regardless of how high and forceful it crests

Nels recently joined his sister in her Wednesday evening gymnastics; this was his third session. She is the only girl with short hair in the class, and he is the only boy, period. So they stand out, a bit. I’m not sure how many students and instructors know Phoenix is a girl. She told me yesterday she was no longer going to bother correcting those who misgender her. So it’s no big deal.

My daughter is an easy favorite of a few instructors, likely not for her abilities – which seem strictly middle-of-the-pack – but due to her cleverness, enthusiasm, and sweet disposition. Not all children are there of their own volition, but she definitely is.

Nels is trouble. He does not take instruction with focus. He performs his own gymnastics, jumping and bending and tumbling and kicking. Magnetically, he attracts other children who are also less-than-obedient, and creates great distracting games including hair pulling and pushing and such, which the instructors are then obliged to discourage. I found myself saying to my son, somewhat ridiculously, “Nels, this isn’t playtime. It’s gymnastics.” I’ve also explained to him it is an insult to take a class, and not apply oneself to the instructor. Today on our way out he apologized for his disrespect to the instructor. Apologized, to me. I told him next week he could try to focus more. “It only matters that you improve a little, each time,” I say.

But even with his naughtiness he seems to have secured a great deal of serious instruction from one instructor, a beautiful young woman with lovely pale-almond skin and long dark tresses. Today from where I sat it looked like they were just rolling around together. He was pretty damned happy about it, let me tell you. At one point she did a graceful bridge and he quickly slid under her, whether at her behest or strictly his own idea, I do not know. She seemed entirely unoffended and sat with him and helped him stretch his arm up and back, noodling him into a form that will eventually be able to perform the feat.

Shoulder flexibility keeps Nels from doing the same bridge, but he struggles valiantly. His sister continues to coach and demonstrate, as her own bridge is improving each week. Watching Nels strain and finally flop entirely flat like a fish, I’m reminded of a conversation the two had a few months ago. Nels was talking about making out – with his sister (you know… like you do) – to which she surprisingly replied, “I wouldn’t make out with your weak and flimsy body.” Delivered with direct yet playful scorn. He nodded, seeming to understand.

Every time I watch my son attempt a bridge and collapse, I think, “flimsy”, and I snicker aloud into my phone. In fact I’m laughing right now thinking about it.

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