If you haven’t already seen Walt Disney’s movie Tarzan (1999), be sure to rent it the next time you have family movie night. This is a wonderful tale for the whole family to enjoy, but is especially poignant for adoptive families. Disney touches on many issues and feelings that adoptive families must face and does it in a most sensitive, touching way.

One of the most powerful scenes for me was at the beginning of the movie when Tarzan is orphaned. His birth parents had been shipwrecked off the coast of Africa and had made a home for themselves high up in a towering tree, away from the dangers of the jungle below. But a voracious leopard found his way into their home and murdered Tarzan’s parents. Baby Tarzan was spared, having been hidden under toppled furniture and blankets in the fracas.

Meanwhile, Lala, a gentle mother gorilla, who had recently lost her own baby to the evil leopard, heard Tarzan’s cries and found the abandoned child. As she picked him up for the first time and cradled him gently in her arms, I was immediately flashed back in time when I, as an adoptive mother, first held my children in my arms. The thoughts and the feelings are there, just as I had remembered them. To top it off, Disney culminates the scene with Phil Collins’ tune, You’ll Be In by Heart, a beautiful song which aptly states what all of us adoptive parents feel about our children.

As the movie progresses, we watch Tarzan struggle with his identity. Who is he? Where does he belong? With his gorilla family who raised him or with his human family! He knows doesn’t look like the other gorillas, although he desperately wants to. At one point he even covers his face and body with mud in the hopes that he will more like them. But his adoptive mother Mala points out that that does not matter. It is what they have that is the same that matters. And what matters most is that they both have hearts.

The nature versus nurture theme is a strong one in the movie. In the end Tarzan is able to reconcile these to forces in his life but it takes many years before peace from within is reached. Hopefully, we as adoptive parents can help our own children do the same.

I greatly enjoyed this movie and plan to watch it many more times. Not only is the animation and music incredibly executed, I found that I could appreciate it on a much deeper level because I am an adoptive mother. And Phil Collins’ song You’ll Be In by Heart will be in my heart from now on. I’ve even memorized the words so I can sing along, as I think back to those heart-warming days when I rocked my babies in my arms and I sang:

Stop your crying, it will be all right.
Just take my hand, hold it tight.
I will protect you from all around you
l will be here, don’t you cry.

For one so small you seem so strong.
My arms will hold you, keep you safe and warm.
This bond between us can’t be broken
I will be here, don’t you cry.

Cause you’ll be in my heart
Yes, you’11 be in my heart
From this day on, now and forever more
You’ll be in my heart
No matter what they say
You’ll be here in my heart, always.