He’s my brother?

Over a year into our journey as a family, and our home is filled with happy noises of both of them playing together. S will frequently give “horsey” rides to J, or carry him piggy-back, and mostly they play really nicely together. Yes, there are arguments and bickering, but there’s also huge love and devotion, both ways. J adores his big brother and often just spontaneously hugs him around the tummy. S will sit and “read” a book to J and is great about including him in games and fantasy play (they build great sofa cushion forts).

But, when we first came home with them, S behaved, for the most part, as if J was a stranger. They had been housed completely separately at the orphanage, in compounds about 50yds or so apart on a street in Addis Ababa. At the beginning, S would do kind acts towards J, such as giving him a toy, or providing a bottle of milk, and look at us, as if to say “OK, you brought home this baby, and you seem to place value on him, so do I get bonus points in your hearts if I’m nice to him?”. It was all about getting praised for being a good “brother”, although, of course, he didn’t yet understand the word.

And, gradually, that changed – it was sometime during last summer, about six months in, when their interactions started to take on a genuine nature. I would peek into a room, and find them playing together, and S wasn’t looking for approval or brownie-points, he just seemed to love J, and enjoy playing with him.

J has become sort of idolatrous of S – he freaks out if S is punished, and will say “Don’t yell at my brother!”. Putting S in timeout has become doubly difficult because J will tantrum the whole time in protest (not so the reverse – S tends to gloat if J gets a timeout). J copies everything S does (often driving S nuts!), and has adopted many of S’s funny faces and mannerisms. As they grow, they look more and more alike, and it’s so clear that they really are brothers.

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