Adoption Daddy Blog Family Kid Milestones

Gotcha Day: The Most Emotional Day in an Adoption

Gotcha Day is a term that I had never heard before starting the adoption process.  Even when we started to research the adoption process and started to see the term it wasn’t immediately apparent what exactly it was.  Fortunately, the wonder of Google allowed me to quickly discover what exactly it was.

Gotcha Day is the day that an orphan finally gets to meet their new adopted family.

As you can imagine it is quite a big deal for everyone involved.  Lots of pictures are taken, sometimes videos, and memories are made that will never be forgotten.  Because many of the children don’t know their actual birthday for sure, Gotcha Day is often the day that many families celebrate instead.  It makes sense to me since it is the day that they joined your family, just like with your biological kids.

April 10th is now a day that I will never forget because that was our Gotcha Day with our son Ty.

The tension of Gotcha Day started the night before for us because we were told he was likely already in the city at another hotel.  In China, you have to come to the provincial capital to file the paperwork for the adoption, but the city he lived in was six hours away so they came the night before to make the day a little less stressful for Ty.  So there we were sitting in our hotel room knowing he was so close, yet still having to wait, after a year of waiting.

When we found out he was coming the night before, we were hopeful that we would get him early in the day, but unfortunately it would have to wait until the afternoon.  So we ate a nervous breakfast, and walked aimlessly around this lonely city of five million people as the minutes crawled by.  We tried to talk about anything other than Ty, but as you might imagine he was sort of on our mind at that moment.

I couldn’t help but start to wonder how he was going to react to the whole thing.  I know that we are good parents, and that we would love him as much as our other kids, and always try and give him the best of everything we possibly could, but how long would it take for him to feel and accept that?  What if he hated us for years to come and those were the first things he learned to say to us was that he wasn’t happy with us?

Then I started to wonder about how I would react to the whole thing.  Would I actually come to love him as much as my other kids?  Would I be able to give him everything he needs?  Not just physically or medically, but emotionally?  I am gone fairly often for work, and sometimes for long periods of time.  I already feel bad for the times I have to leave my kids, and he would need as much stability in his life as possible.

Stability, the reason that everyone joins the military right?  Holy crap, what was I thinking bringing a kid who needs as much stability in his life as possible into a military family, and on top of that an aircrew member whose job description literally includes leaving home and family on a very regular basis to fly all over the world for days, weeks, and even months at a time.

That is my problem when I have a lot of time to think, which we did in the hours leading up to his arrival.  I started to question my decisions.  I start to look past my generally optimistic desires and start to look for all of the reasons that something is a terrible idea.  A lot of us do this with all kinds of decisions and choices we make in life.  I guess you could call it a form of buyer’s remorse, only I hadn’t bought anything, and I didn’t even have him yet.

Finally, after one of the longest mornings of my life, made dramatically better by sharing it with my dear wife, we went up to our hotel room to anxiously await his arrival.

Our guide showed up at our room shortly thereafter to wait with us until the people from the orphanage called to say they had arrived.  If you go to YouTube there are tons of videos of Gotcha Days that you can watch, but be warned they will make you cry.  Oftentimes they involve a group of people all receiving their child at the same general time.  This is because there are often multiple kids from a province, or even from the same orphanage, getting a family on the same day so the families all wait together.

Not us.

We were literally in the middle of nowhere China with nobody else from our agency, in a city our agency hadn’t even sent someone to in years.  Fortunately, there was a family from another agency there at the same time who became an essential lifeline for us the day before this, and in the ensuing week.  I am so grateful for their presence, and the companionship and friendship they provided at this momentous time.

Sorry, there is just so much to say about this journey that it is easy to digress.  As I mentioned, Gotcha Day often takes place in a hotel ballroom or conference room where many families wait together for their child to arrive.  Because it was just us we were able to meet him in our hotel room which made the whole thing a lot more personal from my perspective.  So there we sat with our guide waiting for her phone to ring to say he was finally in the building.

After what seemed like an eternity, the phone did ring and she headed downstairs with our camera to bring them up to the room.  At this time I turned on my GoPro that was placed inside the room to get a little more of our perspective.  Crash Aunt and I couldn’t sit down or stop moving for what seemed like an hour but was probably more like five minutes.  We just nervously walked around the room talking just so that are nerves wouldn’t be accentuated by silence.  Then came the knock on the door.

We went to open it and there stood an adorable little man wearing two sweat suits (more on this later), and awesome little overalls.  As I type this I am actually getting speechless because I don’t know how to put into words what I was thinking or even what I saw.  Based on the video I know he just kind of stared at us for a minute, then came in and touched hands with my wife before turning around and walking back out.

In a lot of ways I kind of feel like that has been symbolic of exactly how the last three and a half weeks have been.  He gets closer and does better, and then walks away a little bit.  It’s okay though because I knew this would happen, and the getting closer is much more than the walking away.

I won’t give you a play by play of what happened after that because you can see that in the video below.  What you can’t see are my emotions in the first few minutes of him joining our family.  As much as I would like to put them into words for you, I don’t know that I can.  To help you understand, I would say I felt exactly the same way the first time I saw all of my other children.

For those first few minutes there was nothing else happening in the world.  I wasn’t worried about money, or work, or politics, or any of the other stressors I have in my life.  And just like the births of all of my other kids, all of those worries I had in the time leading up to it were blocked from my mind and all I could do was focus on this perfect little man that was changing our lives forever.

As anyone who understands the feeling that I am talking about can tell you, those concerns ultimately work their way back into your mind, but God has this incredible way of allowing you to see Heaven if only for a moment as you have these incredible life changing experiences.  It doesn’t have to be the birth/adoption of a child either.  It could be a wedding, or seeing a dear loved one finally recover from a sickness, or finding peace after a long struggle.  It is something I have also experienced when I have been standing on top of a remote mountain top gazing over the wonders of the world, that we are so quick to ignore and overlook, and also in deep valleys where the soft sound of a small stream speaks peace to your soul.

You don’t have to be religious to understand the feeling I am talking about, you just have to be willing to open your heart enough to experience it, and experiencing it is the only way to ever really understand what I am talking about.

I hope I don’t make anyone feel left out or excluded by saying that because it is by no means an exclusive club.  Anyone can experience the feeling that I am talking about if they are willing to do it.  You just have to be willing to get past your fears and inhibitions, and open yourself up to a truly moving and memorable experience.

I had originally intended to write about the rest of our day, but I think this is as good a place as any to stop.  I hope that reading these posts is as therapeutic as writing them because I am having the most amazing time writing them.

I think the reason I am so anxious to share this experience is because I am equally anxious to hear about similar experiences of other people to feel that deep emotional connection with even strangers.  We just don’t do that very often these days, much to our detriment.  So if you have something you would like to share I would love to hear about it in the comments.  If it is something more personal then please feel free to use the Contact Us button at the top of the page.

I know this blog is generally lighthearted and fun, and I promise, there will be plenty of that coming in the future, but I hope you enjoy a little more personal side as well.

I originally intended to edit this video, but I decided to just let the whole thing roll for your enjoyment.  We actually meet him around the 1:30 mark, and the rest is just us getting acquainted.


Daddy Blog Kid Milestones

Child Like Determination

Child-like Determination

Yesterday was Crash Kid #2’s first piano recital. Luckily there were only 3 people playing at the recital so it was fast and painless. It was exactly the way you’d want a piano recital. Friendly faces in the audience. A chance for your child to perform in front of people and the pressure that goes along with that, but the parents aren’t itching to leave as they heard the 10th child hunting and pecking their way through Yankee Doodle.

I’ll admit that I was a little worried for my daughter. She hadn’t practiced nearly enough and the “Be Our Guest” piece was pretty advanced for 4.5 months of piano lessons. The reality was that she only wanted to practice the songs she knew well. So, she never practiced “Be Our Guest” very much because she was still learning it. I think most of us can relate. We like to take on the things we know we can do and often set aside the hard things for later.

I have to say that in my mind’s eye, I’d already pictured what my daughter would look like if she failed at the song. I could see the despair in her eyes as she looked at me and wondered what she should do if she got off track performing the song. It was heart breaking for me to even think about it.

Much to my surprise and delight, she showed a beautiful determination as she slogged through “Be Our Guest.” From a piano performing perspective it was pretty awful. Her timing was off. She slowly and methodically pecked out the song with only a few parts playing on the right time so you could recognize the song. From a father perspective, it was brilliant.

I was so proud of Crash Kid #2’s determination to pluck her way through the song and do her best. I couldn’t have been more proud. Many kids would have shrunk at the idea of performing that song. She taught me an amazing lesson in determination yesterday. I couldn’t have been more proud.

Daddy Blog Family Japan Life Kid Milestones

Starting School in Another Country

These are the weeks that everyone posts their pictures of their kids starting school, and all the moms either talk about how they held back their tears, or had a party to celebrate, or both.  As excited as I am for my kids to get back to school, because I know how much they enjoy it, I’ve just never gotten super into it.

However, this year is a little different than in the past because we are now living in a different country.  As I mentioned in my last post my kids were dealing with a fair amount of stress because of the move, but just as I predicted, going back to school has already had a very good impact.

She makes the weirdest smiles when we have her pose.
She makes the weirdest smiles when we have her pose.

Crash Niece #1 is attending the school on base, which means for all intents and purposes it is just an American school.  There are some differences, but for the most part it is the same.  The big new thing for her is that she has a male teacher for the first time and I think it was a little intimidating at first.  Fortunately, he seems to be a great teacher that has already set her at ease by telling jokes and referring to himself as the “bald fat man.”  I look forward to watching her really grow as he has said he likes to push his kids, and that is exactly what I want.

I am generally anti-uniform, but man he is a cute little guy.
I am generally anti-uniform, but man he is a cute little guy.

Crash Nephew, on the other hand, is now attending a Japanese pre-school with mostly Japanese kids.  His teacher does speak English, but at our request she will not be using it often with him.  This is one of those rare opportunities to really immerse him in a different culture and allow him to grow in ways that you simply could not do in America.  To be honest I was more nervous than him the first couple of days because he has a tendency to just get super shy when he is in a new situation that he is uncertain about (I wonder where he gets that from?).

Fortunately, he is braver than his Dad and already seems to be comfortable in his new environment.  When Crash Aunt went to pick him up after the first day he said, “Mom, they all speak Spanish (not sure why he gets the two confused.  Maybe too much Diego?), but don’t worry Mom, I speak it too.”  Just to be clear he does not speak Japanese, but I was so proud of him for not being afraid and realizing that he can still be one of them.  It will be so fun to watch him actually learn Japanese this year.

No matter how old a kid is, or where they go to school, it is such an amazing time of their life.  As I think back on my school years elementary school was where I had the most fun, and where I really feel like I became the person that I am today.  I didn’t necessarily learn the most or anything like that, but I had some incredibly influential teachers that changed me forever.

Crash Dad and I shared one of those teachers by the name of Mrs. Woodson for fifth grade at Ellis Elementary in Arlington, Texas.  I recently came across her again on Facebook and was touched to see how many of her students were quick to credit her with many of the successes in their lives.  I know she is in my top five most influential teachers in my life and I am forever indebted to her for that.

So as we send our kids back to school this week and celebrate the freedom it affords us as parents, don’t forget the teachers whose work is just beginning this year and remember to give them the support they need and deserve.  You never know when your kid may have the teacher that will alter their life forever.

Daddy Blog Kid Milestones

None of the Amazing Things I Have Seen Compare to How Amazing Kids Are

First let me introduce myself so you understand where I’m coming from.  As Crash Uncle I am Crash Dad’s favorite brother, and the absolute coolest uncle in the family.  I have an amazing wife and three kids that are the most important thing in life.  I am also a navigator for the US Air Force on the C-130 Hercules which allows me to see some amazing things.  Because of that job I often have to leave home for days or weeks at a time, and this weekend, was one of those instances.

While I was away Crash Aunt, my wife, decided that Crash Niece, my daughter, needed to learn to ride her bike without training wheels. We had tried previously to no avail, but she was determined that it was time.  So she ripped the training wheels off and let her loose on the street, and what do you know…

…she rode all by herself the very first time.

Kids grow too dang fast.
Kids grow too dang fast.

First Bike Ride

Fortunately they were kind enough to make a video of the first attempt so that I could participate from a distance.  Though it is no replacement for being there in person, I will take what I can get.  It was just amazing to me how quickly kids learn new things. Now she did fall a couple of times yesterday trying to learn how to turn, but she kept getting up and trying which is all a parent really wants.

I came home today and the first thing my daughter did when she got home from school was to take me outside and show me how good she was.  Once again I was amazed at how much better she had gotten since even yesterday.  She even started to challenge herself by riding through the gutter and onto the grass, followed by riding along the edge of the gutter without going into the grass or into the gutter.  She did all of that by herself because she was trying to make it more fun, and I couldn’t be prouder.

So many kids these days don’t know how to have fun outside, but I am so thrilled that my kids are not that way.  Sometimes I wonder if I am doing it right with my kids, but I knew we were doing something right when she told me something while riding today.  She said, “Dad, I don’t like cars they are yucky, I just want to ride my bike everywhere cause it’s healthy.”