Last year during November, the term “Gotcha Day” got a lot of attention during NAAM. I’m accustomed to hearing the term being criticized. On most of the groups I belong to, any time it’s used, there are usually comments from adoptees of ‘ugh’ or ‘gross’ in replying to it. But last November during National Adoption Awareness Month, it was actually promoted by some. People that had never heard of it had it explained to them and they laughed and thought it was cute. (ugh!)
This November, I’m already seeing the same thing. There is everything from “Gotcha Day”, “Born In My Heart Not Under It” and “Miraculously My Own” books, pins, charms and plaques. It seems that anything that will stand still and let you slap on a cutesy phrase promoting adoption is a popular item to sell.
The problem is that most adoptees don’t see any of this as very cute.
It is medically impossible for me to grow in a person’s heart. Please do not lie to children who already, even in the best of circumstances, must make sense of a complex situation.
I am not my adoptive parents “own”. I have two sets of families (technically, I have four). Please do not lay claim to an adoptee. Adoptees are perceptive about how adoptive parents feel toward the adoptee’s biological family. If the adoptive parents are sending messages of ownership, adoptees may find it difficult to talk with the adoptive parents about their search and/or communication with their biological family. Many times adoptees must compartmentalize the adoptive family and keep them ‘in the dark’ about their life events involving their biological family.
I do not want to focus on the one day my adoptive parents “got” me. I, like a lot of others, think of being tricked when I hear this term – ex: someone makes another person believe something that isn’t true to get a reaction out of them and continues pushing the idea until they finally declare “gotcha!” Additionally, there is something about the term “gotcha day” that implies success in the acquisition and some adoptees feel like nothing more than another ‘thing’ attained when these words are used. It seems to celebrate the adoptive parent perspective and ignores the loss of others.
For the original parents, it was the day of loss. This day that is being celebrated by others is a day that the original parents and extended family will have lost a family member – definitely nothing to celebrate.
And for the adoptee that is going from his/her original family to a new family, it may feel like a “what the hell just happened day.” And that is a feeling that may linger long after the “Gotcha Day” celebration cake is gone.
Since this November is National Adoptees Articulate Month, I hope some adoptees will share their perspectives of “gotcha day” or any other common adoption sayings.