My boy cried tears today—the first time in the almost four years he’s been home with us. We were at the doctor’s office, waiting to see the pediatrician, and I could tell he was anxious about what was ahead—the unknown person and the unknown place that awaited him.
We sat together on the scratchy plaid fabric of the waiting room couch, him glancing anxiously over his right shoulder, then his left, then his right again, me rubbing my hand up and down his back, singing songs in his ear to comfort him.
He signed “home” and “car” over and over again, my boy whose words are spoken through his hands. “Home, mama, home. Please. Car.”
I tried to reassure him that this was a “no hurt” visit—that the doctor is his “friend.” I talked back to him with my hands and my voice—and the most calm my mama voice could muster.
I turned my head away from him, glancing at two women sitting across from us who were having a conversation. When I glanced back at my boy, there were tears streaming down his cheeks. He was wiping them away furiously, this silent stream, pooling in soft circles wiped away by his chubby fingers. He squinted his eyes and the tears flowed even more furiously.
Quietly, announcing with a wet seriousness that this boy was scared.
These were the first scared tears I’d seen on my boy’s face—this boy who was abandoned at three days old in China, who spent his first 18 months in a poor, neglectful orphanage, was finally learning to feel emotion.
My heart felt this kind of conflicted mess of sadness and joy for him—sadness in the way any mama holds her baby’s emotions close, wanting to protect him, scare away the monsters hiding under his bed.
But joy because this boy is finally learning to feel—to emote—to join the communion of the human family in all its conflicted emotions with depth and meaning and purpose.
This boy is my teacher—this wise spiritual guide who has shaped and taught me more than anyone or anything else in my life. This boy with his big heart, his developmental delays, his absence of spoken language. It seems that every day I learn something new about myself by loving and caring for him.
The mystery is profound to me, kind of like his tears.