Aster shares with me about her life in Ethiopia. In carefully planned spurts. When she is finished; she is finished. Aster knows it's ok to say, "all done talking" because it is impossibly hard stuff. She needs time to be free, to be a little girl, although I doubt that's ever truly her reality.
I expected it. I hoped for it. I felt so impatient to hear her side. Loving her as completely as I do, I wanted to know every single thing about her past. Even the hard parts. There's so much I'll probably never know. So much she likely doesn't know.
It doesn't make it easier. It shakes me and rattles me and I am never the strong mother for her that I envisioned. I fight with all of my soul and still, my eyes instantly fill.
She notices. As she notices everything.
Sternly she instructs, "Mommy, don't cry. Please. Aster's ok. I'm ok, mommy."
I know she feels like she is the one making me sad. So she stops.
Even in Ethiopia. Before we left, my eyes filled. While looking deep into my eyes, as if to say she cares that I'm crying- but it's obviously unacceptable- she took her thumb and firmly rubbed from the inner to outer corner of each of my eyes. As if to turn off my tears. It worked. Then her eyes said, "I'll be ok."
But she wasn't.
I know she wasn't.
After we left, I've been told my sweet daughter appeared to be, of all the girls, "the most in need" at the care center.
She still isn't ok.
Yet, she continually gives. Gives strength. Care takes. Loves. My only hope now is that slowly, each day, I to learn to become the mother she needs. The mother she deserves.