Yes, we celebrate Gotcha Day. But, it’s complicated.

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Gotcha day is the day our two adopted kids became our kids. It’s not the “official adoption day” because that gets a little bit muddy. We could celebrate the day that China recognized our kids’ adoption or we could celebrate the day that the United States Consulate recognized our kids’ adoptions or we could celebrate the day our kids became – officially – United States Citizens or we could celebrate the day the state of Texas recognized our adoptions. See? Complicated.

Yes, we celebrate Gotcha Day. But, it's complicated.

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To say our adoptions were complicated is a massive understatement. They're complicated like make your head spin need a flow chart complicated. But yes, we celebrate. And, if you think celebrate is the wrong word, I get where you're coming from but it's the word we're going to use for now because it suits our family.

New around here? Read our family's adoption story.

We celebrate the day we met our adopted children. Our adoption agency referred to that day as “Gotcha Day” AKA, the day I got you. The China adoption experience is surreal. You prepare, you plan, you paperwork. And then on the designated day, you meet your child and that child goes home with you…home being your hotel room in your child’s home province. The next day, you appear in court and finish (most of) the paperwork.

Yes we celebrate Gotcha Day but it's complicated
This was me with my son Kyle about an hour after we met.

I like to say a China mom’s paperwork is never done because…well, mostly because it is never done.

But, Gotcha Day is Gotcha Day. It’s our day to celebrate the anniversary of a child becoming…well, our child.

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We’ve adopted from China twice, so we have two gotcha days: August 11th and August 27th. No matter where in this world I go and no matter how old I get to be, I will always take a pause on those days and remember the significance of a child becoming our child.

We do a pretty mild celebration. Each year we’ve done things a little bit differently. Sometimes we get a cake from the bakery or go out to eat at a restaurant. Gotcha Days that have fallen on holidays have sometimes been paired up with a family outing. A few years ago, we were at Volcano Bay, Universal Studios Orlando’s very cool water park for Kyle’s gotcha day…try explaining to a seven-year-old that this was kind of a happy coincidence and not to expect quite that level of celebration each year. 

Since our kids' days fall during the summer, they sometimes coincide with other things we're doing and we kind of add on to that. Last year, Zack's day coincided with our trip to the Little League World Series, which was a once in a lifetime thing for us. Or maybe not. Maybe we'll go back one day. But, we try to be clear that extra special things we might be doing are just coincidence and they're getting old enough to understand that.

Two adopted kids at Little League World Series
In 2019, our trip to the Little League World Series coincided with Zack's adoption day. Happy coincidence!

We use the day to talk about adoption in whatever way our kids want to talk about it, although adoption is a frequent topic of conversation at our house just about any time. Sometimes, we look at pictures of our two trips to China or look at their adoption videos we made. Sometimes, my kids ask questions about their birth parents or their caregivers before us. That’s frustrating for us because we know very little and our lack of answers are starting to prove frustrating for our kids. It’s the cards we drew and we’re muddling through that one as best we can.

Yes, we celebrate Gotcha Day. But, it's complicated.
My kids have two separate mini celebrations and we let them pick how they want to celebrate, or if they do.

I completely get that there are people out there who think celebrating Gotcha Day is wrong or that the term Gotcha Day is offensive.

Karen Moline is an adoptive mom and author of a book titled Get Rid of Gotcha. I have not read the book but it was quoted by Huffington Post as saying this:

“‘Gotcha’ is my typical response when I’ve squashed a bug, caught a ball just before it would have rolled under the sofa, or managed to reach a roll of toilet paper on the top shelf at the store. It’s a silly, slangy word…I find the use of ‘gotcha’ to describe the act of adoption both astonishing and offensive. Aside from being parent-centered (‘C’mere, little orphan, I gotcha now!’) it smacks of acquiring a possession, not welcoming a new person into your life… ‘“

While I’m not interested in going around and around about semantics with Moline or anyone else, her description doesn’t apply to how I use the term “gotcha” or “I got you.” It’s not even in the same galaxy with my feelings on what it was like to meet my children for the first time and to know that from that day on, I was their mom.

Yes, we celebrate Gotcha Day. But, it's complicated.
My boys make me incredibly happy – most of the time. As long as they want to celebrate being in our family, I'm here for it. If/when they don't, we won't. It's really pretty simple.

We don’t refer to “gotcha day” as such, by the way, although I don’t find the term to be offensive. We call our little celebratory days “Kyle Day” and “Zack Day” and my kids love their special day. If ever they don’t, we certainly won’t force it upon them. It will be a day that I’ll never forget but if their feelings of loss, hurt or abandonment overshadow the day where we have cupcakes and maybe give the kid of the day a little bit of extra special treatment then we'll pivot. It's not that hard to get your mind around, really. 

I’m not sure why we chose Kyle Day and Zack Day over Gotcha Day…we just fell into those terms and they stuck. I think it might have something to do with the fact that we have two Gotcha Days in the same month. We started off with Gotcha Day and just fell in to Kyle Day and Zack Day. August is typically a busy month for us and this just seems simpler. We like simple.

What anyone else thinks about what we call our celebrations or the fact that we celebrate? I don’t care.

While its easy to see Gotcha Day as a beginning, it is also an ending. My kids are happy to celebrate the day they entered our family and don’t seem to dwell on the loss that is at the root of adoption. I mean, think about it. Adoptive parents are overjoyed to receive their children that came to them by adoption but there is another side of the coin. A side where someone had to make a heartbreaking decision that she’ll always grieve over. We don’t think our celebrating adoption as minimizing the child’s loss or the birth parent’s loss, but I understand there are other people out there that feel it’s inappropriate to celebrate.

Yes, we celebrate Gotcha Day. But, it's complicated.

I say they can make those decisions about what days to celebrate within their own families. For now, we celebrate.

Google “gotcha day offensive” and you’ll find dozens of articles criticizing the choice to celebrate adoptions as well as using the term gotcha. Some people seem to be okay with celebrations as long as the “G word” isn’t used and others seems to find any celebrations whatsoever to be inappropriate. Tweak your Google search just a little and look for “gotcha day celebration” and you'll find printables, suggestions for how to through an epic party and gift ideas.

We're doing us. Anything more lavish would feel wrong, be impractical and come on…it's August and we're over-scheduled anyway. Cake and maybe excusing a kid from a chore for a day feels right.

We are raising our kids as honestly as we can. We are not raising them to see their adoptions as tragedies nor are we presenting ourselves as saviors who made their lives better. We try to keep our lives as simple as possible but adoption is complicated sometimes.

Our kids love their little celebration days. If they one day decide they don’t, we’ll shift gears. If they grow to see their adoption days as something to mourn and not something to celebrate, we’ll stand by them and support them and love them as best we can. That’s about all any parent can do, right?

Yes we celebrate Gotcha Day but its complicated
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  1. I’ve been reading your blog for a while now and wanted to comment, finally. Happy Gotcha/Kyle/Zack/Happy Family Day! It doesn’t matter what it’s called; it’s so wonderful that you acknowledge the special days that mean so much to your family. That’s all that matters, so don’t worry about what anyone else thinks. It’s great!!

  2. I just found your blog and found so much clarity in your posts. Our daughter is adopted, from Hong Kong at 7 years of age, she’s now almost 11. You’re right, adoption is a minefield of happiness and grief and what’s right for one child may not be for the other and no one should judge. Our daughter grieves every day for the mother who left her as a baby and the abandonment has shaped her personality and life. We sometimes feel so awful that it was a loss that brought her to us but feel it’s really important to celebrate too, as she’s had little to celebrate prior to joining us. We mark the day she arrived in Australia, mainly because it was a leap forward for us all into our new family and also because she remembers it clearly. She calls it her anniversary. We keep it simple also, she doesn’t cope well with extravagance and it’s not our way. A cake, dinner out, or a movie together. What’s most important is that she feels loved and knows we won’t ever ask her to forget her tummy mummy who made the hardest choice of all.

  3. Pulease. Those people who are offended are just making a mountain out of a molehill. Gotcha can ALSO be in Celebration of receiving a great gift, and not just at hitting mosquitoes.

    And if you always think about the “loss” of the family giving up the adoptee, you’d never celebrate anything joyful with the adoptee!! How tragic and sad would that be?!?!!

    The original mother/family made their decision to give baby up. You made the decision to adopt baby. Life goes on. People should NOT be a party pooper and take away the joy the adoptee deserves during all of his/her celebrations in life. Happy Gotcha Day to adoptees!

  4. There is so much to this from an adoptee point of view that other member of the “triad” refuse to see or acknowledge. My adoptive mom always recognized this gotcha day, and it was fine. Then I grew up. It doesn’t matter how much you love your kids, it’s a loss. And for your children, the loss of a whole culture. When I grew into my 40’s I started to realize what adoption meant, for others it can be younger or older. I don’t particularly take offense to this phrase specifically, I volunteer at an animal shelter so I hear that constantly, but some do, and losing my family of origin is never a day to celebrate, that is for the parents only and my parents are and we’re narcissists. I realize this was written some time ago so hopefully you have educated yourself on what it’s like for adoptees as a whole and not be blinded by the love you have for your children 🙂

    1. Thanks for coming here to express your viewpoint. I appreciate you reading and sharing your thoughts. I do mention adoption being about loss in this article. I think this looks different for everyone. As you point out, it’s been a minute since I wrote this but the “hopefully you’ve educated yourself” is a little holier than thou. Your comment is about your experience and you shouldn’t assume that all adoptees see their life circumstances through the same lens you do.

      In 2023, one of my kids is all about his adoption day and would probably celebrate it with cake every week if he could. One has more complicated feelings about it. I realize it’s a complicated topic but it’s not a one size fits all. Your feelings about your adoption are valid but coming here to try and assign them to all adoptees? You don’t speak for everyone. Only you.