Do you know anyone who uses the phrase “Gotcha Day” with their adopted kids? I think if you do, this article is one you should read. I will explain why I am not fond of this term.
It’s been a while since I posted here on my blog. I have been busy planning a new coaching telegroup for Widows, and also beginning a new free Facebook group called Widow to Widow Circle of Support. This a community I am eager to build, because I know what a huge adjustment it is to go from being part of a couple to being a single woman again. This is layered on top of having to cope with major grief, and perhaps with parenting issues too. When I was widowed at a young age, I had three kids and later adopted my fourth as a single parent.
The topic of loss very much fits under my coaching umbrella. One of the things I do is help people through and beyond losses of all kinds.
It has been an even longer time since I posted about adoption. As you may know, this is a topic very dear to my heart, and one which has been a focus of my life for many, many decades, both personally and professionally.
I know there are a lot of adoptive families who celebrate this “Gotcha Day” but our family has never done that. It has always gone against the grain for me. To me it feels like a child is being treated like a commodity-a material object- who is acquired and owned. I just have found it offensive for as long as I can remember.
I realize that most families feel the day their child or children came home to them was a wonderful day, and one worthy of celebrating. However, it has always felt too adult or adoptive parent centered to me, and not child centered. To celebrate the “Gotcha Day”, it means, for most people, a time of ignoring the loss the birth family, and the adopted child or adult experienced.
I think this tradition is an unfortunate one that got started in the Adoption Community. In our family, another reason we did not celebrate homecoming day was because we also had a biological son, and it didn’t seem fair for some of our kids to have two special days, but for him to have just one. We certainly acknowledged it, encouraged conversation around it, and were alert to any feelings that were triggered, or any changes in behavior. We just didn’t make a big deal of it.
Recently, I saw a post on Facebook by someone connected to a young woman who was once a child I helped place for adoption many years ago. The poster (not known to me) referred to the “Gotcha Day” of this adult adoptee. I felt compelled to respond, and apparently offended the woman who posted it, and/or others who knew her. I apologized, as that was not my attention. I don’t know whether or not the adopted woman grew up with this as a tradition in her adoptive family, or not. I wasn’t judging. I was trying to offer another way of thinking about this.
A few months back, there was a very good post on the same subject, in a Facebook Group I participated in. I asked permission of the author of the post to re-post or use what she said. She granted it. Here is the wise perspective of Cynthia Fein-Wallace, adoptive parent.
“My wife and I do not celebrate anything but our adopted twin boys’ birthday. All adoption comes with loss. For many, “Gotcha Day” is the day the first (birth) mother did the single most difficult & painful thing a mother could ever do. And the adopted child, while totally bonded to their adoptive family, also experienced a deep loss on that day. There are many good reasons to adopt. That said, the loss of first family, the grief of not being raised by their first family, the feelings of abandonment are losses that run powerfully deep for many adult adoptees. Because adopted child(ren) often have no say in this rending of their first family, “Gotcha Day” might be a difficult day for them, and they may not be aware of or able to express their emotions around it. Even if it was/is the best decision for the child and first parent, there still might be pain. I am not trying to criticize, so much as to express that there are many lenses through which to view adoption. Consideration needs to be given to the varied perspectives of the people involved in the adoption constellation (first mothers – who likely grieve deeply on this particular anniversary, adoptees -who have no choice in being adopted and who may have complex feelings about their adoption, and adoptive parents – who as loving adoptive parents want the best for our child(ren)). Honoring all parties in the adoption) triad is important. It is my hope adoptive parents will think differently about labeling this day as “Gotcha Day”.
Readers, if you are an adoptive parent, will you share your own feelings about Gotcha Day here please? Did you observe this day? Is your thinking about it nowadays the same as it once was?
If you are an adopted person, was this a day that was celebrated during your growing up years? How did you feel about it? Is there any advice you might like to give to adoptive parents who are raising kids nowadays?
Readers who are not involved in the Adoption Community, what are your thoughts on this? Did this article open up any ideas you had not previously considered?
Let’s hear from you, please. Comment on the blog. Report on Facebook. Repost on Twitter. Share in other ways.
Iris Arenson-Fuller, Certified Professional Coach helps people with Big Changes, Hard Choices, Second Chances, and specializes in loss of all types, including adoption loss/adoption issues. She works with people on changes that come with different life stages, and relationship changes too. Iris offers free articles information on her web site, (www.visionpoweredcoaching.com) and periodically offers affordable telecoaching groups on different topics, as well as one-to-one coaching for those who need and want to go deeper, or to resolve challenges or problems they are facing or have faced. Clients can be located anywhere, as most coaching is done via phone and Internet.
Contact Iris on FB facebook.com/visionpoweredcoaching (Message me) or email at firstname.lastname@example.org