One of the toughest thing with older child adoption in a large family has got to be that expectation you get that this child will quickly develop a loving bond with a big group of strangers. I knew this was unrealistic, and we had tried to prepare ourselves for issues. Pipo immediately hit it off with Margaret, who he started school with, he worshipped big sister Kaleigh, and adored Tommy and Emma who were still little at that point in time. We expected issues between he and E.J. as he was replacing his new brother as the oldest boy in the house. With time and patience, we worked through that one, and they quickly became best buds.
The hardest relationship of all, though, was that between Pipo and Charlie. I have a bit of a soft spot for Charlie, and couldn't imagine anyone not loving him. He's a sensitive little marshmallow of a kid, and sees the good in everyone, which makes him particularly vulnerable. So it broke my heart to hear Pipo tell him he "didn't like him", and that he "wasn't his real brother." Charlie looked up to Pipo so much, and desperately wanted Pipo to like him. We had many conversations with Pipo, many firm sit-downs, where we told him he had to be nice. Nothing seemed to get through to him.
I had to step back at one point and really look at it all from a distance. I realized then that to someone new in our house, I could see how Charlie could be annoying. Especially when he was trying so, so so hard to get Pipo to notice him. The other kids have all grown up with Charlie. They 'get' him. They know that he gets revved up easily, and that he can't always help it. If they are all riled up playing a game, the others can 'turn it off' and walk away, but Charlie can't always do that so easily... just the nature of ADHD. He has a harder time finding his "off" button. Pipo had not grown up with this. All he knew is that this little kid was following him everywhere, talking a mile a minute and constantly touching him.
I sat Pipo down at one point and just laid it on the line for him. I explained ADHD as best as I could, telling him that it was a bit like his kidney disease, that Charlie was born that way and couldn't help it. That we all worked together to help him overcome it, and that Pipo would have to help too, because that's what we do in a family. It took some time, and more conversations like this, but it slowly started to sink in.
Little by little, Pipo started to realize how much he and Charlie have in common. He saw how great Charlie's sense of humor was, and how funny he could be. We started to notice them hanging out a little more, doing things together here and there. I celebrated each small moment I saw.
Time has passed since then, and it's easy to forget that there was ever an issue between the two. But every once in a while, something reminds me, and it makes me melt to see how close they are now. Tonight, we all sat down to grace before dinner... the first dinner we've shared since Pipo went into the hospital last week. As we finished grace, Charlie piped up with "and thank you God, that Pipo is back home with us." I glanced down at Pipo and saw the grin on his face. After dinner, I went downstairs to throw a load of laundry in, and saw the two of them curled up together, sharing a beanbag and watching a movie. The bond may have taken time, taken work, but it's there in full force. They are 'real' brothers... no blood required.