I’m Touch

Only a few hours left in Bangkok before our flight home, so I’m taking some time while everyone is sleeping to write one last post for this trip.  The last week has been great spending the whole time with Ben and Jet’s Mom in Phitsanulok and now Bangkok.  We haven’t gone anywhere new these past days, just saying final good-byes to family and friends before our return to the US.  With every good-bye, you can just sense Jet’s Mom getting more and more attached to Ben (and vice versa), so I imagine saying good-bye to Jet’s Mom will be pretty difficult tonight as she sends us off at the airport.  As a result, I have been constantly asked by Jet’s Mom for her to keep Ben (for 1 extra month, for a few extra weeks, for anything) and then she personally bring Ben back to the US.  She even asks Ben whether he wants to stay in Thailand or go back to America, to which his answer always changes, which usually gives us all a brief laugh.  As attractive as this option might seem to be with how busy Jet and I will be once we return to the US, my only response has been an outright “no”.  And it is not just Jet’s Mom that is putting the pressure on for Ben to stay.  Other family and friends make it seem as it is the best thing for Ben to stay here in Thailand because he will continue to learn to speak Thai and Thai customs – much better than if he stayed in the US.  They also bring up that it is quite normal in Asian culture for parents to leave their children behind with family.  Although I can appreciate their arguments, the answer is still an unwavering “no”.  I just think of how much I have already missed with Ben this past month after only seeing him on weekends and I can’t imagine how much more I will miss out on if he stays behind for any length of time.

Spending all of this additional time with Ben this past week really did illustrate how much Ben has changed from the first month in Thailand to the second month.  When we arrived, Ben rarely spoke Thai and insisted on speaking English even when being taught to say something in Thai.  There are still a few words that Ben will only say in English, but I have learned more Thai playing with and watching Ben these past few days than I have in the past few years.  Ben is able to speak many new words in Thai, most of which I don’t know, so I end up having him explain to me what he is trying to say.  These are usually pretty frustrating experiences for both of us, but Ben has been the best Thai teacher I have ever had.

Another big change is the way I am able to “get through” to Ben.  It seems for the past year, maybe even longer, that the only way to get Ben to do something was by command (e.g., eat, sleep, put something away, etc.).  There were several times over the past few days where my commands were simply ignored and even a time where I could not get Ben to go to sleep for his afternoon nap.  This was an incident that did not go unnoticed by Jet’s Mom as she tried despirately to leverage it against me, such as by saing “How could I take care of Ben if I can’t even get him to sleep …” or trying to make a bet that if I can’t get Ben to sleep (at some future time), that he stays in Thailand.  I never fell into those traps, but it didn’t even matter.  While Jet and her mother were out shopping yesterday, I was able to get Ben to sleep by explaining to him that he needed a rest, that he would feel better after sleeping, and that we could play again when he woke up.  For some crazy reason (at least to me), this strategy has been working.  Ben will just shake his head in agreement as if he completely understands me, and usually does not take much more coaxing after that.  Amazing.  Jet’s Mom has used a completely different approach to get Ben to sleep – saying that “Mau Mauw” (a big scary cat in Thai) will come get him if he doesn’t sleep.  Whatever is effective and gets the job done, I guess.

This also shows to me another big change in Ben – how much of an influence I am on him.  There were times before we arrived in Thailand when I commented on how Ben would “copy” me (e.g., the way I would lay down to sleep, things I would say, etc.), but now Ben is picking up all of my bad habits!  Chewing on finger nails, dancing fingers, getting on Jet’s last nerve, Ben seems to do it all.  My influence really shows when I explain to Ben “Daddy said …” (e.g., “Daddy said no hitting, right?”, “Daddy said be careful, right?”, “Daddy said pick up the toys, right?”) and Ben agrees to do (or stop doing) anyg I ask him to.  Amazing.

Yet another big change is how much more independent Ben has become.  Ben will constantly say “Ben time” (at least that is what it sounds like), which means in Thai that Ben wants to do something himself.  This might be putting his shoes on, walking up or down stairs, picking out his clothes to wear, or putting those clothes on.  Ben is so ready for potty training.  Ben still likes to “get away from it all” when he “drops a deuce” (e.g., hide under a table, go off to a corner), but when Ben has done this lately, he tells us that he is “working”.  Hmmmm … that is not the type of “working” I have been doing when I have had to leave him each week.  Something else that has been pretty funny has been Ben’s fascination of touching things or wanting to touch things – “I’m touch”.  Anytime we pass a water fountain, a statue of some sort (to an elephant, a fish, or some other animal – real or not), a “baby dinosaur” (what he calls the small, harmless lizards that can be found climbing the outside walls of buidlings all over Thailand) or anything different really, “I’m touch”.  We all just break out laughing in the car anytime we pass something (e.g., a train, a truck, a crane, bird) because we just wait to hear “I’m touch”.  Ben usually doesn’t disappoint us.

But I am very sure that Jet’s Mom will really miss Ben.  For the first month, Ben didn’t want anything to do with “Yai” (Grandma in Thai), now when you ask Ben “Ruk Kai” (who do you love the most?), he will usually say “Ruk Yai” (love Grandma).  It really is true that Ben has learned a lot more Thai and Thai customs being around her.  They sing songs together in Thai, Ben loves eating Thai fruits and vegetables, and Ben has become so much better at giving a “wai” or bowing down to others and to monks.  Of course this comes with the bad habits in Thailand as well, one of the primary ones is Ben’s number one favorite thing to do, take a ride on a motorcycle or “buckle” as he calls it (I think he means bicycle).  In fact, perhaps the most emotional good-bye that we have had so far was when Ben said good-bye to one of the workers (“Won”) at Jet’s Mom’s business in Phitsanulok.  We had finished packing and were in the car ready to leave when Ben threw a fit – he just had to have one last ride on the “buckle” with Won.  So that is just what he did and you were never sure of excitement than you were watching Ben riding around for those last few minutes in Phitsanulok.  Although this was a joy to watch Ben having so much fun, I can’t bear to think of how often this must have happened when I was away in Bangkok.  Perhaps it is best not knowing.

Well, that is all from Thailand.  This has been another wonderful experience for us all and I look forward to the next time that we will be back, whenever that will be.  Right now, however, we are looking forward to being back in the US.  I have another handful of videos to post on YouTube from this past week in Thailand, but those might have to wait until I am back at JSU over the weekend before I can share them with you.  Let’s hope we have an enjoyable (and uneventful) flight back home.

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2 Responses to “I’m Touch”

  1. lou Says:

    OH MY GOODNESS I laughed for a good minute and had to read the part about Andy and Jet’s mom’s contrasting ways of getting Ben to sleep to Adam. Still thinking about it makes me laugh. That is hilarious. Today we were all Kristin’s having a cookout (Janette and kids, Jenny & family, Kristin and family, & me and adam) and we said we can’t wait until next year when Andy and Jet will be here for everything : )

  2. Kristin Says:

    You should be touching down shortly. Can’t wait to hear from you. Tell Jet I think I will be going to Rhino tomorrow so I may need to call her when I want them to make my Papaya salad. Hope the flight went well. Have a great couple weeks with your neighbors too. I’m sure they are as excited about your return as we are. Let us know any news about your house and what your future plans are.

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