One of the hardest things for me is that my gregarious, people-focussed, chatty, sociable, insanely friendly five-year-old leads a rich and private inner life.
And doesn't let me in.
She asks for a little - a very little - and then goes away after I've shown her how to count on her fingers and comes back casually doing multiplication months later, not having mentioned a number in the intervening period.
She swears she can't read but has been overheard doing so often and oft, though never by me. She doesn't do it when I'm around at all, except for pointing out the library's Archaeology dept. She has very rarely and occasionally allowed me to help her with phonics or letter-formation but still I find scraps of writing lying around and am left to glean what stage she's at from that.
And what do I do? I read around her, to her little sister. I leave alphabet friezes and cuisenaire rods lying around, and sometimes play with them with her. I ask her to sign cards and pictures and letters, and sometimes she also writes the recipients name on them. I call on her big-sister role to show the three-year-old things. For whom do I do these things? For myself, because not knowing what's going on in side her head terrifies and saddens me.
But I remember it. And recently she has been a little more forthcoming, perhaps, just a smidge. She talks about her pictures (I must photograph her recent elephant) and we had a little -at words chat this morning. She's been drawing mazes for her sister to solve; through their relationship I can see a lot of her inner life, really, I suppose.
But she's really a very private person. And an enthusiastic nudist. I'm often bewildered.
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