An imaginary friend

I was skimming the suggested blog posts and caught by this title #for all the lonely children with imaginary friends, from Kiprop Kimutai’s blog.  I remembered writing a post about the same subject, but in French, several months ago. (My blog in French)

I read again my article and was always moved. So I translate myself and rewrite it.

To our surprise, Claire didn’t cry the first day she went to school. With little knowledge of English, she was the only one Chinese girl in her preschool. “Children learn fast!”teachers there seemed confident in her. But we still worried a lot, not only about language difficulties, but also about the different culture she would encounter. In Claire’s former Chinese preschool, children were well disciplined. There was even a fixed time for bathroom. If the teacher was speaking, no one dared to talk. At lunch time, all kids ate the same things prepared by school.

In the first weeks, Claire remained silent, which was normal. Feeling so lonely,  she just stayed still in her chair, when other kids were listening to the story. She even refused to drink water since she didn’t know what was the time to go bathroom or didn’t dare to go there by herself when the others played outside. Sometimes, she took others’ kindness for defiance. “I didn’t cry today.” It was the first sentence we heard when picking her up in the afternoon. She knew what made us happy and proud. But in the meantime, she asked us to pick her earlier.

One day, her dad was delighted to see a Chinese woman at the parking of Claire’s preschool, who was talking with a little child in our language. We thought that a new student might be enrolled recently and Claire might make friends with this guy. Later, our conversation was all about this discovery.

Claire was excited to learn the new coming. Being asked for several times, she confirmed the news and told us that Yiha happened to be in her class.

“What a strange name! Is she Chinese?” we turned also excited.

“Her mom is Chinese and her dad speaks Spanish. She can speak English too.” It could be true, as we live near the border and I saw already several mixed couples.

Every day, we knew a little more about this Yiha. Sometimes, we asked questions about her. Sometimes, Claire spontaneously told us her story. This girl was born in America and never knew China. But she spokes so well English and help Claire to explain teachers’ instructions.

“What does she eat for lunch?” I was especially curious about this point, which was also my daily concern.

“Like me, cooked rice with shrimp.” cheered Claire, what made me relaxed. There was finally another child who was familiar with warm lunch.

One month later, all parents were invited to attend a festival at school. We discovered with astonishment the beautiful art works made by children. They were all hung up on several murals. “Claire was an artiste and she drew amazing pictures,” told us her main teacher. Indeed, our daughter spent a lot of time in drawing. She even draw pictures for each classmate as a present of valentine’s day. She drew a lot at school and took several pictures to home.

We were eager to meet Yiha and her family. But she was not there and there was no art work signed with this name. “Maybe she was sick,” Claire explained.

One week later, it was a parade day at school and I went there to help. I stayed even at lunch time. “What a pity, Yiha wasn’t here today.” I signed. At theses words, Claire’s teachers were surprised. I turned to them to ask information about this Chinese girl. “Really? But we don’t have her in our class.” One of her teacher tried to figure out if she was in another class, because the school was small and that all kids played together in the afternoon.

Claire’s face turned rad and she left the table with the lunch unfinished. She asked the other teacher to play with her. Watching her leaving the table, I suddenly realize that there was no Yiha anywhere. One teacher had gone to the next room to look for this Yiha and came back confused. I walked to her and explained that it might be just imaginary. “Oh!”, she opened her eyes and then pet my shoulder, “let it go.”

My eyes were wet. What my daughter had gone through all the last month? Why did she need to lie to us? Staring at her back, I felt so sorry and guilty. Did we put so much pressure on her? Did she make all theses stories just to reduce our anxious? How could I talk to her with this discovery.

The lie was always considered as a sin in our family. When her dad got the point, he was extremely angry,”it was impossible. Do you mean that she has some psychological problem?” Even we knew that it was hurting to her, we talked about the issue at diner.

“That’s awful, I lied. ” Claire cried,”that’s awful.” I thought that she might be chocked by herself and could not believe that she was a liar. Perfect liar.

Then, I remembered what said her teacher, “let it go”. So we stopped mentioning it.

One night, Claire suddenly recalled this story and with tears, she asked me to forgive her.

“But why?”

“Because I just want to have a friend, my friend.” she whispered.

It was my turn to wipe my tears.

“You will, very soon.” I hugged her.

It is true that children can get used to a new life quickly. But still not so quickly.  We can hardly imagine in what a solitary and scary world they fight and move on. How brave should thy make themselves to face the new life, which means attractive discoveries and intermittent fears.



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