Going, Gotcha, Gone

This is going to be a hard post. It's one I've been avoiding, but the time has finally come for full disclosure. I post in the full knowledge that both of my readers will probably run away in horror. But the truth must out.

We visited our best friends yesterday. My husband and I first met this couple at National Airport in September 1989 on the day our sons arrived from Korea. Since that day, our friendship has grown, and is now especially poignant, as the wife and mom, my dearest friend, passed away in 2005. Her family is still struggling with her loss, as I and all her friends are.

That first year we spoke on the phone a couple of times, and saw each other at several adoption agency events. As the anniversary of arrival day approached, we made plans to get together at their house.

Now, up to that time I had no name for the day our son arrived. I really had very few opinions about anything related to adoption, given that our pre-adoption preparation focused on types of adoption - domestic, international, open - and things to know about raising adopted children. My contact with families that had adopted from Korea was minimal - neighbors who are now good friends adopted their son a year and half before we adopted ours, and were the only people I had direct contact with on a regular basis. And there was no internet as we know it today - no email, forums, blogs, discussion lists.

Suffice it to say that I knew nothing.

So when we were invited for "Gotcha Day," I thought little about it. Although I can only blame myself for not drawing the connection between "getting a child" and "getting property," I can also say that property was nowhere near my thoughts when "Gotcha Day" entered our family vocabulary - and certainly not my friend's. It was a just a way to name the day our children arrived. And that is what we thought of it for many years, until I began to hear and read just how offensive it is to many first mothers, adopted individuals, and adoptive parents.

Hey, not so fast, you may be saying. It was your responsibility to be prepared, to have read, spoken with others, learned. You can't just walk away from this with a casual "whoops, I didn't know any better." You need to put this right.

Well, I am trying. We no longer call this day "Gotcha Day" - we've settled, more or less, on "Arrival Day" And I'm writing here in the hope that a family on the verge of choosing "Gotcha Day" to mark their child's arrival will choose another name. For yes indeed, if I had it to do over again, we'd have called this day something else from the start.

Which brings me to the point of this sordid story. As an adoptive parent, I can honestly say that I have done the best I can. And sometimes my best has fallen short, no way to get around it. But part of doing my best means continually listening, being sensitive to what the main participants in this experience - the adoptees and first mothers and fathers - are saying. And if they say that "Gotcha Day" has got to go, it's gone.

Comments

Gwen said…
I seriously do not think you should beat yourself up over this! Like you said you did the best you could. I always try to remember that I did the best I could with what I knew at the time. We all make mistakes throughout parenting and life in general.

To me you should just be proud of yourself for recognizing the need for change. Good Job Mom!
speakingformyself said…
Sordid? Not at all.

Courageous, yes. The courage it takes to allow one's self to be shaped by new information in a discerning but open way...to really take it in, even when it challenges our very foundation, is immense.

I find your blog and your journey only inspirational ... in a way that trascends adoption subject matter.

So much of this information is heavy stuff to bear as it first comes at any triad member ... so, I hope you will do something nice for yourself today.
Sue said…
I don't think I would have known that it was uncool and insulting to call it Gotcha Day before reading adult adoptee blogs. Unfortunately it is the most commonly used term for it in these parts so when I was trying to explain the significance of the day to one of my daughter's 4 yo adoptee friends, I had to translate it to Gotcha Day and the light bulb went on for her. It's had a different name each year for us. On the day she arrived, it was just OMG I have to go to the airport. The next year it was Landing Day. This year it was Ohana Day because she has been watching Lilo and Stitch and relating to the Hawaiian term for family and insists that I say the word ohana whenever I have to leave the house without her so she will know I am coming back. Next year it might just be Family Day. But I actually think Arrival Day is perfect because it says clearly what it is to others.
suz said…
vpgyeah, i gotcha (ha ha). i have always found it highly offensive. it reeks of possessiveness, commoditizing children, just outright tacky.
Mama Nabi said…
No, I didn't run away with horror. Still here. :-D

I'd rather have made a mistake, recognize it as a mistake, and correct it the best I can than to be blind to the error of that mistake.

You still rock.
InMyHeart said…
Thank you for your kind understanding. I wish that there was some way for my son's family to read this and for a seed of understanding to be planted in their heart and soul.
spyderkl said…
Hi, Third Mom. I'm an adoptive parent as well, and I agree with you about "Gotcha Day". The whole connotation of the word "gotcha" makes my skin crawl.

If it helps, we call our daughter's placement day our
Family Birthday - because that's the day our family started. Which has its own problematic connotations too, I'm sure.
spyderkl said…
I wanted to say too - at least you care enough to learn and change things. That means an awful lot.
MomEtc. said…
Hi Third Mom - I'm with you about not particularly liking the term "gotcha day". It always struck me as having a grabby tone to it. We call it "metcha day."

And, like you, while I certainly don't know everything about adoption, I'm always open to learning and to modifying my views. The opinions of birthmoms and tras are very important to me because they give me an indication about how my daughter and her birthfamily may feel.
Margie said…
Thanks, everyone, for your comments, all of which show that this really is an issue we a-parents need to take seriously - and also that we can recover from our mistakes when we do!
papa2hapa said…
I know Gotcha Day is a way of making meaning of the same things that birth parents have on birthdays. But, I hope APs don't celebrate Gotcha Days as others celebrate birthdays.

I think my objection to the turn of phrase isn't that it denotes a sense of property to be owned, but rather, it diminishes into playful language a very significant experience for adoptees.
Margie said…
papa2hapa - The significance of that day is so loaded with happiness for a-parents that we don't always remember that the seriousness of the event must be respected. Thanks for putting that into really clear perspective.
AdoptAuthor said…
Not just the seriousness, but also the sadness.

A generation ago it was "stylish" to tell adoptees they were special because they were "chosen." But as adoptees grew up, they came to realize that they were "chosen" only after having been - rejected (that's how it felt to them, not saying that's what was done.)

This is EAXCTLY the same thing.

You are joyous abut your "acquistition." But at some point, every adoptee comes to know and feel a deep sense of loss.

I have heard of adoptees who refuse to cekebrate birthdays...etc.

Marge - did you stop in 06 when you posted this and then go back to using it - maybe because your son liked it??? Cause I remembr so vividly you telling me you used the term when we met at Donadlson, last Oct. It stuck in my mind cause it was the first tiem I ever heard it.

I;ll see ya' at the AAC - Cleveland/April!! :-)

Mirah

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