Tonawanda News

October 20, 2010

The law of conservation of energy — with kids

By Jill Keppeler

NORTH TONAWANDA — A long, long time ago, in a place far, far away (well, OK, it was Walt Disney World), my husband and I were strolling idly through the resort, with nothing to do but see the sights and enjoy ourselves.

We were on our honeymoon. Our only responsibilities were to each other and ourselves. It was relaxing and wonderful and peaceful.

As we walked hand-in-hand through the Florida foliage, a pack of children ran toward us down a resort path, giggling madly, garbed for a day at the parks (from which they’d obviously just returned). Behind them, walking slowly, were a weary-but-not-unhappy-looking couple whom I presumed were their parents.

Watching the thundering herd pass us, the father shook his head ... and called to the children:

“How can you have so much energy when I’m so tired?”

We looked at each other and laughed, each then, perhaps, seeing our future in the tired parents. To this day, eight years later, there are still moments when we look at our kids, then each other, and repeat those words.

This morning was one of them.

After a brutal night that involved a restless 5-year-old and a potty-training 2-year-old (who presented himself at our bedroom door and announced, “Stinky!”), Clan Keppeler staggered forth reluctantly after the second or third repetition of the snooze alarm.

At least, the adults staggered. The kids bounced. James and Sam hit the bottom of the stairs and immediately began a rousing game of “chase each other around the living room.”

I paused in my quest for coffee, looked at my husband, and we both recited, “How can you have so much energy ... ”

Where do they get it? I don’t know. We suspect they sap it directly from us, but I’m not sure how that works.

If I remember my (very rusty) high school physics correctly, the law of conservation of energy says that the total amount of energy in an isolated system (our household?) remains constant over time ... that energy can neither be created nor destroyed, but only transformed from one state to another.

From adults to kids perhaps? Is that how it works? Are they born with the ability? Or is one simply a result of the other?

Or am I just typing while sleep-deprived?

The boys go to bed earlier than we do, obviously, but that’s not enough to account for this. With their almost-constant state of motion, I don’t doubt they’re in much better shape ... but little legs are still much shorter and should still wear out first ... right?

It seems to work with any adult, actually. During a recent trip to an outdoor attraction, the boys played the “run-around-in-circles-and-giggle-until-you-fall-down” game while my parents watched in bemusement. I asked them if they ever felt that way around my brother and me.

They just laughed.

I’m glad my kids are energetic. I’m glad they’re active. I think about my elder son’s long-ago heart surgery, and I thank God for this day.

Just keep the coffee coming.