Friday, September 13, 2013
While I was putting the breakfast bowls and dishes in the dishwasher this morning, Cava was watching Clifford on PBS Kids. Next thing I knew, his hand was on my arm and I heard him quietly say, "Papa."
"I wish I had a friend to play with," he told me and it was all I could do not to cry. Here was this solitary little boy admitting, for the first time, that he wanted a friend. It made me sad and hopeful all at the same time. And I saw this moment as a huge step for him because Cava had never expressed this desire before. Having grown up in orphanages, he has grown up with the idea of other children as competition or, sadly, as abusers who hit and kicked him because he was small. When he got here, that fear continued and he has always been apprehensive and aloof from other kids.
One day, when Benjamin was over at a friend's house, I took Cava to our local library. This is one of his favorite places to go and we always end up with a tote bag full of books for him to read. On this particular day, the library was having a special program for kids. The Schiele Museum was bringing over some of their animals to talk about and show kids. Cava was thrilled.
After we checked out, I told him to go on to the room where they were having this program to get us a seat while I took our bag full of books out to the car. When I got back inside, I discovered Cava was sitting in the very back of the room away from all the other children. "Cava, why don't you go sit down there on the floor with all the other kids so you can see better?" I suggested, but he dismissed this with, "No, I don't wanna'."
"What if I sit with you?"
"Okay," he said and he smiled. We sat on the floor but I noticed he sat on his heels as if he were going to bolt at any moment. I also saw that he nervously fidgeted with his hands the whole time. Even with me there, he was still frightened of being amidst this small sea of kids.
During this past summer, we have had kids over all the time and we took numerous day trips. They were always Benjamin's friends and, though Benjamin and his friends, especially Megan, tried to include Cava, he tended to remain apart. Or, he'd play for awhile, then return to his solitary activities of word searches or his puzzles. It was only on our last trip to Hands On, that I noticed a change in Cava and that he not only interacted with Benjamin, Megan, and Madison more but also with other kids that he didn't know. This was a big deal to me since he'd never done this.
Then he began second grade.
The first day he was not the least bit apprehensive or fearful. He walked in confidently, which was something new for him.
Over the last three weeks, he has slowly begun to tell me the names of kids that he's playing with. This is all amazing progress for him, so when he told me he wished he had a friend to play with, I encouraged him with, "You're starting to make friends, Cava, and that's a big deal. You're learning their names and playing with them at recess. We'll invite them to your birthday party. You're a great kid with a wonderful personality, so it won't be hard for you to make friends."
"I hope so," he replied.
"You will, it just takes time, buddy."
All of this just reminds me that, though he is biologically eight, developmentally he is much, much younger. His socialization skills were stunted and so he struggles with fitting in and making friendships. He has trust issues and, rightly so, because of the hardships he's experienced. But he is trying and he is slowly opening himself up and I am extremely proud of him for doing so. I pray that he does allow himself the opportunity to make long, lasting friendships.
The fact is, I will be over-the-moon thrilled when we can invite one of Cava's friends over to play with just him.