out who he was at some point but she genuinely loves him.

  4. Ok, firstly I am a stepmonster and I’m COOL AS! (Just ask me) Secondly, I too started watching and loving Once upon a Time when it began but it’s gotten weird…
    Thanks for hooking up At the Hump Day Hook Up and for being so supportive to all the other Hookers!

  5. I don’t know if you are still watching Once Upon a Time, but Gepetto is depicted as a loving adoptive father. I enjoy the show, but you are right about the negative depictions of parents who are not biological. I’m going to watch with a different eye from now on!

    • We don’t have tv reception, so we won’t be able to watch season two until it comes out on dvd, but I am glad to hear that Gepetto slipped by. It’s probably because he’s a dad, not a mom.

  6. When I watch the show my heart breaks for Regina. She may be the evil queen but she provided Henry with a lovely home and she loves him. None of us amums are perfect (I’m sure some people we know might think we’re ‘evil queens’) but we love our kids.

    • I agree; there is no such thing as a perfect parent. Imperfect is a far cry from evil, though. I haven’t decided whether I really want to watch the second season (waiting for it to go to dvd), but I probably will because my daughter is looking forward to it.

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