She holds the phone close against her ear even though I pressed the speaker button before I handed it to her. She climbs onto the couch next to me and stares intently at the wall as she speaks. What are you doing? she asks her friend on the other end of the line.
A high pitched voice answers back We are playing big sister, little sister.
That's crazy! giggles my girl. Who are you playing with?
We are says her friend.
Who is the big sister? the girl wants to know.
My mom! her friend squeals and I'm the little sister.
The girl giggles again, overcome with the silliness of it all. The silliness of her friend's game. The silliness of hearing her friend's voice float out of the telephone and fill up the space around us.
There was a happiness to the girl's face in that moment. It reflected the openness and excitement she felt in sharing with her friend. It looked so different from the sullen girl that sat by herself on a park bench hours later. I want to be alone she growled at her friend until her friend went off crying. Alone again, the girl lay down on the bench and looked up at the sky.
I don't want to be her friend the girl told me when I chastised her for pushing. That's not a nice thing to say I told her, feeling uncertain about the parenting territory I found myself venturing into. How would you feel if she said she didn't want to be your friend anymore?
She shrugged and looked away. I looked away too.
Later when I carried her on my hip crying and screaming out of the park because she had pushed her friend for a third time, her brother crying and screaming from his seat in the stroller because he didn't want to leave the park, I thought about friendship. The complicated intricacies of sharing toys and snacks. The new relationships and language of the school playground. The tears and heart ache that come from the friends we love the most.