Connectedness: Lessons from a little boy and his truck

Construction sign with truck on it

Seven years ago this spring I began a journey that changed my life. Becoming a mom has been crazy hard and crazy beautiful. Thank you for walking with us.

I still remember my first adoption class. A little Russian boy, whose only audible word was truck, ran and up and down the rows of seats in the auditorium. His eyes were fixed on his bright yellow dump truck. His thick little legs swished back and forth against the inseam of his jogging pants, while the weight from his diaper rounded out his backside.

Truck. Truck. Truck.

He announced this as he fishtailed his truck over the backs of the chairs, brushing up against the shoulders of childless couples and running into the knees of others. The auditorium was vast, too big for the scattered pairings of adults and single women. Fluorescent lights bounced off the sterile walls. This was my first public step into the world of adoption. I had to take several deep breaths before walking in solo, feeling that familiar mix of sadness and shame. I sat towards the back, noting the exit doors. I didn’t know what to expect.

A social worker stepped up to the microphone and welcomed us. The little Russian boy cocked his head for a moment and then kept right on going. Focused solely on his truck, his presence seemed to soften the unspeakable in the room. Couples moved in closer to one another. Would-be moms smiled as dads-to-be patted his back or tussled his thick brown hair.

Truck. Truck. Truck.

The words lingered in his wake.

I couldn’t take my eyes off of him. I kept thinking about his parents. Not the parents who were sitting on stage in front of us, regaling the auditorium with tales of paperwork and travel and diving into toddlerhood full force. I was thinking of his birth parents, the mother who carried him in her womb for nine achingly painful months. The father who is woven into every gene of his little compact body. We didn’t hear their story.

I wondered what it was like to relinquish such a spirited little boy with his wide forehead and round cheeks. What if his mom had been secretly delighted to have him growing inside of her? What if the father had struggled mightily to keep him? Had they intended for him to be raised in the United States, had they consented to his journey across the Atlantic, and did they even know where he was.

The possibilities seemed endless. Somewhere out in the world were the two people who had created him, just as he was, this little Russian boy in a blue and red rugby shirt with white stripes running down his pants. I couldn’t focus on the presentation. I didn’t care about the fees and the paperwork. I didn’t care about the agency’s long-standing history. There were two other people involved in the process whose stories I’d only casually considered, and always as one-dimensional.

Truck, truck, truck.

The little Russian boy rounded the corner to my row. I ached for his birth parents. How their loss could be someone else’s dream fulfilled was beyond my reckoning. I also ached for the part of me that wanted to be a mom, that had listened to family and friends talk about late night feedings and teething rings, play dates and Hot Wheels. I watched as his hands jostled his truck over the arm rests. Our eyes met for a half a second. His cheeks were flush. His brown eyes wide with wonder. And then he was off.

He darted past my knees and moved down the row. When he got to the end, he turned toward the front of the auditorium. His dad stood up and walked to the edge of the stage, smiling. The little boy turned back, glancing up and down the remaining rows, and then to everyone’s delight, he dropped his truck and ran straight into his dad’s outstretched arms.

In that moment I knew we are all intricately connected. That life weaves its own delicate web of heartbreak and joy. None of us stands outside of it. And none of us stands alone. Not even me.

That night my cousin called. She is the mother of three, her eldest son having died in utero. When I told her about the little Russian boy, she said: “If I had to give up either one of my children, I’d want them to be someone’s joy. That is exactly what I would want.”