Monday, April 10, 2017

Dear Sugar: Yes, We Celebrate Gotcha Day

Dear Sugar:

Let's start with this:  Yes, our family celebrates our kids' Gotcha Days.   

Before you start tweeting me, hold on.  Hear me out.

Three and four and five (plus) years ago, we didn't celebrate our kids' Gotcha Days.  I as adamantly opposed.  We had read on many forums that it was wrong to do so.  I mean, it was, according to the Internet, essentially celebrating the severing of a birth family, and anyone celebrating such a day was certainly a clueless imbecile who coated adoption loss in cotton candy and glittery butterflies.  
Then two years ago, I was having a heart-to-heart with a friend who is both an adoptee and a mom-by-adoption.   I told her, of course we do not celebrate Gotcha Day!   And she said something that blew.   my.    mind.   She replied:   "Um, why not?"

She shared how her mom made a big deal out of her day.  Presents. A special outfit.  A nice meal and dessert.  A day of just celebrating her beautiful, smart, talented, kind self.   It was as close to a birthday celebration as it could get.  And guess what?  SHE LOVED IT.   

And I thought, have I been denying my kids something really cool? To alleviate some sort of guilt?  To attempt to be super respectful of birth families with whom we love dearly--even though they had never voiced that celebrating the children and their adoptions was wrong?  

Silly.  Silly Mommy.   I really didn't have a good reason other than someone I don't know and will never meet told me on the Internet that Gotcha Day is one of the ultimate adoption sins, and committing means I'm a heartless beast.  

So I asked my children, would you like to do something special to celebrate your adoption?  It would be the anniversary of when we finalized your adoption, when you became a Garlinghouse forever. What do you think?  

The answer was an overwhelming, resounding yes.   

And so I swallowed my doubt and said, ok.   I marked their adoption finalization dates on the calendar.   On their days, we gave them a small gift and made a special dessert.  

And they, like my friend, LOVED it.  They spent their entire days grinning ear-to-ear, reminding everyone around them it was their SPECIAL DAY.  

So here's where I'm at:   I'm totally open to the celebration changing, going away, or becoming bigger and better.   I'm open to whatever each of my children needs and desires, individually.   

You know why?  Because as my friend Madeleine tells us in her book Dear Adoptive Parents, What You Need to Know Right Now From an Adoptee, we need to do our job.   She gives us "permission slips" to BE the mother and father our children need.   That's what being a good parent is:  meeting the child's needs.   (Please, please, please, read the book.   I cannot tell you how much I learned from her words, how encouraged I felt, and how refreshing it was!)  

So I'm going to keep doing that.  I'm going to consider, of course, the experiences of others. Absolutely.   Had I of not done that, we wouldn't have considered celebrating adoption finalizations in the first place.   And I'm going to do the job I was chosen to do:  raise my children, encourage them, support them, listen to them, empathize with them, and love them for exactly who they are.   And of course, we're going to celebrate their fabulous selves---without worrying anymore about what is "correct" and instead, what is right for each child.   

Oh, and we do not, in fact, call it "Gotcha Day" for a few reasons. First, I hate "gotcha."  It's creepy. It's like sneaking up behind someone and grabbing them while yelling "BOO!"   No.   We call adoption days, "Adoption Day," because it's simple, it's direct, and it is what it is.   The end.   I know some others prefer to call it Family Day.   

Take it from Madeleine:  Whatever your child wants and needs is what is right.  

-This post contains Amazon affiliate links.  

1 comment:

  1. Thanks so much!!! I must have read the same articles. Since my son was seven months when he joined our family I'd rather celebrate placement day than finalization day. Plus we just got a letter in the mail for finalization. Kind of anticlimactic. I'm getting that book!!!


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