She asked her little brother, "Do you know what 12 times 1 is?"
He thought for a beat and answered, "13!"
"Nope" said with a small degree of smugness. I interjected with the short math lesson, "Anytime you multiply a number by '1', the answer is the other number." She didn't like my interjection and sulked a bit, saying something I don't remember. Her brother said, "It's like you just wanted to show something I don't know, and that's kind of mean." I backed him up, gently, saying, "Yeah, that's true...it is not nice to point out what others don't know and not be willing to let them learn."
She dropped her shoulders and her head and skulked away to her room. After a few minutes, she came to the kitchen with a bulging backpack. She opened the fridge and started packing up baby carrots, cheese sticks, apples. I asked, "What's this project you're working on?" She didn't want to answer, though I knew what she was doing. I made a decision to just let it ride out instead of making an issue of it.
She continues packing, and I ask where she's going. She says, "I can't say."
"Well, I'm your mom and therefore responsible for you, so I need to know where you are."
"Somewhere near our property, but not on it...Can I cross the street?"
"Sure, but don't turn the corner to go around the block."
She finished packing a few things and went for her shoes. I said, "Hey, I got some pumpkin cookies at the store today. You want to add some to your bag?"
She walks into the kitchen to the box of cookies and says, "How many should I take? You choose."
"I think two would be good." She puts them with the rest of her snacks before putting on her shoes and walking out the door.
I watch her from the front porch. Her bag is on her back and she slowly walks to the end of our block, crosses to the other side, walks the length of the block, crosses back over, does it again. She keeps stealing glances at me over her shoulder, so I try to hide that I'm watching her. Eventually her friend down the street comes out and asks what she's doing. She decides to run away too. They go down to her house so she can pack her bag as well.
They both walk up and down the block, crossing the street, crossing back. Her friend asks, "Are you really running away?"
"No, not today because I have to go to soccer practice."
This routine goes on until we leave for her practice. She had not wanted to go out of fear of hurting her broken wrist, but I know how protected it is with her cast, so I make her go. Once she gets on the field, she's on fire. She plays like a maniac, taking a break to guzzle water and then throw her bottle back down on the ground like a pro-athlete. At one point, she falls on her broken side, and I cringe, not knowing what the reaction will be. She springs right back up and keeps running. When I ask her about the fall later, she says she doesn't even remember it.
Back at home, I help her shower since she can't get her cast wet. The three of us sit in the living room reading aloud the next chapter of The Voyage of the Dawn Treader. She is really into it and also very affectionate with me. As she goes to bed, she hugs me and says, "My momiye" (the Amharic way of saying "my" is to add "ye" to the end, so she's essentially saying, "My mom, mine." It's incredibly endearing to have one's name made possessive..."You are mine, we belong together, without you, there is no me.").
Every night I tell her I love her, and while she will always hug me and kiss me, she rarely if ever says it back. Tonight, on her own, before I have a chance to say it first, she tells me she loves me. I tell her that I hope she never runs away.
"Because I would really miss you, and I'd never sleep again if you went missing."