We didn't have to pull into the parking lot to see that everyone else had the same idea. Thankfully there were a couple of free swings. I pushed her pretty high hoping she'd catch on to the idea of pumping to make herself go higher. She has the movement but not the strength to do much with it and so, inevitably I would end up behind her once again pushing to make her fly.
After about 10 minutes a large group of young girls screamed and giggled their way to the swings and although, by that time, I had gotten onto the swing and put Elli on my lap to show her how high we could go together, she really wanted to move on. I don't know if she just didn't like the noise or was intimidated by the shear number of girls that were nearby.
We walked from one piece of equipment to another. She's discovered that she likes to climb. She likes to climb precarious things. The girl needs a rock wall.
On each piece of equipment she climbed the requisite height to reach the slide and then stood on top of the slide to take in the view. She would stand and stare for quite awhile. I was wishing I knew what she was thinking but then on second thought, maybe I'm glad I didn't.
After she had played on every piece of equipment we walked to other little "toys" and experimented with those. By this time we were standing in the very center of the play area and she began to stare at a mom sitting on a bench just outside the log border. She turned and looked at me and said "Mom, you can sit." while pointing to that same bench. I asked her if she wanted to sit down and she said no.
Then I understood. "Oh," I said "you want me to sit down while you go and play." She smiled and nodded and watched me walk to a bench that was in the middle of everything. I wasn't going to let her out of my sight.
It didn't dawn on me until I was sitting there watching her try to make friends, try to "go it alone", just how lonely she must be. One of the first things she asked us ever was if she had friends in America. Friends are very important to her. As a matter of fact every "friend" we have belongs to one of us, according to Elli. It had been 2 weeks since she'd really spent quality time with any friends from church because of Easter holiday and then being sick. Today was her first day of feeling completely normal and she was anxious for companionship.
She's realized that siblings aren't the same as friends. At least not the same as the friends she wants to have. Josh and Kate have lives of their own and don't play with her whenever she asks. I wondered as I watched her if she ever had a day alone in her life. I wondered if she ever played alone in her life. I thought about the number of times that I asked her to play alone in her room for a little bit while we worked on school work. I needed some quiet for the kids. Did she even know what I meant? If she did, could she have thought that was a punishment?
When it was finally time to go she couldn't stop talking to me about her "new friends". She uses very little Chinese anymore when she speaks to me. She's quite good at explaining what she's thinking and wondering and experiencing. The most important thing she wanted me to know was that they spoke to her. She felt that was HUGE. I wonder why? I wonder if that's not typical of "new acquaintences" in China. I asked her if she spoke to them and told them her name. She hadn't.
All the way to dance she kept talking about new friends. We talked a lot about friends. I assured her that she had many. She hadn't seen them in a long time and wasn't sure they were still her friends. Oh, if she only knew.