It was the night before school started, and I sat on the bottom of Saoirse’s bunk bed to give my nervous girls a pep talk.
“Listen,” I said, “when you go to school tomorrow, make sure to keep a lookout for these two girls. Their names are Saoirse and Quinlan, and you’ll know them because everybody will know them. See, Saoirse and Quinlan are some of the smartest, kindest, bravest, nicest kids in the whole school. You’ll want to be friends with them because everybody is their friend. In fact, Saoirse and Quinlan are two of the friendliest girls you’ll ever meet. They’re smart and kind and good, so get to know them, okay? Just trust me. These girls? Saoirse and Quinlan? They’re going to be awesome.” I was looking at Quinlan’s face–her thumb in her mouth (an old habit that resurfaced this summer), eyes closed, a soft smile on her lips–and hadn’t noticed that Cian had come into the room until I heard his voice break into sobs behind me.
“I wan’ to hear the stowy,” he cried. He thought he’d missed the bedtime story I’ll sometimes tell the kids as I tuck them in. I heard Quinlan sigh, exasperated. But I started over, tailoring the message for his almost-in-preschool ears.
“I was just telling the girls about the people they’re going to want to know in school,” I told him. David was in the room now, too, listening. “Like a little boy named Cian, who’s smart and kind and brave and good.” I saw the same proud smile grow on his face that had been on his sister’s.
“Um, Mom?” Quinlan interrupted. “Are you really sure that Cian’s smart?” David practically flew out of the room. I could hear him laughing through the wall as I came to Cian’s defense (How’s this for a totally ineffective comeback: “Of course he’s smart! He’s just three-year-old smart, that’s all!”).The girls are in school now, of course, Cian at home. He doesn’t start school for a couple more weeks, so as I work in the morning, he plays, and asks for food, and plays some more. When the girls get home today he’ll follow Quinlan around, insisting that she play with him. When she plays with him, he’ll be the happiest. When she gets bored, he’ll act like his world is crashing down. And tonight, at bedtime, he’ll crawl under the covers beside her as I tell them a story. That’s his big sister, man. Of course he’s smart. He already knows she’s one of the best friends he’ll ever have, after all. Now we’ll just have to wait for her to come around to the same conclusion.