I never heard the term “Gotcha Day” until my 20s, when I started actively pursuing relationships with members of the adoption community.
I was adopted at birth and my brother, Ryan, was adopted from South Korea at 8 months old. It took 22 years for me to ever hear the words “gotcha” and “day” in the same sentence. When I first heard it, it totally rubbed me the wrong way. “Gotcha Day” sounds like something out of a Pokemon episode . . . you know the bit: Gotta Catch ‘Em All, POKEMON! If you had asked me this question when I first heard the phrase, I’d have told you that it was definitely offensive. People are not items to be “gotten”. We are humans that deserve to be received and loved as part of a family.
Upon further reflection, I’ve realized that Gotcha Day is a day to celebrate the adoptive parents, rather than the adopted child. While I understand that Gotcha Day was started to recognize the child becoming part of a new family, it is much more a day of celebration for these new moms and dads (and rightfully so)! I think adoptive parents deserve a day to celebrate the legality of the new addition. Baby showers are typically thrown for pregnant women, and the birthday of the child can be stressful, as there is the chance that the infant won’t be placed for adoption after all. In other cases, older children are adopted after going through the trauma of bouncing from home to home in the foster care system. Once they’ve landed in their forever family’s arms and it is legally recognized, that is definitely a cause for celebration!
To me, “Gotcha Day” was poorly named. I asked my brother what he thought about it, and his joking remark was, “Why not call it draft day?” He cracks me up. My parents celebrate Ryan’s homecoming by celebrating his arrival day. In this case, they celebrate the day he arrived in the United States and he was placed in their arms. I don’t have a “gotcha day.” I was born on May 23, and went home with my family on May 26. Growing up, I never really thought about the day I legally became my parents’ child, because my birthday and that day were one in the same for me. I think the most normal way you can celebrate the day your child becomes legally yours is by calling it what it is: adoption day. The adoption process is a grueling one, and adoption day is what parents have striven for, for months and months on end. Why not celebrate the completion of that process with a name that identifies it honestly?
My husband has a totally different take on the phrase. I asked him what he thought, and Daniel said, “Well, it was an amazing day when I got you.” Shucks, I sure do love that man. He raised a very good point, though: In the name of romantic love, it is often phrased as, “I got you”, “I won you over,” or as Blake Shelton phrases it, “God gave me you.” Love feels like a prize; it’s elating.
So then I sit here asking myself: why can’t it be the same for an adopted child? My reasoning is this: romantic love and parental love are two very different things. It is important that the adoption be recognized for what it is out of respect—respect for the child’s history, respect for what the adoptive parents went through to get to that day, and out of respect for the birth parents who chose a better future for them. Completing the adoption process is huge, monumental. Let’s call it what it is. The love within the family is sugar coating enough.
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