Should we celebrate Adoption Day?

I’m the adoptive mother of a 2-year-old daughter. I’m writing to ask about celebrating Adoption Day. I’ve read different angles on this—that it should not be celebrated because it was a traumatic day for the child; that it should be celebrated because the adoptive family is happy to be together; that it should be observed in a more solemn, non-celebratory way, etc. As my daughter approaches the age when she will develop a clearer understanding of being adopted, we are wondering what the contributors on this site think about this question. If it’s relevant, my daughter was born in Korea, was relinquished on the day of her birth, lived in a babies’ home for her first two months, and then with a foster family until we adopted her at 9 months. After talking with other families, we consider her Adoption Day to be the day she was handed over to our custody in Korea. Thanks in advance for your responses.

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5 thoughts on “Should we celebrate Adoption Day?

  1. I appreciate your referring to it as “Adoption Day” and not “Gotcha Day”, which I think is the more common expression.

    To answer your question, I’d like to take a step back and talk about birthdays for adoptees. For those of us from the orphanage here in Lebanon, most of our birthdays are set to prominent Catholic holidays that we were likely born “on or around”. This slight shift was a huge preoccupation of mine when younger; everyone else was sure of the exact time and date of their birth, and I had an approximation. In and of itself this is not such a big deal.

    Later I was astounded to find out that many adoptees shared my hatred for their birthday, and only in looking back does this make sense. The birthday is in and of itself a marker that is erased, changed, altered–officially and unofficially–in order to suit bureaucratic needs and not any concept of “arrival”. And so to promote “Adoption Day” or “Gotcha Day”, which is purely bureaucratic in this sense is, to me, adding insult to injury.

    Furthermore, when i recreate the timeline from the day I was “begotten” into one family to the day I was “gotten” (ugh) by another, it reveals a devastatingly sad story of likely procurement, not abandonment; I was not “chosen” as much as provided, and thus “gotcha” rings very trite and very hollow. There is no other use of this word in English except in a pejorative way, or else in a way that linguistically implies a trick or a sending up of some kind.

    And so the whole concept of “Gotcha Day” saddens me infinitely. For again it celebrates not so much the arrival of the child, but the action of the parents. It is an active verb that is done to a passive child, and this reminder is painful. This is very different from saying you were “born”, or “birthed”, which implies an action that the child is fundamentally part of. And thus the loathsome analogies such as “paper pregnancy” and the like.

    It fundamentally reduces something very complex and multilayered into a cartoon parody; it forces something private (especially to a young child–I remember not wanting anyone to know about my adoption when I was younger) into a public sphere that is not always welcoming of such a fact (the first question I was asked in school was: “Why are you brown?”).

    I’m glad it wasn’t around when I was young; I don’t know that I’d be able to forgive my adoptive parents such a thing.

  2. My family celebrated this every year until it became evident it was not appreciated.

    As a small child I enjoyed the cake, special dinner, and attention, but later, when I understood what it signified, it only made me uncomfortable — we are reminded daily by society how different we are, and then we are reminded often by our parents how we were “chosen” — and being transracial, I knew deep in my heart that being different and “special” did not feel good. I was already done with my arrival day about the time I went to elementary school, but it took a couple more years for it to finally and thankfully disappear.

    Focusing on my entry into their lives made THEM feel special, and they wanted to celebrate THEIR good feelings. The air was pregnant with expectation hinging on my reaction and expression. I think they should change the name to “be grateful” day.

    I didn’t want more made out of my specialness, it was already something self-evident in our different skin that I had to constantly explain. Instead of focusing on my specialness, I wanted all focus to disappear. I wanted to be as nondescript as all other people were. And so I feigned indifference until it became anti-climactic for my mother to even bother, which was probably welcome by my non-adopted siblings who didn’t appreciate how special I was, either.

    That day, my arrival day (thank GOD it didn’t have that unfortunate “gotcha” label back then – which, come to think of it, is actually more accurate and honest though certainly icky feeling), was thus the day in which all my conflicted feelings about being a poor orphan and not knowing my true birth date or name or remembering my mother’s face or being a racial minority or not blending in with my family, and the dirty little secret adoptees never honestly talk about with their adoptive parents – that they feel bought and paid for, and my own sadness for not having any memories of my former life, etc., that is normally suppressed on a daily basis, due to its observation, celebration and focus, had nowhere comfortable to hide. On that day, adoption became an issue that I was forced, even more than usual, to smile about.

    Whether it should be observed in a celebratory way or a solemn way seems like a question limited by adoptive parent needs to mark their own experience. I question whether it should be observed AT ALL.

    Like Daniel, I was relieved to find out other adoptees don’t like family holidays, and especially birthdays. They are a stark reminder of what we don’t have that everyone else does, and of our adoptive parents desires for us, them, our families, to play as if our relationships are the same as everyone else’s. When we know they are not. So you adoptive parents can’t win for losing, because normal family holidays are a reminder how different (abnormal) we are, and specialized events surrounding our adoption are a reminder how different we are.

    As an adult, I think this year I’ll light a candle for the woman who bore me and lost me. I’m celebrating Thanksgiving day today, so that’s as good a time as any. Maybe you should do that instead. In fact, maybe every day should be adoption day and it should be for adoptive parents to light a candle so they don’t forget the equal measure of sorrow felt somewhere else by some unknown woman.

    This may sound like harsh words, but that day is significant not just for the adopting parents.

  3. This mother’s question seems genuinely aimed to take the question seriously (and I know I’m answering three years later, perhaps at a time when the daughter has begun to develop that clearer idea about option). Yet I still want to point to the language of the question. Whether to celebrate adoption day is something that has “angles” but of the ones mentioned, the daughter’s point of view seems not brought up. No doubt, this begins from the assumption that at two years old she does not have a clear idea of adoption yet (who determines this? What if she does?), but (1) who will be providing that clear idea about adoption if not her adoptive parents, and (2) at what point would these parents begin asking their daughter how she feels about an adoption day celebration or not?

    By adopting, one inherits a bad situation, and so the difficulty or problems that come up as a result may tend to get swept under the carpet in a barrage of justifications (by adults) that children have no way to counteract. It’s unfair that a child should have to deal with the weird situation of not having a known, concrete birthday, for instance—that one’s Adoption Day means something simply different than other children’s days of arrival into the world. I tend to be of the opinion that where problems are concerned, when parents treat them as problems, then children more readily experience them as problems. My parents—rather, my father—occasionally would fret to me about the fact of my adoption, which (as I said to him) I only thought about when he brought it up. But waiting for the child to bring it up risks too much, especially when we do not forget who has the power in the house (parents, not children). To bring the question up at all risks making the question into a massive issue, but that’s the terrible obligation one takes on by accepting the bad situation of adoption.

    In stating “after talking with other families,” I can only wonder if the children of those other families got consulted (separately from their parents, if the child even felt comfortable telling the truth, &c). Over and over, one really feels almost the necessary logic of never telling a child about her adoption—if, “racially”, you can get away with it. So that the parents will simply have to live with the constant dramatic irony of knowing the child is misinformed about believing who her parents really are. But even from a pragmatic standpoint, the risks associated with the truth “coming out” seem so far-reaching that it must surely be just as logically necessary to disclose the fact as early as possible.

    Ultimately, what this all pushes up against, seems a desire on the part of parents to construe the bad situation of adoption as a good one—this makes the claim a hypocrisy, rather than just an immorality. If adoptive parents would simply admit, “Yes, we did a grossly selfish thing,” then this would at least spare some portion of the traumatizing effects of adoption. (The same goes for those who produce their own children—instead of foisting off on children a demand that they be grateful for existence, parents might more justly admit, “Okay, fine. I did it. I didn’t ask you. Now, can we try to make this mess work out?” and if the answer is “no,” then they should let the child go. I don’t ignore the difficulties this would entail … for the child, but currently some do run away and suffer the effects of homelessness because there are no other options, so I’m not sure if objections to this proposal really have any teeth.)

    To use a (to readily available) biblical example, the real original sin consists not of Eve and Adam’s fall in the garden, but their embodiment out of nothing by their creator. Creators act immorally when they bring new people into the world without asking permission (of those people), but that immorality transmutes into hypocrisy when they try to construe that immorality as goodness. Worse still, they convert hypocrisy into tyranny when they start demanding gratitude from the new person for that hypocritically “justified” act. All of this applies to all parents, but becomes that much more exacerbated when a parent resorts to the bad situation of adoption.

    To approach the question of whether or not to celebrate Adoption Day in light of that tyranny, or hypocrisy, or immorality—pick which standpoint you want to operate from—should help to inform how to proceed. Or to ask this in a way that may seem less hopeless or harsh maybe, what does it mean to love someone if you do not give them the freedom to leave you? If love supposedly is the factor in all of this that makes the adopting (or reproducing) impulse okay, then why is the autonomy the freewill, the self-determination each parent supposedly bequeathed to each new human being thwarted at the very, very least by asking her, “What do you want?”

  4. Like much as concerns adoption, there is a lot to glean from the animal realm and pet adoption. This term is regularly used for when Fluffy or Tiger or Lassie “came home”. That people bridge this into human adoption shows, yet again, our “non-human” status in their eyes.

Adoptees, what do you think? We welcome your replies!

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