Siblings don't always get along.
Anyone who has a brother or sister knows that.
I remember that when my sister and I were younger, our parents won a cruise. When they told us about it, my sister and I begged them to take us, too. Being smarter than us, they agreed to take us on one condition: that we did not fight between that day and the day of the cruise (which was months away). Needless to say, we didn't make it past that day, if not that hour, before we were arguing. "Sorry," they told us, "guess you two will have to stay home." We begged for a second chance, but they could have given us lots of "second" chances and we wouldn't have gone with them. And we grew up very close. Like all siblings, we had our ups and downs, but through both, we had and, continue to have, each other.
For as long as I can remember, Benjamin has wanted a sibling. Every birthday and Christmas, a sibling was at the top of his list. Now that he has one, he's learning what exactly it means to be an older brother: the good and the bad. Sometimes he's awesome with Cava and at other times - not so much. But it's difficult because Cava, who's never had a sibling, is having to learn to navigate being in a new family and all that being in a family entails; this is not an easy feat.
One of the hardest things for Cava is understanding what it means to have and be a brother. He's grown up viewing other kids as competition and he struggles with this. If Benjamin tries to show him something, Cava often responds with, "I don't wanna'." Or if a song comes on the radio that Benjamin likes, Cava will get indignant and gripe, "Why do we have to hear that song again?" Even if it's a song we haven't heard in a long time. While Cava can be affectionate with Danelle and I, he often balks at giving Benjamin a hug or a kiss. Being affectionate, Benjamin's feelings get hurt at being rejected by this sibling he's always wanted.
After Cava was being particularly hurtful to Benjamin, I took Cava aside to have a talk with him. What came out was that Cava was extremely jealous of Benjamin, not only of what all Benjamin has that he doesn't, or what Benjamin's done that he hasn't, but, most importantly, because Benjamin was born to us and he wasn't. "Why couldn't I?" he asked angrily.
"I wish you were, Cava," I replied. "While we can't change that, I am very thankful to God that you are part of our family now." Then I reiterated to him that it was Benjamin who was first to say he wanted to adopt Cava. I also asked him, "Did you ever stop to think that Benjamin could be jealous of you, too?"
He looked at me in that way I can see that this thought had not only never occurred to him but totally surprised him.
So I explained, "Think, Cava, before you became a part of our family, Benjamin had Mommy and I to himself. Now he has to share us. Often times, Mommy spends more time with you than she does Benjamin."
It's not always easy with Cava and for Cava.
Awhile back, I read a novel called Room by Emma Donoghue. The story is told from the point of view of the five year old narrator Jack. His mom was kidnapped by a man when she was 16 and she ends up pregnant and having his child. They have spent all of Jack's life in a small room and it's all he's known. When they end up getting rescued, the outside world becomes overwhelming and frightening to Jack, so much so he only wants to go back to that room.
As I read this heartbreaking story, I immediately thought of Cava.
In many ways, he's like Jack. Cava's spent his whole life in a small, isolated world where he has had no choices to make. Everything was decided for him and was extremely regimented. Now that he has so many choices, he is often overwhelmed. He has so many choices and he wants all of them. At the grocery store, he will try to put items into the cart with, "I love this. It's my favorite!" (even foods that he doesn't like to eat).
Developmentally, Cava is a toddler. So he not only wants everything, he wants everything his way. So when he doesn't get his way, he voices his displeasure. This isn't easy to take, since he can go on and on and on about something or make things unpleasant for the rest of us. I tend to let the kids take turns telling me if they want to hear a certain song on the radio or my iPod, but Cava will often grouse and be a real pill when it's not his turn.
Cava's having to understand that just because something isn't to his liking or doesn't go his way, he shouldn't make others miserable because of his actions and behavior. He's also learning that all actions have consequences (good and bad) and that if he makes good choices, then good things happen, but if he makes bad choices then he gets punished (such as going to the corner, not going somewhere that he wants to go or being unable to watch TV).
Kids who've grown up in foreign orphanages often dream of having a family and coming to America. Cava had that dream come true, but now he's realizing that it's not exactly what he imagined. There are new rules and a new family that he has to navigate. The dream is now replaced by reality. This can be very hard for him.
But there are days and moments when I hear Benjamin and Cava laughing together, enjoying each other's company, or they are both singing along to a song in the backseat of the car and, like any parent, it makes me happy. Once, when Benjamin spent the night at a friend's house, Cava was sad the whole time and he kept repeating, "I miss Benjamin."
Whenever Benjamin gets frustrated with his new younger brother, I remind him, "You have to understand that Cava does love you in his own way. I know this isn't easy for you, but it will just take time." And it will.
Being a brother, as well as part of a family, is part of a long process for Cava. It's not going to come over night or come easily, but, in the end, it will be worth it because our family will be the better for it.