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.