Gotcha Day, Fly Day, Homecoming or Forever Family Day is a day to celebrate the arrival of your child into his or her family. Some families celebrate the actual day their child was put into their arms, others celebrate the day they legally became theirs.
Emme's Gotcha Day 2008 / Could I look any happier?
Why don't some families celebrate?
"I think that my mom thought it would make me feel different from others so she didn't have a celebration." LG
When I was adopted in the 1970's the prevailing school of thought was to assimilate your adopted child and not to make them feel different. It is also important to understand many families existed isolated from other adopted families. They simply didn't think of celebrating the day. Therefore, Gotcha Day, was not widely celebrated.
Today some families don't celebrate because they are concerned about upsetting their adopted children while others feel that it is unnecessary, for many of the same reasons as my parent's generation.
Gotcha Day really only applies to families who adopt older babies and children. Families who are present at their adopted child's birth or receive custody very soon after their birth just celebrate their birthdays.
Ultimately, the choice to celebrate is up to each family. Each family knows what is best for their family and children.
Why is it popular today for families to celebrate?
"...I feel like the day she was placed in our arms was a day we will never forget! We normally celebrate with family and close friends nothing too formal but just a day that she will know that it is HER day!" Allyson
Adult Adoptees frequently comment when asked about their experiences growing up that they wished they could speak openly about their adoptions but felt like they could not for fear of upsetting their parents or seeming ungrateful. Based on generations of adoptees who grew up feeling isolated, ashamed or unable to share their feelings with those they trusted and loved most, todays families are advised to seek out other families with adopted children, they are educated and offered support, they are told to celebrate their child's culture and heritage and most importantly to have an open dialog with their children.
Because of this, many of todays families are much more open with their children. Attitudes regarding adoption have changed for the positive. Gotcha Day is one way families can celebrate their child and help them to understand what being adopted means. What better way to provide a safe and loving opportunity for a child to ask questions or to hear the story of their arrival into their forever family.
What are some ways we can celebrate our child's special day?
[Gotcha Day]"...is about celebrating and be thankful for [each other.]" Leah
I asked several families how they celebrate their child's Gotcha Day. Here are some ideas:
- Family only dinner (Older children get to pick what they want or where they would like to go. Eating traditional food of the country of their child's birth is also popular.)
- Special outing (trip to the park, zoo, museum, aquarium...)
- Watching videos, looking at albums, and/or recounting the story of their journey home.
- Small gift (This was divided, some families stressed that it wasn't about gift giving but spending the day as a family others felt that a small meaningful gift added to the day. For children from other countries, a gift from their birth country is an opportunity to share in and learn more about their cultural heritage.)
- A special cake or treat is popular.
- Family photo to mark the day
- For all you scrap bookers out there -- make a scrapbook page to memorialize your day spent together as a family. Add to it every year.
- The first Gotcha Day: Have family and friends contribute a picture and write a few words to the child about what they love about them or how they have touched their lives. Compile into a special album or photo book to be looked at every year.
- For families with biological and adopted children -- make the focus of the day about celebrating family -- so no one feels left out.
I am afraid by celebrating this day I may upset my child.
I can only speak from my personal experience. If you feel your child is not emotionally capable of handling the acknowledgment of their Gotcha Day then trust your instincts. Just remember that is OK for them to express sorrow. As parents it is difficult to know that you can't take away your child's sorrow. Don't read their sadness as rejection. It is not about YOU! It is a difficult concept for a child to process. You may not be able to take away their sorrow but you can provide an opportunity for them to express themselves without judgment.
What if my child show no interest in celebrating their Gotcha Day?
All children go through phases! There could be many reasons why they may say that they don't want to celebrate. This is may be an opportunity to sit down and talk to your child. My thought would be that you stick to your guns, especially if it has become a family tradition. Tell them it is their day and they can choose what they want to do (within reason and as a family.) If they don't want to make a big deal of it -- tone it down -- but still make it about family. You may find the next year they are interested in it again.
3 boys and a Princess
Adoption is no easy topic to discuss with your child. There is certainly no one way to go about it! You know your child best. Your Adoption Agency and Social Worker are also a great resource if you need information and support. Please let me know if you feel differently or have anything to add to or share. I welcome your comments.