Let’s start with answering what is Gotcha Day? Gotcha Day is a day that many adoptive families celebrate the day in which a member of the family was officially adopted into the family. It seems as though the topic has become controversial to many. For us, in our infant domestic adoption, it has been a great experience, so far. It is a part of his story and we love telling it. It is the day he took our last name. It is about him becoming one of us. In an effort to keep it respectful to adoption, I am suggesting the following.
- First, decide as a family if you want to celebrate Gotcha Day. Not every adoptive family will celebrate it. So far, we celebrate it. But if there comes a point in our son’s life where he does not want to celebrate it anymore, we won’t. But also, decide if you are going to celebrate a birthday and Gotcha Day separately. In our household, we do. Our son’s birthday and Gotcha Day are roughly six months apart. But we do not celebrate them in the same way. His actual birthday, we celebrate with extended family and friends. But his Gotcha Day we celebrate together as a family of three. It is symbolic to our family as the day he officially became ours. It is intimate to us. It is special to the three of us.
- Honor his/her birth parents or foster parents. Again, this may not be the case for everyone but in our family it is. We have a very open relationship with our son’s birth mom and make it a point to tell his birth story and the story about the day we went to court and officially adopted him. But we also make it a point to stop and thank his birth mom for giving us the opportunity to be his parents, because without her we wouldn’t be parents, and he wouldn’t be who is without her.
- In the same fashion, if you adopted internationally or cross-culturally, celebrate your child’s heritage on Gotcha Day. Maybe there is some pain and loss in the actual Gotcha Day, pick a day (celebrate the same day every year) and celebrate their culture of origin. Maybe it is a trip to a new museum. Maybe it is a trip to a more diverse city. Maybe it is a trip to a different style restaurant, or maybe even making some of their traditional dishes. The point is, don’t let your child forget where she or he came from. You may have always wanted to adopt a child and you’re excited to have him/her in your home, just remember there is still a place of “loss” in your child’s heart. Be respectful of that.
- I have heard people call it “Family Day” or “Adoption Day” instead of Gotcha Day. Gotcha can seem offensive to some adoption situations, usually that of older adopted children. If your child was adopted later in life, the term “gotcha” seems as though we got you and someone else didn’t. It can be a hurtful reminder of what was lost in the adoption process, not necessarily a positive of what was gained. Keep it mindful of your child and those around you.
- Remember that it is not about you as parents, but it is about the child. Make it about him/her. Tell your child’s story. Some stories do not come without pain. If it becomes too painful for your child to talk about and remember, don’t celebrate it anymore. If it has become an important celebration that he/she looks forward to every year, keep doing it. Talk to him/her about it. We as parents (unless you are adopted yourself) cannot understand what it feels like to be adopted, but we try our best. If that included celebrating Gotcha Day from the very beginning but it has gotten too difficult for the child, we have to let go of our ideas and embrace that our children are getting older and our ideas need to be adjusted.