“I am so thankful for what God gave our family. The first time I saw Zeke was in church he was so still and every time I saw him he did not have a smile on his face. I was thinking about what has happened to this little boy. Then when he was about 15 months old is when he did his first smile.
But now that he’s here, he is moving and smiling. I love Zeke being in our family!”
"I love Zeke being in our family!”
A Parent Perspective
Jonah is an 8-year-old sweetheart! I love this age and I love this kid! He is inventive, inquisitive, independent enough and yet he still freely shows his need and desire for his mommy and daddy's cuddles. His heart is soft, easily influenced and welcomes learning compassion. Jonah will pick out the lonely kids in his class and make efforts to make them feel welcomed and let them know that they have a friend.
When Jonah first met Zeke he was quiet and observant. He didn't just jump in to loving on Zeke or playing with him. At first, our visits had to be supervised. That kept Jonah, who can be timid, from feeling the freedom to learn how to play and communicate with a little boy with challenges he was grasping to understand.
Jonah had many questions in the beginning. “Why doesn't he look at me?” “Will he ever see?” “Will he ever walk?” “Why does he still drink bottles?” One by one the questions came and he would be silent when the answers were given. We gave him the space to digest it all. He has classmates with special needs, but not nearly as global and extensive as Zeke's.
Once Zeke came to live with us, Jonah quickly became comfortable with interacting with him as a very attentive, sensitive sibling. Adoption day was very special to him and it gave him a sense of finality. Zeke belongs to us now and not the foster-care system.
He understands that Zeke will always need total care and he is accepting of that. We sense no jealousy because of the amount of care Zeke requires or embarrassment when we are in public because of Zeke’s differences. Jonah’s class at school gets regular reports on Zeke and they will clap and celebrate when Zeke recovers from a health issue or does something new. Jonah has his own little phrases he often says to Zeke.
“That’s my boy, Zeke!”
“Wassup, Zeke my boy?”
When we ask for someone to give Zeke company while we, as parents, do other tasks, Jonah readily volunteers. A few mornings Jonah has even had to run out to catch the school bus because he was so involved in playing with Zeke and making him smile. If we talk to Zeke about Jonah, you can see that he understands and his body language gets elevated. They read, play legos, blocks, cards, iPad games, watch TV, and just hang out together.
If there is one thing that Jonah struggles with at this time, it is witnessing when Zeke is in pain. There have been a few times when Zeke was screeching in pain (the intensity of his cry is the only way to tell us something is wrong) and we would find Jonah in the adjacent room almost sobbing. We have found that at these times Jonah wants so much to aid in helping alleviate Zeke’s pain but he feels at a loss to know what to do and hearing his distress is very difficult.
To help Jonah cope, Chris, one of the bigger kids or I will take the time to look in his eyes, give him some type of meaningful physical contact, and create a task for him to do. We have found that giving him a task calms him, gives him purpose and a way to participate, and helps his mind focus on something other than Zeke’s screeching. The task can be as simple as praying by himself or with his siblings, refilling the diapers and wipes, making sure there are bibs in Zeke’s bag or entertaining his younger sister.
These situations are opportunities to develop in him becoming a helping participant rather than a spectator during other difficult or emergent situations throughout his whole life. It also gives him a way to deal with the energy and stress those situations create. After the high-stress moments calm down we will have a debriefing time, sometimes with just him and sometimes as a family group. We keep it casual, but in Chris’s and my mind we are intentional. We sometimes find ways in which we need to handle the situation differently the next time, but most of the time we share our feelings and giving him a chance to be understood and cry together.
It has been a joy to witness the love and care both brothers receive from the relationship.
Overall, Jonah’s experience with Zeke thus far has been very positive. Their smiles and looks of contentment when they are together, say it all for both of them. It has been a joy to witness the love and care both brothers receive from the relationship.