A few years ago, I started taking care of these two neighbor kids in the morning before school. Their parents go to work much earlier than the bus comes, so Tim and Abby would come over and wait with Jack for an hour or so. This year, it's just Abby, who's nine; Tim's in middle school now and leaves at the crack of dawn with the rest of the big kids.
I love Abby. She's brilliant. And I don't mean astronaut smart, which she probably is; she's in the PEAK program and is probably blowing away half the kids in there. I mean brilliant in the ways of wit and wisdom, that is so rare even in most adults I know. She's a little old lady in a 4th grader's body, I swear. A long time ago, we were walking to the bus stop with the boys and they were totally out of control, burping, farting, jumping on each other. We walked behind, slowly,(because Abby does everything deliberately, at the pace of a snail) and I muttered "Boys!" She looked over at me, shook her head in resigned disbelief and said "You know, Tam, some days I don't know how you do it." She kills me.
This morning, she came with us to school for Jack's conference. He got hit pretty hard, by both his teacher and the music teacher. He can't sit still. He talks too much. He's off task. He won't pay attention. (Genetically, I didn't just pass down my freckles. I made sure he got all the good stuff too.) As we were waiting for school to start, I said to him,
"You know, buddy, the thing about acting out all the time is that eventually, you end up in trouble all the time. Then you end up hating school and you end up miserable all the time."
From the back seat, Abby pipes up. "Stress cuts your life short."
"Indeed it does." I say.
"What's stress?" Jack asks
"Well, like things you worry about and things that don't go right in your life and things that make you unhappy." Like your brother, I want to say. But I don't.
"Why does it make your life shorter?"
"Because it's bad for your heart. It makes your heart work harder and use up all its energy that it could use on better stuff if you didn't have stress. So it quits working sooner." (By the way, I absolutely congratulated myself on this explanation. I'm not sure I'd ever tried to define it myself.) Jack nods, understanding.
And then, because God knows exactly how to put things in persective, Abby says,
"Yeah. My mom better let me quit taking piano lessons soon or I'm not going to live very long."
I love her.