Gotcha Day, as it is exampled by uber white and excited American adopters, can be a very eye opening and thought provoking experience.
Among the many posts and videos others have directed my attention to, there is one blog/video that is head and shoulders above the rest in terms of me asking, WHAT are these people thinking as they are doing what they're doing?!?
This blog/video that was brought to my attention, was made public by an AMom who very proudly wanted to show others what took place on her big Guatemalan Gotcha Day. In words and in voice this excited mother lets anyone and everyone know who visits her page specific details about that child, including his name and general details, like names of adults in his life... names a child-predator can use, at another time and place, in order to catch the young boy's attention and earn the boy's trust.
Child safety issues aside, what's most disturbing about the video is the captured look, (his facial expression and body language) the viewer can see, as the very young newcomer to America gets introduced to and greeted by dozens of blond haired fair skinned adults and kids, all claiming to be "family and friends".
Since the boy looks very much like a very young Guatemalan child, one has to wonder just how many words he may have understood at the time of video capture, as he stood, alone in his own Gotcha Day/adoption experience, bombarded by new faces, names, bodies, smells, greeting signs, balloons and gifts from "family and friends".
With this image and example in mind, I am asking PAPs preparing for Gotcha Day to please, PLEASE remember, Gotcha Day is an overwhelming stressful day for the child who has already been through more trials, traumas and variations of denial than any new parent can think of, or dare to imagine for oneself, let alone a young child.
On Gotcha Day, that child, the one the new APs are eager to celebrate, is not just having his or her first ride on a plane or first fun free pass through customs and airport security. That child, who may or may not speak or understand some English, is having a day of major change, upheaval and transformation... his stress hormones are surging as his old world collides into a new world filled with infinite unknowns. This combustion silently takes place as he sits, stands and absorbs all that's coming in and going out of complete strangers in a land that is unfamiliar, strange, and new. With such a stressful event, it only makes sense that it will take years before that child will be able to understand and digest what it means to be adopted by a foreigner, and what it takes to make Gotcha Day what it is for the foreign born orphan-child put in his first new American home.
The changes an adopted orphan has to make and go through, (over the first few hours, days, months and years post orphanage-life) make the word "enormous" both insignificant and small in definition and relation to the developmental task at hand.
So, for all you happy, eager and especially excited APs preparing for the return and arrival of your new child from Guatemala, Haiti, Ethiopia, Russia, China... or any other sending country found in Adoptionland... PLEASE THINK about what your scared little new-comer will be thinking, smelling, feeling and needing after an exhausting and stress-filled day of travel... travel to a foreign place, filled with foreigners... a place where all that is strange is to be called family and home. [In fact, try to imagine if you had to uproot your own adult life, and start all over again, in a country you know very little about, a country where every smell is different and every face is a reminder that your are surrounded by strangers who know little to nothing about you; no one you see is either friend or family....]
THINK about the way in which familiarity breeds comfort. Think about all the different ways life in America is different from the orphan's mother-land; try to see American living as it is seen and experienced by a child whose life has been ordered, limited and minimized in ways most parents have never experienced or thought much about, themselves.
Think about the value of calm, safe, familiar and quiet, and how these basic needs must come before the many exciting firsts that child will be seeing, touching, hearing, smelling, tasting, and experiencing as a new American (and not a stray child expected to return and live in his old familiar home, the orphanage.)
Your new child does not need or require big crowds, lots of cheers, and a car full of balloons and toys (and a new bed in the shape of a race-car, waiting in your new room, complete with TV and carpeting). Your new child is most likely not familiar with or accustomed to any of these things. So if you want Gotcha Day to be remembered as a good exciting positive event, do the day without the overwhelming number of "new" items on his intake list. Reduce information overload as much as you can. Remember, new adoptive parent, the unfamiliar can be terrifying and very stressful to a child who has already experienced various forms of deprivation and trauma, and is unsure how new change is going to unfold.
In other words, don't do what this Afamily did: Mateo's Homecoming. It's a classic example of sensory/information overload, one that requires an immediate shut-down.