Good Luck, Bad Luck, Who Knows?

With St Patrick’s Day upon us, I know this weekend is about all things Irish, but I want to share a Chinese proverb.

Once there was a poor farmer. He was able to grow just enough to feed his family. One day his horse ran away.

“BAD LUCK!” the neighbors cried. “Now you won’t be able to work the fields.”

The farmer shrugged. “Good luck, bad luck — who knows?”

good luck, clover, and shamrocks
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Dear Abby, We Need to Talk About Gotcha!

gayle swift on dear abby adoptionGayle 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.

dear abby gotcha

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Parenting Expert John Rosemond Wants to Give You Open Adoption Advice

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.

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Open adoption & adoptive parenting