I always envisioned this day to be a joyful day set aside each year just for our little family. We would go somewhere fun, make special foods, and remember the happiness we felt the day our little guy became ours. What I didn't expect was my son absolutely HATING "Gotcha Day." On his 2nd Gotcha Day, he was 2 1/2 years old, he screamed at me "NO GOTCHA DAY!" I offered balloons, his favorite foods, going out for ice cream, the whole works. He refused. Maybe he just doesn't understand, I thought. Maybe next year will be better.
His 3rd Gotcha Day, I was prepared. I called it "Ford day." I told him about it in my excited voice (the one I reserve for telling the kids good news). This time, it was different. He didn't just scream at me, he gave me 2 good weeks of irrational, angry, unpredictable behavior. The kind where you wonder what kind of demon crawled inside your precious boy and took over.
The 4th time around, I finally got it. This day was for us, it wasn't for him. For him, it was remembrance of a day that he lost his biological family. The day he lost that part of him that he can't quite verbalize yet. As he grew older, he was able to tell me that "Ford day" made him sad. And it broke my heart. Even though we have a great relationship with his birthmother, he still feels it. That part of his gut that misses something he never had. That feeling of separation from someone his heart was once tied to. His little brain has questions and hurt that he can't quite put into words yet. But I get it.
There is no adoption without loss. Even with an open adoption, even with a great counselor, even with the best parents on the planet, there is loss. Each child will deal with it differently, but if we truly want to love our children well, we have to try to understand the parts of their story that led them to our family. Walking that journey with them will help form the unbreakable bond that we strive for. I'd much rather have THAT than a silly Gotcha Day celebration*.
*Please note, I'm not making the point that Gotcha days are bad, this was just part of our journey.