The Uses for a Nine Year Old

My Girl Friday (who works for me on Mondays) has a daughter, who sometimes comes along with her to work. Now that her daughter is nine, she is useful in many ways.
1. She entertains my dogs.
2. She entertains my sister, giving her someone to watch.
3. She brings music into the house, since she loves to play my piano — not songs, just interesting made-up chords that sound pretty close to real music.
4. She walks my dog (runs with her) as I walk behind them.
5. She says intelligent things that make me realize how smart she is.
6. She says wishful things that make me realize how independent she wants to be.
“I’m going to pretend that you’re not here,” she says as we walk one dog at a time along the greenbelt.
“Okay,” I say, wondering what that means.
“I want to walk to school by myself, but my mom won’t let me.”
Ah, ha.
I remember Michaela Garrett, who was on her bike with a friend when she was nine and snatched by a man who threw her into his van. Her friend could do nothing to stop it.
Kimmy lives in the same town.
“Your mom is right,” I say. “You can when you’re older.”
I used to have my son walk his little sister down the long court where we lived at the top, to the church at the bottom of the hill for her Bible classes on Tuesday nights.
“Mom, it’s only a block away!” he complained. “What could happen?”
But it was a block past a school and driving teens and lots of driveways, not to mention acres of unsupervised practice fields. She was nine. He was almost fourteen.
“Just do it, please,” I’d say, “so I can keep making your dinner.”
Now I get to be with another little girl who is just as clever and who wants to roam.
I take her over the bridges that cross two creeks that run through the neighborhood. She wants to throw things into the water to see what will happen. We find some sticks.
“You hold the dog leash,” she says, watching the pieces of stick hit the water.
She is fascinated with this simple act. She doesn’t have a park with creeks in her neighborhood.
“How many times did we cross bridges?” I ask her on the way back.
“Four,” she says.
“We crossed four bridges, but we went on two walks. How many times did we cross a bridge?”
She doesn’t get it. She looks confused.
“We crossed four bridges, but we did it twice,” I say. “Once with Daisy, once with Pepper.”
“Eight,” she says.
It’s a math walk.
A nine year old you don’t really have to discipline, who you get to feed real food to (not the junk she usually eats), who soaks up everything you show her like a sponge, who laughs all day long because she gets to be with your dogs, who runs in and out of the door and never shuts it, who is curious about everything but also spends too much time on her ipad, who looks up to you like an extra grandma (as you are waiting for your own grandchildren), well, that’s a great one to have around.
Plus, she makes your sister, who sits in a chair all day, laugh.
That right there is worth a whole lot.

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