Gayle Swift here, guesting in Lori’s space. She wasn’t ready to take on another adoption expert so soon after the last one, but seeing as how I have strong feelings about Gotcha, as well as ideas on a more attuned approach, I am happy to step in with my own advice.
Dear Abby: Three Reasons to Rethink Gotcha
Abby, you recently responded to a letter from an adoptive parent who wanted to share how she informed her child about his being adopted. Her solution was to celebrate his “Gotcha Day,” the day he joined their family. By making it a party day she hoped to take the sting out of telling him he was adopted (how and when to tell are a whole ‘nother issue).
While the intent of this unfortunate term is positive, the reality is a bit off the mark. It is good that Mom wants to strengthen her relationship with her child and tell him the truth, and you affirmed her celebration of this significant day. But please consider why “Gotcha Day” needs further evaluation.
- First, “Gotcha” focuses on the parental experience instead of the child’s.
- Second, it objectifies the child, like a prized toy that was finally acquired.
- Third, “Gotcha” is often a term used to indicate victory or advantage over another person. Adoption is a life-altering experience for a child. “Gotcha” frames it in negative or depersonalizing language. This is not the best foundation for building a family; it almost certainly was not what this mom intended.
Alternatives to Gotcha
An adjustment in language can help. Some more suitable titles are: Arrival Day, Homecoming, Family Day, Johnny’s Day. They are all better choices because they affirm relationships and center on the child’s experience. Remember there are two sides to his special day: the happy part about joining a permanent, loving family, and the sad part, losing the family to which he was born. Be prepared for your child to feel mixed emotions. His attitude toward this day may evolve over time as he comes to understand how adoption delivered losses along with gains.
Continue reading Dear Abby, We Need to Talk About Gotcha!
But there are a few problems with that.
First of all, he has no direct experience with open adoption, or even plain old adoption, as far as my sleuthing skills reveal.
Second of all, his advice is terrible.
Though he apparently has a big following, Jim Rosemond is new on my radar. I heard of him only because I got a google alert that in his syndicated column, he’d offered advice to a letter writing couple having difficulty with their teen son and his birth mom. This is what we know about their situation:
- The boy is 14.
- Birth mom has been out of the picture, but has gotten to a good place and wants to reestablish contact with “her” son (it’s unknown whether the quote marks were inserted by the letter writer, John Rosemond, or an editor).
- Contact went from phone calls to daytime visits to overnights to a summer vacation.
- Now, the increasingly moody teen wants to live with his birth mom and eat ice cream all day, figuratively speaking.
Sticky situation, for sure.
Continue reading Parenting Expert John Rosemond Wants to Give You Open Adoption Advice
Maybe you’ve already heard about it. People involved in adoption are buzzing about it. It’s a new app called Adoptly, billed as “a better way to adopt.”
It’s already been dubbed The Tinder of Adoption, and as you can imagine, that has not gone over well in online adoption communities (at least not in the ones that I frequent). Swiping for children? Many have a gut response — even a gag response — to that idea. But why? I was curious within myself.
Adoptly is news now because it launched a Kickstarter campaign, including an explanatory video, to bring its app to market. At the time of writing, it has raised about 3% of its target goal of $150,000.
UPDATE: Adoptly’s Kickstarter campaign suspended.
I try to remain open to something unfamiliar, to suspend judgment about it until I’ve had a chance to research it, sit with it, and examine at it from lots of angles. Regarding this adoption app, I did so with my friend Anne Heffron, an adoptee and fellow explorer.
Continue reading How Apt are You to Use this Adoption App?
My daughter told us the other night of a time in middle school when she shared with two teachers her complex feelings about being adopted. Yes, I really love my family, she reported as they nodded sympathetically. But also, she continued, being adopted sometimes sucks.
The sympathetic nodding ended.
Oh, you don’t mean that! one teacher told her. The other tag-teamed: Look where you ended up. Your parents are awesome! (why thank you).
My daughter was mad at the time about her feelings being invalidated, about being told she should feel differently than she feels. She was angry that someone who doesn’t know adoption first hand corrected her about her actual experience.
As far as I can tell, neither of those teachers — one in her 30s and one in her 50s — has a direct connection to adoption. So how are they qualified to speak so authoritatively on it?
You Don’t Have to Be in Adoption to Know Adoption. Duh.
Everyone knows about adoption, right? We see it in the movies and we see it on TV and we see stories about the movies and TV shows in People magazine while we wait at the hair salon or dentist.
Continue reading Adoption on Screen: “This is Us” and “Lion” Give New Focus