I was reading a thread on a Facebook post recently about the terms that adoptees/adoptive parents/birth parents don’t like. Things like “real mom” were pretty universally disliked. But there were others that I was surprised to find were so controversial. The term “biological mom” was disliked by lots of birth mothers, because they felt that was such a cold, scientific term and they felt like much more. I even saw that “birth mom” was disliked by many because birth mothers (for lack of a better term….I don’t know what to use any more!) felt that was a description of one event and not what they really meant in their children’s lives, even if they had placed them for adoption. But the one I’ve been thinking about the most is how many families didn’t like the term “gotcha day”, which refers to either the day the adoptive families took their new child home, or the day the adoption was finalized. I was surprised this was so controversial. Both those days are certainly monumental days in our lives, and though we don’t do a full on celebration for either day, we certainly recognize it and maybe get a special dessert or commemorate it in some small way. We do need to be sensitive about how the child feels about that day because it may be a very bittersweet day for them. For us, a dream came true. For them, a dream fell apart. It marks the point of no return for their biological family. It marks a day of finalization when it became sure reality that they would no longer be an official part of their biological family. And no amount of showering of love and gifts can replace that loss. So, of course, we need to be sensitive. I’ve heard of some families that ask their adopted child every year how they feel about it and if it is something they want to celebrate. Some years, they are sad and don’t want to celebrate, and some years, they do.
That said, one of my favorite things in our house—one of the few things I would try to save in a house fire, is the thing that commemorates the finalization of our adoption. This surfboard. We threw a big party when everything was done, and I wanted something that everyone could sign. I didn’t want to do a mat for a picture frame. I wanted something more personal. As we thought about it, we came up with the idea of a surfboard. John loves to surf and we love the ocean and we live fifteen blocks from the beautiful blue Pacific. And on top of that, when we chose D’s name, the one thing that sealed it for us was that D meant “son of the sea”. Our house is an old beach cottage style and it just seemed like the perfect fit on all levels. A friend of ours went through his boards and gave one to use that his kids used to use. It was signed and dated by the surfboard maker and had been built in the 70’s. It was perfect. Well, not yet. It was perfect later after everyone had written a special note to D on the night of this perfect party. This board hangs in his room, and I often stop and read the signatures and the messages and remember what an incredible time that was. After so many heartbreaks, this dream had finally come true. The adoption finalized when he was sixteen months old, and each birthday since, we have stood it up, and marked his height in red up the center of the board, so it’s meaning is growing each new year. There are expressions of love and sweet messages from kids on there, and there are things like "Scharpf Forever" and "remember your mother is always right" and clever bits of advice, often about surfing or being happy. But I think my favorite one is a simple phrase...."And then there were 3." It makes me tear up every time I read it. I think that summed up that day best of all. One of these pictures shows a photo behind the board and a teddy bear. The photo was taken the day we finalized as we celebrated....where else? On the beach, and on a surfboard. The bear is wearing the onesie I made for our little Isaac who was returned back to his birth father after five months. Many thought that onesie belonged to D, but he never wore it. It's been on that bear since the day Isaac left. I thought it fitting he be there to help us celebrate. It makes that statement even more meaningful and powerful to me. And then there were 3.
To read more about some of the memories mentioned in this post, see these links:
Our failed adoption:
What kind of adoption language to use or not use: