For Jarod and me, the days that our daughters came into our family are two of the happiest days of our lives. We feel incredibly blessed and lucky to be able to have our girls in our family, and so each year, we celebrate the day they were in our arms for good. Many adoptive families refer to this as “Gotcha Day,” but that moniker has never felt right to me. We didn’t “get” anything or anyone; we became a family together with our children. So we call it Family Day, and we celebrate each day that we became family in a new way. On September 27, 2010, we came together as a family of three with Zinashi, and on June 25, 2012, we came together as a family of four with Elvie. Each year we will celebrate these days in addition to birthdays and other holidays. These days are days to celebrate being a family, and in particular to celebrate each of our daughters and all the good they have brought to our lives.
Our way of celebration is slowly evolving. We’ve only celebrated one so far, and it was fairly low key. For Zinashi’s day, we have our Meskel bonfire the night before, and so marking the day we took her in our arms may pale in comparison. But our goal is simply to make each of our daughters feel special, to talk about their stories, and to affirm that we love them to bits. It is important to us that our children know how special they are to us and how much joy we feel in being their parents. Family Day is a day set aside just for that.
The first Family Day when we celebrate Elvie won’t come around for a little while, but our second Family Day celebrating Zinashi is quickly approaching. We are going to spend as much time together as a family that day, but we have no big plans. Jarod will hopefully be able to take the day off work, and we will allow Zinashi to set our course for the day, within reason. At age five, her requests are usually doable and don’t require a ton of planning ahead. She prefers things like going to the nearby playground and eating breakfast at the bakery. I’m pretty sure she’ll choose injera for dinner and want to order root beer to drink. There may be ice cream. We also choose a modest gift to commemorate the occasion. Many families of international adoptees choose cultural gifts, but I prefer to give her something she really wants. A cultural item may fit the bill, and this year I will likely order an Ethiopian children’s book she’s been wanting, but because the aim of the day is to make her feel special, if in future years there’s something that she wants more than a cultural item, I will buy that.
For the first couple of years we celebrate Elvie’s entrance into our family, she probably won’t have many preferences. So just as with Zinashi, we will spend the day as a family, and even when she can’t yet understand all we’re saying, we’ll talk about the memories of when we heard about her and when we first met her and took her in our arms for good. We’ll tailor our day to meet her needs and respect her preferences, which may mean that we spend the day at home. I am excited to see what Elvie’s first Family Day holds, as there will be so many changes for her between now and then. I hope that she is as happy as she is today, that she is healthy and moving forward rapidly. I hope that there is something I can get her that will make her happier than a deflated mylar balloon (her current favorite toy), but if that’s what she wants, I will deliver.
We feel blessed and lucky that Zinashi and Elvie are part of our lives. Both girls have brought such joy to us, and we are truly the lucky ones to be able to be called their parents. We hope that, on Family Day, we are able to convey to each of them anew the feelings we felt the day we met them and that we still feel every day. We hope that we can, in some small way, give them back some of the joy they have given to us. Our lives would be so much less without them, and we hope they know that on Family Days and every day of the year.