I am writing this with a nine-year-old in my lap. Nine-year-olds do not easily fit into a lap, and rarely want to. However, I have been trying to spend more time writing, and this nine year old is feeling a little neglected. So here she is, insisting that I write around her. I am reading this aloud as I do, and she is giggling helplessly. In fact, she's laughing so hard, she is sliding out of my lap.
This may be the most effective way to remove her.
She came into the study to show me what she has been making. My girl is fascinated by ancient Egypt, and has drawn and cut from cardboard the funerary amulets used in the mummification process. She tells me the names of them (scarab, wedjet eye, ankh, djed pillar, Nephthes, Isis, and the four sons of Horus: Imseti, Duamuteph, Hapi, Qebesenuef). I have a graduate degree in ancient near eastern history, but she already knows more about ancient Egyptian burial customs than I do.
My mother asked her the other day if she was still interested in ancient Egypt. "Aren't you over that stuff yet?" I don't know if this was teasing or not, but my girl insisted there was nothing wrong with loving ancient Egypt, so she was unfazed by Grandma's prodding. Maybe this will be a lifelong love for her; maybe not. But I love the joy she brings to it, the way new books and new facts and new photos light up her eye.
(It sure beats her other love: Star Wars. She's never even seen the movie. I know. Nine-year-olds.)
Last spring, she took cardboard and popsicle sticks and made a senet game, the ancient board game we know from paintings and texts. She and her sister still play it. I have not played once.
"Grown-ups do not understand children whatsoever," she tells me, "Even though they're both human beings." Because what endeavor does she see me devote myself to? What interest does she see me cadge moments for? Only writing. And here she is, in my study, insisting I write around her.
Children don't understand grown-ups at all.