On every other Friday, she could sleep a little later than her usual 5:30am wake up time, and I would walk her to school. Those were times when she and I could talk candidly without the input of her older brother. Since the loss of our car a little over a week ago, what was once a bi-weekly ritual is now a daily necessity, as now my daughter and I are back where we were three years ago: walking down the street in the pre-dawn hours in order to get the bus to her daycare so I can go to work. Now, we also walk to her gymnastics class at a local park. Yesterday, we walked just under a mile in the waning heat of early fall in the late afternoon in Southern California. I don't know if she was tired, or if maybe the heat was getting to her, but there was a different feeling I got from her as we made our way quickly over to the park.
Although there are times when she is quite conversational, lately she has been quiet and seems to be more introspective. Never make the mistake of thinking that kids don't have thoughts that have little to do with what you think they are concerned about. Especially around this transitional age of 9-12. Children are far more perceptive and intelligent than adults give them credit for, and I think if given a glimpse inside the mind of my daughter yesterday afternoon, I would have heard something like this:
My name is Ashley, and I'm 9 years old.
I have a lot of Hello Kitty stuff that Mommy and other people get me, and I like to watch Disney Channel and Nickelodeon.
"Are we still going to have a sleepover for my birthday?"
I have a few friends, but I spend a lot of time by myself. I get upset a lot and scream sometimes, and grownups and kids don't understand it, so I just play by myself, or play with the babies at daycare or watch tv when I'm at home. And then sometimes I feel like running around for no reason, and I start thinking a lot of stuff at once, and I just start talking all at the same time. Teachers don't like that. That's why I put my patch on in the morning. I calm down, and I don't get in as much trouble. That's also why Mommy won't let me eat candy a lot.
"Can we get water from AM/PM before we get to the park? I'm HOT!"
We haven't done this much walking in a long time. It's cold in the morning, hot in the afternoon and I really miss riding in a car. My backpack is heavy in the morning, and I see Mommy looking at it, but I told her I don't want a backpack with wheels. Too big and not cool. I'm glad we went home first and dropped it off. She keeps saying that it won't be like this for long, and I keep telling her that it's okay, but I hope we don't have to keep doing this.
"How much you wanna bet he changed the tv already?"
I love my brother but he is kinda annoying. He got mad because he was watching TV when we got back from school, and Mommy wanted the tv off so I could to do my homework before we left again. He started saying stuff, and Mommy almost got mad back at him. She told him to go in his room or do something else. He got on the computer and started playing music HE liked. He hogs EVERYTHING, including Mommy's attention. I wish he would get his act together, whatever that means. That's what Mommy keeps telling him, and maybe they wouldn't argue so much. I get tired of getting sent in Mommy's room so they can talk.
"Those people in front of us are walking sloooooowwwww."
Mommy laughed a little when I said that. YAY! I like her laugh, even the little ones. She thinks we don't see her making sad faces and mad faces when she talks about money with Auntie and Nana. When she goes in her room to talk on the phone, we turn down the TV so we can hear. We want to know what she's talking about. Mommy told my aunt that she doesn't like surprises. We don't either. I like it when she tells me that something is going to happen, or not gonna happen. I feel better when I know, and I don't get all upset, and then Mommy doesn't get all upset with me. That's why I try not to ask her for stuff. I know we don't have money, she says it all the time, but sometimes I ask for little stuff anyway. And sometimes I actually get it!
"Can I play around a little bit, or do I have to go straight to class?"
The other class is still there, so me and Mommy are sitting at a table, waiting. I'm hungry and I don't want to tell her because she told me to eat something before we left home, and I only ate a little bit. Maybe I can get something on the way home? I'm feeling a little bouncy, and Mommy is starting to get that worried look she gets when I start feeling bouncy, and now she is looking at the door to the room where I do gymnastics. Now she is gonna be watching me like that the whole time. She thinks I play around too much, but teachers have only said that a couple of times. OK. The little kids are out. Time for class.
I did stop and get her a snack on the walk back from the park. I am not completely oblivious to her needs. Preoccupied, definitely, but I can catch a hint when I listen hard enough. Today, I did.