National Adoption Month: Should You Celebrate Gotcha Day?

It’s a debate that’s raged on for more than a decade in the adoptive community: Should you celebrate the day when your child came to you—and what should you call that day? And as part of their National Adoption Month coverage, the Today Show decided to step into the fray and cover the drama on a segment all about the most controversial thing to call it: Gotcha Day.

To those who love the name, it speaks of the joyfulness of the adoptive parents over finally getting to hug the child they’ve been hoping to hold for years. And that the children finally get the family that they’ve been missing.

But its opponents have some pretty strong arguments against it. “Gotcha Day” tends to be pretty parent-centric, and ignores the fact that children may not have all rosy feelings about that particular day. It can remind them of how much they lost—their first families, their cultures and everything they knew, from their caretakers to the familiar sights and smells of their foster home or orphanage.

“Gotcha Day” can be pretty traumatic for kids. Most international adoptions happen fast once you’ve completed the mountain of paperwork and have finally gotten clearance to go meet your child. The kids are often handed over to their new parents swiftly with a quick run-through of care and feeding instructions. And if you’ve ever seen a baby unceremoniously dumped into the arms of a stranger, you know just how badly they react to it. I actually have a hard time watching the video footage of our daughters’ first days with our family, as I can see now what I missed back then. I used to see my oldest daughter drinking her first bottle with us. Now I see that her fists are clenched near her ears, and her eyes are darting every which way, fearful. (It’s no wonder that she developed a nasty stomach bug about 24 hours after we became her parents—her entire system was clearly shut down.) My easygoing youngest looks a little more comfortable, at least with her dad and me, but her brand-new big sister clearly seemed sketchy.

I’m not a big fan of “Gotcha Day.” And it’s not just the editor in me, who cringes at the incorrect “gotcha.” I prefer Family Day. It’s not a big celebration in our family. We acknowledge the days we met our daughters, a week and two years apart. And we split the difference in between, and have a day when we eat Chinese food and give our girls the gifts we bought them during our travels in China—jade necklaces and porcelain dolls.

And besides, we don’t need a special day. I know just how lucky we were to be entrusted with these two awesome kids, to get to watch them grow into two amazing young ladies, to get the chance to kiss them good night every night—to get to be their parents. I feel like we celebrate that every single day.

Image: Adoption terms by Kheng Guan Toh/Shutterstock.com

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  1. [...] is National Adoption Day. My colleague Lisa Milbrand, who adopted two children from China, recently wrote about her mixed feelings on “Gotcha Day,” when parents celebrate the day they adopted their [...]