Liam turned twelve in January. His humor and personality have bloomed over the last six months. Liam rarely spends money, particularly when it's his own. So when we are out and about and he sees something he wants, I only need to say, "Did you bring your money?" and the want disappears.
"Oh, well, I don't need it if I have to buy it," he affirms.
Liam knows I'm working on publishing a book and recently asked if I would make any money on it. I told him that I hoped so but wasn't sure how much. He suggested that I start walking to the library to write, that way I would save money on gas that contributed to the expense of publishing. I told him my time was also valuable. He nodded with, "That's true, I guess."
His favorite story is the one I wrote about him when he was three and pretending to be a seal -- by sticking rocks up his nose. "That one is HILARIOUS, Mom! I know you'll make money on that one!" I'm not including that story in my book, but for Liam's sake, here's the link to that one.
Liam and I have different negotiating styles. Every time I ask him to unload the dishwasher, it begins. "I'm just going to unload the top rack. Wait, why do I have to unload the dishwasher? I'm always unloading the dishwasher." The chat over not unloading takes longer than just unloading it. I generally try to avoid confrontation and stay quiet as he mumbles his way through this revolting chore.
Then last week, when he decided he would leave half the top rack for me to do, I told him that I was only going to wash two pairs of his underwear for that week. He finished the whole rack. I told him he's part of the family so needs to help with chores, or something to that effect. I told him it was good practice for when he grew up and lived on his own. He told me he would have a maid to load his dishwasher. Every spoon?
The conservation lessons Liam learned in science from last year -- or maybe the year before -- have parked firmly in his frontal lobe. Doing laundry on a drab day, the Laundry Maven had lights on in the two rooms adjoining the laundry room. She watched as shadows approached the laundry room with each downward flip of the light switches. When Liam reached the laundry room, he flicked that light off too. Then looked right at the Laundry Maven and said, "Is that OK?" The Laundry Maven needed not to speak a word. "Oops, sorry, guess not!" Coming into the house at dusk from taking Will to gymnastics, I can only see a silhouette of Liam created by glowing from the light of the computer screen. He flicks lights off and sits in complete darkness just like my dad does.
Yet when Liam sees someone upset, he thinks of his wallet first. What can he get for them that will make them feel a bit better? That caring charm appeared this week when I crashed on the couch a couple times worn down by this silly cold. Liam immediately left his computer, grabbed a fleece blanket and tucked me in, then brought me a glass of water to calm my cough. All without me asking for any of it.
As for the lessons on social grace that I spew forth daily, Liam hit maximum capacity a few days ago. In the middle of one such lesson from me, he replied very calmly, "I don't need a moral story, Mom." There wasn't even an eyeball roll with this comment. It was just a calm, affirmative "I got it" moment.
The weekend I went away to write, I dropped into a quiet jewelry store to have a look around. The owner was the only person in the store, and we started to chat. During my four days of solitude, this was my longest conversation with another person. Through our pleasantries, we soon found that we had a few things in common.
The shop owner, who was maybe a few years older than me, loves Bill Bryson, the non-fiction writer who was born in Iowa. We talked about Jewish customs and Korean customs; this was a conversation spawned by a stack of beautiful Mazuzahs in his store. He explained how they were hung on doorways. Having studied Judaism in college, we talked about the richness of Jewish culture. And that led to a discussion of Korean culture, which in turn revealed that my husband and I had adopted our children from South Korea. The store owner shared an adoption story: he was adopted.
It was then that things got a little intense. It was an argument that I've had before but with people in the general public -- never with an adoptee. With other people, I end it with complete confidence that I win. I don't have his exact words, but they were to the effect that we have given our sons such a gift by adopting them. My counter, as it always is, is that Bill and I are the ones who have received an amazing gift of family through adoption. We are the ones that will be forever grateful and honored to be parents of our sons. But the shop owner didn't acquiesce, saying we may think that, but really, it's the other way; they are the ones...
It was clear that neither of us would back down. I was definitely teary-eyed and he may have been too behind his glasses. I bought my Mazuzah and left the store knowing that each of us was just a hair more right than the other.