Gotcha Day, revisited

Two days ago, as I flew to New Mexico to pick up our son from residential treatment, my mind was overwhelmed with thoughts, hopes and fears.  Would we be reduced yet again to the “walking on eggshells” state of existence that we experienced for the nearly 7 years before making the monumental decision to seek residential therapeutic care for Ari?  Or would the past 16 months of treatment, maturation, and extensive support be enough to reunite our family and ease us into a state of peaceful and loving coexistence that we always sought?

But as soon as I arrived at the house and was greeted by this face, my concerns faded away and I simply felt happy.


We spent the next several hours alternating between hugging and packing up his belongings.  He wasn’t feeling well and was grateful when we packed up the rental car for the day and headed out to the movies.  As could be expected, he was a bundle of nerves – feeling excited to be coming home, but sad to leave his friends and the staff that supported his progress while he was there.  After a rocky night’s sleep, we woke early, got some breakfast and headed back to the house to finish packing and to experience his much anticipated “discharge party.”

The tradition of the discharge party brings together the children who live together and special staff to share memories of the child who will be “discharged” and heading home.  A special item is passed around, and each person rubs in special thoughts and sentiments.  Ari’s therapist (who will be GREATLY missed) selected the perfect object for Ari – a small squishy of Squirt from Finding Nemo.  It was especially meaningful because it represents how easy it is for someone to have a detour in life (like when Squirt lost his way in the strong current) but with a lot of effort and perseverance, it is possible to regain control and get back on track.  Our Squirt is now filled with courage, faith, trust, happiness, and good friendships, along with some stories about Ari being a natural leader, a hard worker, and the greeting committee for all new children and staff.

It was impossible for me to maintain my composure while everyone shared stories about Ari’s kind demeanor.  One girl expressed how easy it was for Ari to be empathetic towards others, something she, herself, is working on.   After a good cry, I truly appreciated the comic relief when his roommate simply proclaimed  “you are the best kid in this whole place.”

Once the ceremony was complete, Ari got to select two staff members who would feed him a special treat.

rainbow donut, Rebel Donuts

The most creative donuts I have ever seen (Rebel Donuts, Albuquerque)

I use the term “feeding” loosely – since it was reminiscent of a wedding, where the newlyweds smash the cake into one another’s faces…


Discharge day is certainly something to celebrate.  While most adoptive families celebrate “Gotcha Day,” the day that they welcome their new child into their lives, I think that our family needs to celebrate something new – the day that Ari comes home from treatment.

The emotions of the day and his nasty cold left him wrecked…although I couldn’t keep the smile off his face once we had landed and our car was loaded and ready to head home.

Packed and ready to head HOME

Packed and ready to head HOME

Once he got home, he rushed upstairs to hug the dogs, and then climbed into the hammock in his room to rest.  Today, despite being happy to be home, the germs have gotten the best of him and he has been droopy and lethargic – and of course, I have been doting on him – doing what I do best.

I can’t think of a better way to welcome home a sick boy than with a batch of mama’s Jewish penicillin (turned into Avoglemono).  My kitchen is filled with love…and hope for a brighter future and happier family. Wish us luck!


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12 Responses to Gotcha Day, revisited

  1. jen says:

    Beautiful! I do wish you luck, and love, and all the best. Hope Ari is able to find friends and a support network at home!

  2. beth says:

    this is so beautiful. i’m so happy you have ari home and he feels so comfortable and happy. that is occasion for celebration for sure. happy to have ari back in the hood. hugs

    • Michelle Stern says:

      Thanks Beth – and I’ll be sure to let you know if our new Challah tradition works out (and we will share the goods, of course!). I am truly grateful for your support over the years. It helps to have someone who really understands!

  3. Beth says:

    So happy for all of you!!!

    • Michelle Stern says:

      Thanks Beth – I am hoping that this means that we can have smoother family vacations in the future (and avoid the meltdown like we had with you in Montana years ago!) xoxoxox

  4. Sarah says:

    XOXO 🙂

  5. Jen says:

    OY!! WOW he looks so happy…I hope this is a fantastic summer for all of you. xo PS I will be in that pool!

  6. Jane says:

    I am so happy to see your family reunited again and the huge smiles on Ari’s face. What a beautiful story of his journey and the friends he made along the way. Enjoy the welcome home celebrations and have a wonderful, happy summer!! xoxoxo

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