Superman: The Power Of Adoption And The Blessing Of Being An Adoptee


I recently had a chance to see the new Superman movie: "Man of Steel" the other day and while being highly entertained I also had a reminder of something I had known all along but had somehow forgotten: Superman (Kal-El or Clark Kent) is adopted. Did you know that Superman was adopted? Without going too much into his mythology and character and avoiding spoilers, the movie starts out by setting up what is happening on the planet Krypton (Superman’s home) and explains why his birth parents, his father Jor-El and mother Lara Lor-Van sent him on a spaceship to the planet earth. We find out right from the start that his parents do this so he could avoid the devastation that would happen to the planet but also so he could be the last remaining survivor of his race and carry on life here on earth.

For most of you that are familiar with Superman, and for those that may not be we learn and know that Superman’s spaceship lands on a farm in rural Kansas which is the home of Martha and Jonathan Kent. Boy were they in for a surprise! From here on I’m going to start referring to Superman by his adopted name, Clark, not only for the sake of this piece but because I’m interested in Superman, not so much as a super-hero who wields great super-powers such as super-strength, heightened senses, ability to fly, x-ray vision..etc. but Superman, the child who was adopted just like me.

The movie does a great job of using flashbacks in order that we can see what it was like for Clark growing up. Early in the movie we witness a young Clark using his powers for good in order to save lives, but with it comes confusion and ultimately a misunderstanding from a few in the community. His father Jonathan Kent (played by Kevin Costner) and mother Martha Kent (played by Diane Lane) try to diffuse the situation and Clark is told that he needs to keep his super-powers in check because "the world isn’t ready for this yet". Clark early on learns that he is "different" and that society doesn’t always accept those that are different. So we see that Clark feels alone and also alienated from his peers. As an Asian-American adoptee I could relate to this sense of not belonging and feeling of alienation that comes with not only being adopted but also raised in a white-American family. Just like Clark, even though I knew my adoptive parents and family loved me and had accepted me into their family, I still inherently felt like I was different from them, if not just by looks alone, but by my very make up, my genes, my traits and characteristics.

Clark then goes on just like I did and starts to question who he is. Where did he come from? Who were his parents? He had no real sense of identity, he had no knowledge of his history. He wanted to know. He must know. This part almost brought me to tears, because I wanted to reach through the screen and give Clark a hug and say "I can totally relate, me too." There is a touching moment when the camera zooms into Costner’s face and during this we see understanding, a little bit of heartbreak but also unconditional love at the same time. This is something which I’m sure a lot of adoptive parents experience or can relate to when their adopted child wants to know about their past and yearns to find out more about who they are and where they came from. Mr. Kent as an adoptive father realizes and understands he no longer can keep what he knows about Clark’s past a secret anymore so he shows Clark the spaceship that brought him to earth. While this doesn’t offer Clark any clear answers about where he is from or who his parents are, it does affirm that he is not from this place, that he is in fact "different" and offers a glimpse of understanding to why he is experiencing the things that happen to him earlier. (there is a scene where we see Clark as a young boy going through what could be described as a "pubescent" experience where all of his super-senses are going out of whack and he has no idea why this is happening to him.)

I too had a moment like this where I was confused, curious and wanted to know where I was from. What did my adoptive parents know? I remember the "revealing of the spaceship" moment came by my Mom talking with me and explaining what she knew and sharing information the adoption agency had given her. So the story goes like this: my biological parents in Korea had me out of wedlock which in Korean culture (and many cultures) is not acceptable. My biological mother was shunned from her family and couldn’t bare this burden so she game me to my father to raise. My biological father, probably being a struggling young man at that time, tried to take care of me alone but that responsibility was too much to handle so he gave me up to an orphanage where I would be cared for in hopes that some day someone would adopt me and have a better life than both he and my mother could provide. Like Clark, I was given up for adoption because my biological parents, just like his, wanted a better life for me and knew that they could not provide this. It was out of love that my parents did this, and I’ve never questioned that even to this day.

Man Of SteelSomething I would like to communicate to adoptive parents or those that are considering adopting, is that A.) This moment of your child wanting to know where they come from and who their biological parents are is more than likely going to happen and to openly accept this, embrace this and be prepared for it. Do your homework and try to find out as much as possible. If there isn’t information or very little available then at least know some information about the country of origin or culture so you can explain that to your son or daughter thereby giving them the resources and opportunity to learn more for themselves or begin the search or journey to find out where they come from if they want. B.) To not withhold any information about their past, even if the information may not be pleasant or hard to accept (for instance if one finds out that the biological parents were in situations of disadvantage, living unhealthy lifestyles, have passed away, or if they have siblings). Your adopted child deserves to know this and they have a right to know this and while it may be difficult to communicate, it will inevitable be for the best in the long run when it comes time that they do want to search for answers or reconnect with their biological family.

In the film Clark later goes on to find out who his parents are and gets more information about his past, where he is from and why he was sent to earth. While most adopted children are not afforded this opportunity or may not even have a yearning for these answers to whom their birth parents may be, I’m sure for those that have reconnected or met their biological parents and family I can only imagine there must be such an overwhelming sense of closure and relief when this happens. This sense of closure and finally being at peace is portrayed beautifully in the movie in a scene when Clark returns to the farmhouse in Kansas after a long stint of working odd jobs and is greeted by the warm embrace of his mother Martha, and they look at each other and Clark with a sense of peace says: "Mom, I finally found out who my parents are." As an adoptee I too one day would like to find out who my biological parents are and hopefully meet them in person, if not just to quench the thirst of curiosity but also because I believe that since my parents gave me up out of love, in hopes that their child would have a better life, that they deserve to know that I am alive and well, with the hope that this too might bring them peace and a sense of closure.

As an adoptee I had experiences that reminded me that I was different from my adoptive family, which brought with it feelings of alienation and loneliness. Clark also has these experiences in the film and with it brings feelings of confusion, loneliness and at times even resentment. Personally, sometimes this sense of not totally belonging with my adoptive family or being different lends itself to moments where I said some things that were hurtful to my adoptive family. There is a scene in the movie where Clark is trying to make the case to his parents that it is time that he used his super- powers for good but Costner’s character adamantly disagrees and thinks again that the "world is not ready for this". Clark lashes out by saying "You can’t tell me what to do you’re not my real father!". Such a relatable moment personally as an adoptee and I remember distinctly when I used these very words, for the very same reason, in the same vein in order to hurt my parents. Looking back on it now I realize that saying these words actually came from a deep, dark, lonely and resentful place, a place that I believe is probably inherent and exists in most adoptees. I also can’t help but think that the place where these words come from is actually the most real and relatable place among those that are adopted or may have been abandoned by their biological parents, because inherently we still feel and may always feel as though we are not quite 100% a part of our adopted family; thereby feeling our adoptive parents do not have complete autonomy over who we are and how we should live our lives, no matter how much we are loved, told we are loved and no matter to what lengths our adoptive family has gone to show us this or express their unconditional love and acceptance to us.

Personally there will always be 1% of me that feels this sense of not belonging with my adoptive family. There were and are times where this percentage feels small like 1% of 1, and times where this percentage feels large like 1% of a billion, but either way there is always that 1% feeling of not belonging. For a long time I tried to deny this feeling and I covered it up. Just like Clark does in the movie by traveling and moving from town to town, never staying in one place for too long, I too ran from this feeling, excused it, confused it and masked it for another emotion, or I let it bounce off me and acted like it didn’t affect me. But here is what I hope will be some valuable advice for other adoptees that may be feeling the same emotion: the sooner you accept this feeling and that it is ok to feel this way, the sooner you are able to allow yourself to be truly loved and love others. For adoptive parents who may experience the singe of resentful words from your adopted child just know that these words come from a place of loneliness, hurt and confusion. Be strong and patient enough to use these times as an opportunity as a parent to reaffirm to them not only your unwavering role as their parent, but to reassure them of their status of being a son or daughter in the family, your unconditional love for them and that no matter what the circumstances are this will never change and you will never abandon or forsake them.

Another thing that struck an emotional chord with me about the movie was the way it portrayed the charismatic nature of Clark’s parents and in particular the willingness to accept the situation and make Clark a part of their family. Here are two people, in the middle of Kansas, minding their own business and out of nowhere comes a spaceship carrying an alien boy, talk about the unexpected! This portrayal was a reminder of just how big of a heart my adoptive parents have and how truly blessed and lucky I am to have been adopted into such a caring and loving family. In many situations adoption is something that is planned out and prepared for, but that wasn’t the case with the Kent’s . Even though this wasn’t something the Kent’s had planned for, they still had to make a choice. The choice they made was to adopt Clark into their family as their son and by doing so they probably knew it would forever change the course of both their lives and his, and it did. It’s this "choosing" that is of particular interest to me as an adoptee and how that choice ultimately serves some sort of purpose not only for those adopting but also the adoptee. There is a poignant moment in the film when a young Clark after being shown the spaceship questions why he had been sent to earth, so many questions running through the young boy’s head, so many answers yet to be found, so much confusion and uncertainty. But again in a moment of unconditional love and fatherly compassion Costner’s character explains that even though he doesn’t know where Clark came from he had the absolute belief that he was sent here for a reason and that purpose was to do something great here on earth. What an amazingly honest and heartfelt response to such difficult questions and uncertainty, something we can all learn from. This scene made me recollect on the choice my parents made when adopting me. My mother says she always wanted to adopt, and in this late period of her life it was the best choice when it came to how her and my then adoptive father would go about having a child together. But of the thousands of kids they could of adopted why me? In my particular situation it had a lot to do with divine guidance, a calling by God to adopt a son and to make me a part of their family. But how could they know I was the right one, and could there have been a wrong choice? As an adoptee I know and believe I was the right one, and there could never have been a "wrong one" so to speak. The reason being is because I was adopted not only to fulfill my parents desire to have a child together but also because I am a living testament to the majesty and grace of the Lord’s Will to serve His ultimate purpose and the blessing of becoming a part of His eternal family.

So as an adoptee what did Superman teach and reassure me about being adopted? He reminded me that as an adoptee I am different, that this is ok and that just like him I too came from a foreign place as an alien, feeling the loneliness of alienation, and that this is a perfectly acceptable and normal feeling to have. Through Superman’s birth parents and Clark’s adoptive parents I witnessed and was reminded of the extraordinary power of love and how coming to understand the love of ones birth parents and then the willingness to accept the reaffirmation of it by your adoptive parents can be not only the assurance and therapy one needs as an adoptee but also the foundation in which to build a sense of purpose and belonging in the here and now as well as the future. Superman taught me that instead of thinking of myself as someone who is an outcast to look at myself as being special, anointed just like him with unique talents and skills, with the power to affect change, help others and serve a greater purpose. Thank you Superman for being a symbol of hope and thank you Clark for showing me that being an adoptee is also a reminder of what it is to be human and truly loved.

Photo Credit: bbmaltimore and Digital_Third_Eye

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MLJ Adoptions is a Non-Profit, Hague-Accredited adoption service provider located in Indianapolis, Indiana, working in Africa, Eastern Europe, Latin America and the Pacific Isles. We are passionate about serving children in need.