We are currently in month five of hosting a foreign exchange student. Our Finnish Lad came to us last October and began attending Southwest High School. Now that we are a little over the half way mark, I figure it is time to reflect on life with Our Finnish Lad.
We took on this adventure without much discussion or thought. He needed a place. We had a place. We never had any big discussions about how we would handle this or that. Instead, life just unfolds and we take it as it comes. Kind of the way life has been with our Darling Daughter (oops I mean Grace.) Actually, when I think about it, it is pretty much how we took on marriage too. Not a lot of discussion. Just dig in.
So what have I learned so far from this adventure?
Number 1: We got lucky. Our Finnish Lad is an easy going, respectful young man. Not a whole lot of drama. He takes correction well. He probably would fuss more if we were his parents, but they have obviously trained him well.
Number 2: We are pushovers. Particularly Hubby. When Our Finnish Lad was hell bent on eating ice cream (cookie dough to be exact) Hubby kept him supplied. When Our Finnish Lad wanted pancakes every morning, Hubby made him pancakes. When Our Finnish Lad needed inexpensive hockey equipment to try out for the team, Hubby drove him at 6:30 a.m. in the morning to be first in line at the Excell Center give-away. (Now I know my Hubby likes a bargain, but even this was beyond the norm for him.) The young man tends to get all excited over something but the excitement tends to fade in a few weeks. We go along for the ride.
Number 3: We can't change his colors. He likes what he likes and discards everything else. When I learned Our Finnish Lad had no interest in reading, I foolishly thought he just needed the right book. Knowing his interest in "extreme" sports, I gave him the book "Into Thin Air" to read. Four months later he is on page 30.
Number 4: We're not so bad to be around. Our Daughter is not a sit around the table and chat kind of gal. Not that she doesn't share, but she does so on her terms not ours. She will literally change rooms if I sit down with her to watch a TV show. But Our Finnish Lad can get downright chatty! Yes, after dinner we actually sit and shoot the breeze for awhile. He is very entertaining. He and Hubby trade typical "male" humor, leaving me mystified but amused. Basically, he doesn't mind being around us. If I could stand watching shows like South Park or American Dad, he would gladly make room on the couch. It's nice being liked.
Number 5: Sometimes you can only do so much. I wasn't mentally prepared for the first time Our Finnish Lad really needed an emotional crutch. He failed to make the hockey team and was devastated. He moped by himself for awhile then finally sat next to me. When I asked, "do you need to talk", the floodgates opened. I realized right then, he's a long way from home and mom and I had to bridge the distance. Mostly I just listened, offering a few words of advice here and there. When he was done he said he felt better. But I was left wondering if I should have done more. Like a hug. We have not ventured into the land of physical contact. I asked him about that once and he was quick to say he liked his personal space. And given I am a bit like that too, we keep our distance.
What has Our Finnish Lad learned so far?
Number 1: American kids are woefully ignorant of the world around them. He was particularly dumbfounded by the child who tried to identify Finland on a map of Africa.
Number 2: It's hard to make friends. American kids don't seem to just hang out. I didn't tell him that it was hard even when you are an adult to make friends. No need to pile on.
Number 3: Finnish candy is better than American candy, though he seems to have no problem eating the American stuff.
Number 4: That it is better to say "that's not my cup of tea" than to call someone else's interest "dumb." And, under no circumstance, can he say "that's so gay" and get away with it in my household.
And last, but not least, the one thing I can be sure he will take back to Finland, courtesy of my Hubby, is...
"That frosts my ass".