Christine Rhyner

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What's So Wrong With Calling It "Gotcha Day!"
2/26/2015 12:00:01 AM by: Christine

When, in a forum of thousands of transracial families I said that I did not see anything wrong with using the term “Gotcha Day” to commemorate the arrival of our children coming home, I received some curious responses like “Gross,” “Icky,” and “SMDH.” (that’s ‘shaking my d—n head.’)
 
One parent I’ll refer to as B., responded in part, “I HATE HATE HATE HATE HATE the term ‘Gotcha Day.’ To me it connotes kidnapping, violence and imprisonment.”
 
Wow. Made me take pause and give considerable thought to just what’s wrong with celebrating the day that each of our children arrived through our front door—November 7th and November 24th, respectively (both of which ironically occurred during National Adoption Month), calling it such.
 
Honesty, I do not remember where we picked up the phrase. But for years we have recognized these anniversaries by giving gifts to our children from their native countries meant to represent their cultures beauty, flavor and craftsmanship. And yes, we have declared “Happy Gotcha Day.”
 
“Gotcha” is an abbreviated form of “Got you.” For, if we didn’t travel across the globe to “get” them what in the world were we doing? We “got” my son in Vietnam during that which was termed by government officials in his birth country as a “Giving and Receiving Ceremony.” They “gave” him to us and we “received” him as our own—our own to love, nurture and bring up.
 
The one who referred to it as “icky” explains, “It’s short for ‘I (the parent) got you,’ which when you think about it can be construed as ‘this is the day I took you away.’”
 
“And?”
 
I do not intend to be glib, but help me understand why this makes sense? Just what was it I was taking my son—a baby up for adoption in a country where adoptions in that country were few and far between--away from?  Might that be an absence of family, an outpouring of love and attention, proper nutrition, medical care, education and opportunity? Or could that be certain death along with four babies from his orphanage that perished from bronchial infections? What about a woman high up in the adoption hierarchy who so valued the innocent lives of her own people that she got rich off of foreigners before being arrested and jailed for selling the most defenseless of human beings? 
 
Some adoptees stated in the thread that it was sad to them to celebrate a day that reminds them that they have not been raised in birth countries by “first families,”—yes, I have been instructed by “B.” that this is the politically correct term we now use for “biological parents.”  I understand that. But contrary to “B’s” announcement that I consider myself “savior” to my child—because I mentioned in my response that my child was already up for adoption and that meant he could very well be adopted by parents overseas—I have never thought of myself as such, rescuing him from abandonment, corruption and illness, or because I thought I could do a great job raising him. I am also well aware it broke his biological parents’ hearts to not be able to keep and raise him. For them I am grateful—though “B” also interprets from my mention of my child as being in need of parents that I am a “first family blamer,” which if she knew anything about me or read any of my blogs she would know is a laughable lie.
 
I will say from the moment I saw his picture I knew he was the child God intended for me and my God put a fierce love and concern within me to bring him home and carry out the plan He had orchestrated for my son’s life.
 
But It doesn’t seem it is the actual “celebration” that is as strongly objected to as is the term, “Gotcha.”
 
“B” pulls an awful lot out of the phrase and my post, and was the loudest & lengthiest in her protestation of my opinion, sending me a screaming email with a font so large to drive home her point it took up my entire computer screen.
 
I imagine “B” never lets her kids play “Duck, Duck, Goose,” because that requires a smack on the head and to be referenced as an “it.” Forget about the classic, old “London Bridge.” Take the key and lock her up? Wow, her child would be yanked right out of any kiddie party where that still might be sung.
 
Yet, “B” and everyone else finding the term disdainful are certainly entitled to their opinions—as am I or you.
 
What is so not Okay is to be part of a group of several thousand where everyone is welcomed, the group is referred to as “diverse,” respect of one another is a criteria yet one person can dominate a thread with refusing to allow someone their right to an opinion. For “B” went on to tell me that I can’t use the term, what I may substitute for it and declare to all that I “stubbornly refuse” (with just one post?) to convert to the group’s “wisdom and life experience”—(excuse me, wasn’t I a part of the group with a whole lot of living and raising kids behind me? And who has the right to say just who is among the wisest or most experienced?).
 
Did I hear more than 6,500 voices offer wisdom and insight? No. Did I hear a "moderator" tell her to back off? That would also be a "No." In fact, I think they rather encouraged her inflammatory, screaming response. Oh, there was one person with enough courage to take on B., but she was quickly singled out and squashed into submission.
 
Have we lost our minds? Since when did the “right to” free speech become the “risk of” free speech? When did we turn into a society that over-intellectualizes and scrutinizes every word and phrase until anything we say surely inflames and degrades someone somewhere on the planet?
 
We all have the right to reject opinions that don’t make sense to us. But what does frustrate me is when a difference of opinion turns into character assassination and others are encouraged to follow suit because one decides hers is the only right opinion. It’s when you are part of something much larger than yourself—over 6,500 more than you in this particular case—yet you dominate, expecting each and every complex, free-thinking part of that picture to use his/her constitutional right to freedom of speech to express your view or suffer your wrath. That should be objectionable to anyone and acutely demonstrates a lack of all the sensitivity claimed to be possessed in the first place. There is something seriously wrong with a “group” that allows this and it is with no regret that I have left this forum.
 
After nearly a month in anxious limbo, a child who almost died (and would have, along with four other babies who contracted the same illness but did not receive proper medical care because they did not have parents on the way for them=$), understandable fear on the part of a foreign government in the aftermath of 9/11, mistreatment by a facilitator who once abandoned a group of us for hours—one with baby in tow and all of us ill-dressed for a chilly night at the China Sea, then again at our hotel with a hastily written note under our door telling us she was flying away to assist with adoptions in another part of Vietnam, who spied on us, intercepted our emails and shamed me for once crying during a heated exchange between a member of our group and the adoption administrator who told us he was going to “cancel the adoptions”—and she wasn’t even there--who served prison time for selling babies, and… four 14-hour bumpy van rides to our son’s orphanage expecting to be given a baby--only to be told “Not today,” yes, GOTCHA couldn’t be more fitting when we walked through our front door and could at long last, breathe. All of us—we parents and our baby, a child who spent over a year inhaling through a nebulizer to get well.  
 
Yes, adoptive parents often go to hell and back to get their children and that does not have to be negated in order to be sensitive to adoptees and what they have been through, though “B” thinks quite the opposite. In fact, she will tell you that being abused during an adoption journey is just the abuser's way of "doing a good job."
 
“Gotcha” has more to do with the often lengthy and arduous journey, the red tape, bureaucracy, hurdles, delays, hope turned to despair and back to hope again, with the giving and taking away that happens with adoptions of children whose fate is uncertain and may be determined on a whim than any disrespect of any kind meant to an adoptee.
 
I am an adoptive parent, unlike some who share their disdain for “Gotcha”—who I discovered have neither adopted nor been adopted. I do care about being sensitive to adoptees—none more than my own kids. I do understand quite well that words can hurt. I published a book all about the words my children and I have been subjected to that have caused pain. But we do not annihilate people for saying things that offend us, particularly in a forum that encourages input from all.
 
I also recognize that in cyberspace we simply cannot fully know one another.
 
Grace, compassion and understanding are so important, but they take more time and thought than does the reactionary flurry of keystrokes. Forgiveness is essential. I forgive “B” for hurling verbal missiles meant to shame and shred. As for me, I can rest in the knowledge that my opinion did not stem from disrespect or disregard for adoptees or to deny any of the trauma or pain they have experienced as such.  In fact, the whole matter inspired me to ask my children, one in his teens and the other a pre-adolescent, their thoughts. Did either find the term offensive? No. Did either want to change the name of that day to something else or ignore it outright? No. But what, exactly, was my daughter’s response?
 
“Mommy, we got you too.”
 
I think we’re leaving out an important part of the equation here when we neglect to realize “Gotcha Day” does not have to mean a selfish “capture” of a child by an adoptive parent who snatches them away, but rather a mutual blessing to both the adopter and the adoptee in that God allows us to “get” each other. But, it takes the wisdom of an eleven year-old to point that out, don’tcha know.
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