Friday, May 3, 2013

Laura Dennis on Rise of the Guardians and Adoptee Self-Discovery

Laura Dennis is a writer and blogger who has created, among other things, an Adoption Glossary. She is the author of Adopted Reality, which is available on Amazon. I recently asked Laura to share about a movie that has connected with her adoption story in one way or another. Here's what she had to say.

Rise of the Guardians.

I know, I know, Rise of the Guardians isn’t an adoption story per say. However, this is such a compelling story, beautifully designed and executed--appropriate for some preteens and great for adolescents--the movie is worth watching for several important reasons.

The struggles of a lost child finding his purpose in life, protagonist Jack Frost provides a great basis for analyzing coming-of-age and self-identity themes.

Addison did an amazing job driving home the lessons a child can learn from this wonderful “making of a hero” tale, in his review.

Aaaannnd ... if we know anything about post-adoption issues, we know that adoptees tend to struggle during that super-fun “coming-of-age” phase: adolescence. In order to develop a firm self-identity, teens wonder who they are and where they came from.

A little background on “adoptee self-discovery”

For adoptees in closed adoptions, or open adoptions with rare or “pictures only” contact, adolescence can be particularly hard. Lacking genetic mirroring, but entering the normal developmental phase of separating from one’s parents, adoptees are in a unique and difficult position.

On the one hand, they would love to know and see exactly where they came from. But given their adoptee status, that information may be unknown, unsafe or in the case of international adoptees, simply not financially possible at the given moment.

On the other hand, adoptees will look to their adoptive parents for mentoring and guidance. Adoptive parents would do well to remember, their adoptee can’t be “just like” their them; the biology simply isn’t there. But, there are things that adoptive parents can do to help with their teen’s transition into adulthood.

This, friends, is where Jack Frost can help us.

Lacking knowledge, our hero can’t move forward

Jack Frost is a cute teenager with special powers. He can turn water to ice, create magical frost beings, and most importantly--with a flick of his magic staff, he can turn an angry, joyless stick-in-the-mud into a smiling, ball-of-laughter.

From Addison’s apt description, Adoption Movie Review: Rise of the Guardians
Jack finds joy in helping others, but he does not initially realize this. He takes even more joy in learning the truth about himself: that he does take care of others.

North uses nesting dolls to illustrate a valuable point: people are more than they appear to be on the surface. Each person has many layers, and deep inside they have a core value or trait which defines their lives.

It’s important to note here ... in the absence of a guide, North (the Santa character) steps in as a fatherly figure, providing guidance even if he can’t provide information. North’s leadership is a great way to look at one of the roles specific to adoptive parents.

Further, North’s nesting dolls are an apt reminder: there is more than meets the eye when it comes to an adoptee’s development of self.

Jack’s healing hinges on recovering his memories

Jack realizes it’s imperative for him to move forward, to heal, to accept his past. To become a Guardian, he has to finding out the actual information. It’s a phrase we’ve all heard before ...

How can I know where I’m going, if I don’t know where I came from?
In the movie, Jack lost his memories, but it’s similar for adoptees, no? Without stories from their birth parents about who they were before they were adopted, how can they move forward. Adoptees often need to know where they came from, what their birth parents and grandparents were like, what their ethnicity and heritage is.

All of that unknowing is similar to Jack’s hero’s journey.

With this realization in hand, Jack sets off on a search to recover his memories. Once he accomplishes this, he understands who he really is. He knows where he came from, and with that information he feels complete. He can heal, move forward and live as the fun-loving person he truly is. He can become a true Guardian.

*  *  *
Laura Dennis was adopted in New Jersey, raised in Maryland, and learned how to be a (sane) person in California. A professionally trained dancer, Laura also worked as sales director for a biotech startup. With two children under the age of three, in 2010 she and her husband sought to simplify their lifestyle and escaped to his hometown, Belgrade, Serbia. While the children learned Serbian in their cozy preschool, Laura recovered from sleep deprivation and wrote Adopted Reality, a Memoir, available on Amazon.
She currently blogs at Expat (Adoptee) Mommy. Connect with her on Facebook, twitter @LauraDennisCA, or email

If you liked Laura's review, you might enjoy these other guest posts


  1. Loved the movie. Loved the break down too. Adolescence was NOT easy for me either (closed adoptee) and therefore hard for my folks especially!

  2. Sooo true -- I was the "perfect adoptee" as a teenager, and even so, dealing with me was not easy. Thanks for reading and commenting!


Open Adoption Blogs