Monday, July 25, 2011

My brave girl

People often ask how my girl is doing. In my opinion, what she has gone through, is so extraordinary, that unless you've experienced something similar, it's impossible to comprehend. I know I can't, and in many ways, I feel closer to her than anyone else on earth.

I know that there is a very playful, happy, generous and brave soul- that was/is scared. Very, very scared. Parenting a scared child is hard. Fear manifests in all different ways. Sometimes it tries to control. Sometimes it freezes. Sometimes it cries. Sometimes it hugs. Sometimes it's angry. Sometimes it's sad, but too scared to admit it for fear of rejection. Sometimes it fakes being happy. Two months ago, in Ethiopia, the fear was so thick, so completely overwhelming, that it completely paralyzed her at times. For hours.

I recently watched the video of when she first walked through the doors of her new home. When I experienced it, I thought it was a relatively good moment. It was. For me.
Now I look at the terrified little girl and my heart breaks. It just breaks as I watch the high-pitched-little-fear-squeal that was meant to fool us into believing she was happy. My heart breaks as I watch her eyes shift quickly and fearfully around. It just breaks as I watch her stiff body posture. Her fearful jump when the stuffed elephant trumpeted followed by the high pitched squeal.

Aster loves people and is quite social. More than anything she wants lots and lots of friends. Balancing the fear with her social wants is a daily game.

Now that she's been home for over two months, I am starting to see the layers of the girl I love. The fear, still strong, seems to be starting to break away in small chunks (not melting, because there is nothing even about the process), I get to see that my giggly girl is also a comedian. Similar to how one may learn about an infant, I've learned the smiles, which mean very different things. I've learned the cries, which mean very different things.
I've learned whether the look straight into my eyes is going to be followed with a crossing of her arms and a huff or a secretly lipped "I love you mama." Whether the huff is a plea for playful attention or a broken heart because I somehow made her feel badly.
It was hard to not know. To not even have a small clue.

It's been so important these last few months to have some friends that know. That know my Aster's heart. Friends that have helped to chip away a little bit of that fear. More about our friends, the friends that know, later...

Friday, July 22, 2011

Conversation, Highs and Lows

Judah, "I like red trucks. Red is my favorite color."

Aster, do you have a favorite color?

Aster, "Yes. The color of Bob Marley. Bob Marley is chocolate like me. Chocolate my favorite."

Judah, "Hey! I'm chocolate too. Aster's chocolate, I'm chocolate. Mommy's vanilla. Daddy's vanilla. Everyone else is vanilla."

Friday, July 8, 2011


I love watching Aster play.
She is slow, gentle and strong. She goes across the monkey bars so gracefully. She moves carefully. So thin you can see every muscle in her back. She's beautiful. Aster likes the slide. She slowly climbs up and carefully sits as she's told. Feet first. I think the best is watching her swing. It's when she just seems free. No rules to follow.

There was only one other family at the park. A mom and three kids. And a billion sand toys. All huddled together.

Aster walked slowly over, careful as always. She sat down next to one of the kids. Barely louder than a whisper she said, "I'm going to make injera" and picked up one of the many shovels laying about.

Before I could even start to tell her about asking to borrow, the mother screamed, "Tell her to put it down or give it back!"
In shock from the urgency and horrid delivery, I paused.
She repeated her request.
I told Aster to please give the shovel to a child (not even knowing which one, because all of them had their hands full of toys and none seemed interested in what Aster had).
The mom instructed one of the children to take the shovel as my daughter sadly reached her arm out offering the shovel to whoever would take it.
Her children ignored her.
Again, she instructed and one of the children finally looked up and took the shovel.

Aster slowly walked back to the slide. I met her and tried my best to make the park fun as the strange lady and her kids stared at us.

My children felt it.
Judah whispered, "I want to go home."
Aster heard Judah and quickly joined in, "Me, too."

Once we were in the car Aster had an idea, "Tomorrow let's bring my sand toys I got from birthday party. I will share with any kids. I'm nice."

Yes, you are baby. Yes. You. Are.

It can easily be argued that the mother could have screamed over my child touching her children's toys if my child was white. That's the thing about racism, it's never completely clear. It's a feeling deep down in the gut. It's in the eyes. It's too easily dismissed. If you ask my children what happened today, they'd tell you they met "a mommy that was not good at sharing."
If they could express it, I think they may also tell you there was something way worse about it than just being shovel-selfish.

Sunday, July 3, 2011


We knew Aster loved Bob Marley.

She says, "I want Bob Marley" (and "I like fish") at least 39584 times a day.

Every single time she gets in the car her Bob Marley music request is heard.
She asks to look at his picture on the computer.
She says she wants hair like Bob Marley.
She sings versus to his songs constantly.

buufloooo solder
stand up stand up, stand up for your righ
I sho the sheeeri

She told us that her bad dreams would stop if she had a picture of Bob Marley in her room. He would help her.

Yesterday she found out that he was no longer living.

We didn't expect for her reaction to be, well, just SO sad.
We were all heart broken for her. She said she just wanted to go home and cry. She silent cried during the hour drive home.

She had her first crush. On Bob Marley. Now he's dead. My poor girl. Why can't even that just be easy.

Aster still wants the poster in her room.
She says she still wants to kiss his picture. He's still her boyfriend.
I hope she's right. I hope he takes away those dreams.


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.