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Sometimes when my son speaks to me, I feel like I am the grasshopper and he the master. It is not for the clarity of his statements that I feel this way, but for the oxymoronic riddles he weaves. For example, he was sad that he only had two Father’s Day presents for Arie Jan.

“I only got two presents on Mother’s Day,” I offered, suggesting that two is a reasonable sum.

“No. You had a third present. I gave you a hug,” he recalled in all seriousness. This is a child who knows how partial I am to his hugs. Armed with this knowledge, he has even tried to bribe me for more iPad time or a second helping of dessert with the currency of hugs.

Later in the morning, he was giving Arie Jan a hug on Father’s Day after the presents were already opened.

“He’s giving you another present,” I wisely informed Arie Jan. “A hug.”

“No,” corrected Ezra. “A hug isn’t a present. A present is something that lasts, that you can continue to do something with.” I tried to process his double-standard change-of-heart over the value of a hug. But then it hit me; he thinks there are different exchange rates at play in the currency of hugs: mom goes all weak-kneed and teary eyed when he hugs her, whereas dad quietly takes it in stride.

Arie Jan added his two cents into the equation, making the Oh Grasshopper lesson twist further into itself.

“Well, in that manner of thinking, would the candies you just gave me really be a present? They were here one moment and eaten up the next.”

“Hmm. Well, yeah. They’re still a present,” Ezra decided.

“Yes, and hugs may last a moment, but they stay with you in your heart. They may not be there any longer, but their presence lingers.”

My interpretive filter kicked in once again; whereas I smother my husband and child with kisses and hugs like a good American, Arie Jan has a more Dutch approach to affection. He is not one to loosely scatter I-love-yous throughout conversations, or randomly kiss and hug his family members. Earlier on in our relationship, I mistook this sparseness as a difference in how we felt about each other. But I couldn’t have been more wrong; his love for me was deep and real and his love for his son is profound.

Unlike me, Ezra has never misinterpreted his father’s level of affection; he can feel its immensity. But just as a teacher who is as sparse with his compliments as Hemingway was with adjectives, Arie Jan has taught Ezra the value of quality over quantity.

This is a lesson I cannot learn. I will continue to hug and kiss my men whenever given the chance. They may roll their eyes and look at me like I’m goofy, but I’m going with the premise that they would be both concerned and disappointed if I acted any other way.

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