I Was Thinking…
This week is a big week at our house. This week includes Adoption Day! Thursday would have been our court date 13 years ago and Saturday the day we arrived home. Big stuff!
There are so many schools of thought on what to do in regards to what to call this day. Many, mostly adult adoptees, have shared that the name "Gotcha Day" is NOT something they are comfortable with. As I have read about it and discussed it with some, they shared with me that it makes them feel like a thing, so to speak. They also feel it has a scary connotation to it. Like you are sneaking up on someone and you "got" or you "grab" them. I can really see their side of this situation. When you are a child with a history of abandonment, neglect, abuse, trauma, fear and confusion, I can see that your tendencies toward misunderstanding the positive intentions of this name would be great!. The reality is that my own daughter cried all the way home...from Russia! Many years later she told us that the orphanage workers had told her to be good because we were witches and if she was naughty we would eat her. The insight of these adult adoptees rang true for our situation so I changed my use of the lingo. I wanted to choose the more neutral words that couldn't be misconstrued in any way. Now we refer to our court day as ADOPTION DAY.
As for what to do, whether to celebrate or not, is another debate. There are so many variables to consider. Early on we wanted to celebrate because we were happy that our daughters had joined our family. We also wanted them to feel special. The first year we had a party and invited family and friends. To be honest, it did NOT pan out to REALLY be in the best interest of the girls. Sure they got gifts and were happy about that, but the anxiety they endured was horrible. We had fall out behavior from that party for days and days. The next two or three years we celebrated, but with just our family. The six kids, my husband, and myself.
The fifth year home was a reality check! As I finished painting the picture of our evening of celebrating our 5th Adoption Day, which entailed dinner at a local Chinese restaurant we frequented, then home for a Disney movie and bed, my oldest daughter looked me square in the eye and asked, "and then we have to go back to Russia?" Needless to say, I WAS FLOORED! Had she wondered this every year? I realized she was walking around waiting for "the other shoe to drop" and now we wanted her to celebrate it. Not a wonder we had fall out!
As our sixth Adoption Day grew near, I was contemplating about what to do. Celebrate? Not Celebrate? Then one day we were running errands and I had the two younger girls in the car with me. They were 9 and 10 by now. I remember it well. We were sitting at a gas station and I had just climbed back in after starting the gas filling. They had been chatting and both turned forward with their attention towards me. The oldest of the two was the first to breach the subject. She just put it out there. She asked if we HAD to celebrate Adoption Day. Needless to say, I was a little thrown off...I hadn't even known that they had realized it was coming up. When I didn't answer right away, she jumped back in and went on to say that they really appreciated us celebrating, but what they really wanted was to be like everyone else. They said they just want to be Mannings. They told me that celebrating made them feel different. What was I going to say? I made sure they were sure, of course. It was actually a beautiful moment! I was so glad that they could tell me how they felt, that I could so easily help them feel "normal" and that they wanted to be a Manning. My questioning was over; I knew exactly what to do.
So we no longer mark their Adoption day with a special event. It IS and ALWAYS will be a special day for our family, but we honor their request. However, I will always celebrate the day they joined our family in my heart! I give them extra hugs and just love them up a bit more than normal on their day. I am pretty sure they know why and take it all in!
I guess it all comes back to meeting your child where THEY are, meeting THEIR needs. Not getting caught in doing what WE think is the "right" way, or what others are doing. Truly loving them the way THEY need to be loved!