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.

you’d say it couldn’t be wrong / but it’s no joke, it’s doing me harm

Phoenix draws two dragons: one Eastern, one Western. “Spot the differences,” she instructs her brother and I. We do so. She next creates a Wyvern dragon and a Serpent dragon so we can play again. Nels, after a moment, judiciously says, “The Serpent has a pissier eye.” He’s right. It looks angrier. We dissolve into giggles.

Tonight Ralph and I both sit on the bleachers at the Y and watch the two kids tumble in gymnastics. Experiencing a making-up of sorts – Phoenix has been irritated with her brother as of late – the kids recently hatched the plan that Nels should join her sport. As I watch, my relatively headstrong son is happy to take direction from the instructors. Within a few minutes he is bending himself into his first bridge, and all kinds of stretches and jumps.  He looks about a thousand percent adorable in his little sweats. Nels has always liked being physically active, but I also think he looks up to his sister more than she realizes.

Life is peaceful in our home. I’m knitting away on a scrappy project and cooking tea and spending time with the children. I can’t easily imagine a life without them in my daily endeavors. Unhurried and almost always available for one another. Tonight I finish up a pair of skinny jeans on the sewing machine while Nels lays on the floor and we play 20 Questions.

When I give up on a particularly tricky problem, my son’s face lights up that he has foiled his mama. “A family of hornets,” he reveals triumphantly. “But you said ‘Yes’ when I asked if it was mammalian!” I exclaim. “No, I said it wasn’t a mammal but it was fluffy!” “Well, all mammals have nipples. Except the echidna and platypus. Monotremes. Do hornets have nipples?” Then we laugh some more. He tells me he’s bored and I’m like, Yeah, just a minute, I’m almost done sewing. He wants chocolate ice cream and gets it out on the counter to soften.

Emily, Tylur, and Cole come over for movie night and Ralph finishes cooking up collard greens, garlic parmesan bread, and lasagna. We eat and laugh and I’m tired. Tomorrow: up early again as I’ve gotta scoot out of my bed for the electrician. BALLS.