Dinner with a child

I had the honor last night dinning with a friend and her small charge. I have to tell you about my friend first to understand why the small dinner companion was so charming. My friend has a tendency to pick up and become involved with people who she who would do better to run from. She wants to fix things and will aid almost anyone who asks no matter the consequences to herself, which is usually disastrous. There is no saving her from her misfortunes. I have learned to separate my own desire to fix and only offer an ear for her to bend and some opportunities to help me around my house in order to earn some income. She will never change and although I feel bad when she is in the clutches of a self-made catastrophe, I know she will move on only to perpetuate the cycle. Her latest endeavor includes a man living in her house that has multiple children all over the place but is in partial custody of a five year old. Hence, my dinner date.

This little peanut of a girl has seen more than I have in my life. She has eleven siblings, all who are scattered and in the system. I do not come from this culture and I have great difficulty with accepting it. These young people will grow up in most cases only to continue in this world very troubled. So is the little one who graced my world yesterday. She is about four feet tall, wiry in stature with a sweet smile but eyes that hold secrets. She instantly took to me as she hid behind me to meet Bishop. They were eye to eye and Bishop barked his deep hello and scared her. I forget my dog can be intimidating to someone her size.

We went to one of my favorite restaurants that have high wooden booths to sit in. Once sequestered, the world disappears and you can really talk and enjoy your company while savoring a nice meal. This little one busily colored while my friend chronicled her latest disaster. Her current involvement, the girl’s father, was involved with another female and my friend was crushed. The man has thirteen children and three are only siblings of this little creature. I was so confused as my friend tried to explain the family dynamics. I do not get it and I certainly do not see this as a good situation. But then my friend accepts this as a natural state of cohabitation; the procreation of children with multiple partners. I have nothing against having children by any means, but I totally slip off the non-judgment bus when these offspring are in foster care of some sort. You want them; you made them, take care of them.

While my friend went through her misery of her situation, our conversation would be broken by some little recant of a serious issue with the coloring. She slowly warmed to me as I sat in rapt delight with her sweetness. She will do fine in the world with the right guidance. She could charm a snake and probably learned already to do this for survival. My friend was telling me she is going for intelligence testing and is already ADHD. I saw none of that. She is a little girl, full of energy and brimming with smarts. She only needs the right direction to get her out of the world she may end up in, the right challenges to overcome and the right support to help her grow. I pray she finds them and is not boxed into some category and labeled. We do that with brilliant children because they are so charged with energy it takes a ton of adult energy to keep them going. It is easier to medicate them than to work at developing challenges and tests that bring them success and a sense of accomplishment. Such is our education system, a world I had to leave.

She has a wonderful appetite and wanted to taste everything that was on the table. She sat and smiled, relishing each morsel of her chicken fingers. Her face was focused on the task and remnants of her meal remained on her cheeks and shirt. As she sat back, her chocolate milk entrusted to her small hands, she looked satisfied. Then she knew as we munched she would have our full attention so she began to entertain us. This young thing is not any of the labels so hastily charged to her.

But when my friend leaned over to cut her chicken for her to cool, there was a huge shift on her countenance. It was startling. My friend had her dinner knife and was wielding it fairly close to her nose. And this was only because the little one had leaned in to smell her food. Without looking up she uttered in a voice not of her own temper, “You better not be waving that knife in my face.”  She looked up only to see my startled face gaping at her. I asked her to repeat what she said, and sure enough she did, her nature completely changing to a deep serious tenor. Then she popped a piece of chicken in her mouth and returned my stare. I looked at my friend who acknowledged what I heard with, “she has seen and heard a lot.” She is five years old and a little pixie.

We continued our meal, dotted with the small voice who chimed in with great proclamations of the immediate surroundings, the food and her thoughts on the world. I never heard the common decree of small humans; “when I grow up I am going to be….” I did not ask either. She recanted her numbers and letters, done with enough confidence that I know she will be fine in the arena of academics. That is if they take the time to listen and work with her. But she comes from an environment where school is a burden; a world that is not embraced by her family.

She will succeed if they allow her to.

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