Twelve years ago today one of my personal heroes was born. While I was not present for his birth or for his first eight birthdays, he is no less my son than the boy who was born to us. When we adopted Cava, I had no idea of how profound an impact he would have on my life and that of our family. Sure, from the moment we first met him there was no doubt in our minds and hearts that there was something special about this boy with the big smile and even bigger hugs, but we did not grasp how much so. As I have watched this amazing child develop in the, almost, four years since he arrived in America, what has struck me is that he is how truly brave a kid he is.
I cannot even begin to imagine what it must be like to, at only eight years old, choose to start a new life with a new family in a foreign country where everything from the language to the rules to the sights and sounds and smells are unfamiliar. I cannot begin to comprehend all of the things he has overcome in the eight years before we ever met him. I cannot grasp all of the hurts and wounds he has suffered through no fault of his own and yet, to do so while still retaining a compassionate and loving heart. He has a real sense of fairness and will stand up for other kids if they are left out or made fun of.
Cava's bravery and his deep drive to better himself has caused him to strive and achieve goals that I never imagined possible in so short a time: going from being unable to make it a week of school without getting suspended to making the honor roll for all of last school year. Or to be elected to student council. Or decide to play soccer. One of the things that I loved most was when, before one of the soccer games, he went off to play with some of his teammates (not an easy thing for him to do since he is still wary of playing with other boys). When I see him trying and putting himself out there for possible success or failure (and being able to now handle the latter with grace and kindness), I want to be more like him.
In so many ways, Cava and I are very similar. As a child, I was short, skinny and shy (all of which made me a target for being bullied). At times, I was and still am very solitary. Too often I have allowed fear to control what I did or didn't do in life, but as I watch Cava navigate the world with our love and affirmation, he makes me want to put myself out there more, to take more risks, to be more like him. It's because of his bravery that I have opened myself up, let down my guard more, and allowed myself to be vulnerable enough to share parts of my life to others (such as writing about my struggles with depression). Because of my own pains and loneliness, I not only have empathy but understanding of Cava and he has helped to make me a better parent. I have had to rethink parenting and how my own actions and reactions can affect his (or Benjamin's). He is teaching me patience and gentleness always have the greater impact.
Cava has made me see the world with new and fresh eyes, with an appreciation for what is simple and meaningful. I cannot see a bird without thinking of him (and the same is true for a good many other people).
People who know Cava love Cava. You cannot help but love his enthusiasm and his joy. He greets those he knows with that big smile and even bigger voice (The boy can be loud). I have never seen people react to a child the way they have to him. There is something so special in Cava that he draws you in. I cannot go anywhere without someone wanting to talk to me about him.
Those who have seen the progress he has made in such a short time are astounded by it. We were just at the library this week and the children's section librarians all remarked on what a remarkable kid Cava is and how they love to talk to him and listen to him talk, especially about his love of reading (something else we have in common).
He has made my life and my family's life so much richer. It is as if he has always been one of us. We cannot imagine our family without him in it. Not a day passes that I don't thank God that He was so loving to us to allow us to be a part of this boy's life.
Cava has come through so much and I know there is so much more that he has to go through, particularly in regards to coming to terms with his past, but I would go through the depths of hell for my son.
Ever since he saw the movie Aladdin, he likes to ask me what would I wish for if I could only have one wish. Without missing a beat, I reply, "That you had always been with us." He grins and says, "Oh yeah, me, too." Of course, he also adds, "And for Legos." He loves to hear me say that answer because it reminds him that he's deeply loved and wanted now. Just like he also wants to hear me tell the story of the treasure chest (Treasure Chest) because it's the story of how he is of great value and worth to our family. I like, as he gets out of my car to go to school each morning, how he turns and smiles at me whenever I call out, "Have a great day, treasure." But he is. I cannot imagine a greater treasure than the gift that he has been to my family and I.
Whenever I see him, without even thinking, my heart inwardly says the simple prayer of, "Thank you."