Adoption / Fun

Things I Learned from my Korean Son

Before you go all nuts and think that we decided to adopt from Korea instead of Thailand and our son has already come over, just know that you’re crazy. If you think that international adoption would move that quickly, then you’re crazy.

No, no, we volunteered to temporarily house a Korean student who is attending UTD. In all their awesomeness, UTD says, “Hey international students, come to UTD! We don’t have any place for you to live but you’re welcome to take classes here.” As a reuslt, many students come to Dallas without knowing where they’re going to live. That’s where the temporary housing comes in. Students have up to two weeks to find a place.

Alex picked John up on August 13th and he just left us August 25th. His English and knowledge of American culture is fabulous. If you need proof, ask him what Lady Gaga’s real name is. I know that YOU don’t know, but he does. He immediately picked up on my sarcasm and threw it right back at me, so now we’re best friends.

Here are some things that we learned:

– Korean men have to do two years of mandatory military service. Who knew? Koreans did.

– Before this whole add-a-kid-to-our-family thing, Alex and I need to get better about eating actual meals. We’ve gotten into the bad habit of just snacking. I might, for example, eat a tomato and a bag of popcorn for dinner. We don’t always set a time to eat. We realized, after a few days, that John had eaten a cracker and had a thimble of water. There was food that some lovely Koreans at our church had graciously dropped by, but I don’t know that John knew that we were serious about, “Help yourself”. Once we realized that eating a tomato wasn’t a good cue for John to start eating, we got our act together and planned actual meals. Before our child gets here, we’ll have to step it up on the “actual” meal part.  

-Whenever John was in a celebratory mood, he would hold up his index fingers (like “We’re #1) and bounce them up and down. Koreans appear to be very celebratory. Feel free to use this motion to celebrate anything from getting new sunglasses to learning how to successfully cook spaghetti. I used it today when none of our ESL students asked me if I was pregnant.

-He brought a small backpack and a suitcase that is smaller than my purse. He kept insisting that he had “so many clothes” but, unless his suitcase has some sort of Mary Poppins feature, I knew better. So, I told John to bring me all his clothes so that we could do laundry.  The load that he brought me consisted of three socks and an undershirt. That wasn’t enough for a full load, so I told him to bring me his towels. Do you know what he carried out? Two hand towels. That is what he had been using because I hadn’t explained that the larger, body-sized towels that were sitting in his room, were, in fact, for his body. Someone later told me that most Koreans use hand towels instead of bath towels. After the towel-cat was out of the bag so to speak, John and I had several philosopical conversations about the relative benefits of using a hand towl over a body towel. When we took him to Target to buy supplies for his apartment (shampoo, a hair dryer, sunglasses, and a towel), I made him get a body towel, even though he really wanted a hand towel. I stopped short of forcing something called a “bath sheet” on him, a product which could only have been concoted by Americans. I gave him a break because, even though he is several inches taller than me, he weighs approximately the same as my left leg. Where a “body sheet” would make me feel like I was at the Holiday Inn, it would make poor John feel like a mummy. John, someday, you will experience a body sheet…and you will love it.

Koreans need alot of sleep. There were two consecutive days where I did not see John because, by the time I had gotten home at 5:30, he was already asleep and he continued to sleep when I left for work the next morning. Alex and I fell into the routine of watching an episode of 24 and then staring at John while he nodded off. We skyped with my parents at the bar in our kitchen and when they asked where John was, we just leaned over so they could see the tall Korean man sleeping on our couch.

That cannot be comfortable.

– Even though he loves American food, I took him to a wondrous place called Super H Mart. It’s an Asian grocery store in a Korean strip mall. I wanted him to sniff the kimchi and feel at home with the baby octopi, but actually he dragged me over to the yogurt section and we scoured the entire store for an elusive product called “coffee milk”. A product called “coffee milk” exists. He ended up purchasing some korean snack cakes that look suspiciously like Little Debbie’s. But they were called, “Oh, Hi”, which is way better than Little Debbie’s. He tried to get me to try something called “cold noodles” but I just couldn’t do it. I did try a product called “Milkis”, which is kind of like a milk soda. I was being a baby and wouldn’t try it, but I eventually did and it tasted like Sprite with vanilla in it.

– Koreans, especially John, love to “gangnam” dance. Don’t know what that is? Please watch this video. Then, the next time you see John, ask him to give you a sample of his excellent dancing. He loves to dance. It’s like his favorite thing. (I’m lying).

I was surprised at how easily I slipped into the mom role. I mean, John is a man who is fully independent and capable of making his own choices. We didn’t have to baby-sit him. I didn’t have to dry his tears (much). We didn’t have to ground him from the computer because he didn’t put his shoes away. But when I got home from work, I didn’t think twice about making dinner or doing the dishes. I enjoyed talking to him about how his day went and gnashing my teeth in solidarity when UTD was being stupid. I was surprised at how easy it is to do whatever we can to make sure he’s okay. In fact, just last week, he called us at 9:00 because someone had wrecked his new bike at Target. We went and picked him up (thankfully he wasn’t shouting in  Korean anymore), took him to yogurt, and made him “tell us all about it”. We would do this for all of our students, but it was interesting to experience having someone all up in our business, in a good way. Someday, I’ll have a kid who will actually need me and I think I’ve discovered that she won’t be crampin’ my style.

We were interested to see how we would adjust to having a third person in the orbit of the Beth and Alex solar system. We’re so accustomed to it being just us. This was really the first time that we couldn’t wear our “hosting” hats when someone was at our house. John saw me in  my pajamas. I actually got on facebook while he was sitting in my living room. We let our hair down, so to speak, for the first time with a third person in our midst.

 Conclusion? Third person = lots of fun. Sure, we had to make adjustments but we were completely and utterly ready to do so.

Thanks, John, for letting us practice our parenting skills on you! Bring it on, adoption world. I think we’re ready!

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