This week, with Benjamin at school and Danelle at work during the day (I go to work when she gets home), I am getting to spend lots of time with Cava and not only learning about him but also re-learning how to parent (as what may have worked for Benjamin does not work for Cava).
He loves his "Masha i Medved" DVD and constantly wants to watch it. Now, I limit the amount of television he watches because he could watch certain shows all day long (Spiderman, Gerald McBoing Boing, Batman). I understand his attachment to Masha and the Bear because it's the one DVD he understands everything they are saying. But, as cute as Masha is, there's only so much of it I can take. Cava, however, decides he is going to throw a tantrum whenever he doesn't get his way. Now, if he simply goes and sulks under his blankets, I let it go. If, however, he decides to storm around the house and try to take out his frustrations on any object he comes across, then I won't put up with it.
Since I understand that part of his anger is frustration at not being understood or understanding so much, I pick him up, sit him on my lap, and rock him back and forth as I talk to him soothingly. One thing I repeat to him is that I love him as I rub his back. This generally calms him down. After I've calmed him down, I have him look me in the eyes and I tell him that we don't act like that in this house. He may not understand the words but by the firmness of my tone he gets the gist.
One thing I am definitely having to learn is patience and understanding. This can only make me a better parent. I constantly have to assess the best way to communicate with Cava in a way that he can understand me.
Since he is limited by language, I have taught him how to play two games: Memory and, his new favorite, Candyland. (We're still working on Connect 4). Candyland works well since it helps me teach him about colors and numbers and because it involves repetition of saying both. (Two green. You have two green. Move two green). I highly recommend for those adopting older children who don't speak the language, getting these two games
Years ago, I worked with our local adult literacy group. When I worked with grown-ups and was teaching them how to read, whenever they got tired of reading the assigned books, I would go to the kids section of the library and get a Dr. Seuss book. It's amazing how they would light up reading the simple, rhyming sentences of his books. Since Cava is not one to stay still long, I opted out of the longer Horton Hears a Who, and picked the one that was the favorite of all my adult students - Green Eggs and Ham. Even though Cava didn't understand all of the words (he did get ones like house and fox), he smiled, giggled, and even began to repeat some of the lines back to me as I was reading them to him. That is another great thing about Green Eggs and Ham that helped my adult students, it repeats a lot.
While we're riding in the car, just as with the DVD, Cava wants to constantly hear his "Masha i Medved" CD. Like the DVD, after awhile, I get tired of hearing even Masha's cute little voice. This morning, I put in a CD that Benjamin loved when he was little. One thing Benjamin and Cava have in common - the only veggies they like are named Bob and Larry. Despite never having heard it before, it did not take Cava long before he began singing along with Larry on "Where Is My Hairbrush?" Of course I had to play that song again. And again. And again. But I didn't mind and sang along with them at the top of our off-key voices. As with Candyland and Green Eggs and Ham, this silly song involved repetition.
Since Cava is a very active 8 year old boy, I make sure to get him outside for plenty of exercise and playtime (even if it is only 35 degrees, which is nothing having been in Ukraine in December). It is amazing how, yesterday, when it was 37 degrees, we had the whole park to ourselves.
He probably thinks all we do is go to a different playground every day.
At home, we go outside and kick a soccer ball or, his new favorite, hit the birdie back and forth with our badminton rackets.
If he hits the birdie back and I miss it, he goes, "YES!" But if he misses the birdie, he teasingly shakes the racket at me and I shake mine back.
Sometimes he'll stop, hold the racket like a guitar, start jamming and singing in a very loud voice. I have no clue what he's singing, but I can't help but laugh and be entertained by this little show off. He was definitely class clown back at his boarding school. As well as being someone who loves to pose for photos.
Still, as I mentioned earlier, it's not all smiles and giggles. Sometimes he throws tantrums or has meltdowns, and, at other times, a sadness comes over him. Once, while he and Benjamin were watching "Cars," Cava got up and walked out. When he didn't come back right away, I looked in their room and saw Cava sitting on the bed. I went in, sat on the bed right up close to him, and without saying a word, just put my arm around him. We sat there for a few moments and then, he got up from the bed, and returned to watching the DVD with Benjamin.
When we went to go pick Benjamin up from school, Yulia Helm came over and began to talk to Cava in Russian. Cava looked so happy talking with her and being understood. I must admit I felt a real twinge of jealousy. There's nothing I would like more than to have a conversation with Cava just as I do with Benjamin. They talked about many different things, but during the course of their talk she asked him if he liked it here in America or if he wanted to go back to Ukraine. He answered the latter. When she asked him why, he said he wouldn't tell her. Though I understood that, having only been here since Saturday, he would be homesick for all that he has known in his eight years, it still saddened me to hear those words. I choked up repeating it to Danelle when I spoke to her on the phone. I could tell from her silence that she was saddened too. As any parent will tell you, we want our children to be happy. I know I've told Benjamin that if God asked me if I could either have my dream of being a published writer granted or that He would make Benjamin's dream (whether that be in science or computers or whatever) that I would choose to have Benjamin realize his dream than my own. Benjamin was shocked to hear this. I told him, "Wait until you have children of your own."
I can't imagine how extremely frustrating it must be for an 8 year old boy struggling to understand and be understood in a foreign country and a foreign language. When I was his age, I was an introverted, shy kid. I try to imagine my 8 year old self being in a new country, with a new family, where I didn't know what they or anyone else was saying, and they didn't understand me. I look at Cava and I'm amazed at how much better he is at coping with all of this than I would have been.
My goal as his Papa is to make this transition for him to have the least amount of stress that I can. Like with Benjamin, I love Cava and want him to know that so he can feel safe. Yes, this is his first week here and I know that we will continue to have plenty of bumps in the road ahead, but through a lot of prayer, patience, and love we will all become closer as a new and improved family.