We had the kids tucked in bed at a respectable 9:30pm last night, and we were very proud. But the thing is, we had let them stay up past midnight three nights last week to watch the Olympics. Then Saturday night Matt decided they needed to watch "Chariots of Fire," which is a long movie to begin with, and much longer when it is paused every few minutes to try to explain to the girls what in the world is going on. So they didn't get to bed until after 11:00pm Saturday night. Not surprisingly, Hannah wasn't quite ready to drift to sleep at 9:30 last night.
She slunk down the stairs slowly, savoring each moment of her out-of-bed experience, used the bathroom, then came to Matt and I for another bed-time hug. After her hug she stood looking at me. "What is it, Hannah?" I asked, slightly annoyed.
"I've been thinking," she began, "Mommy, what is a cartwheel?"
"Something you can learn about tomorrow," I retorted.
But her sad little eyes drew Matt's sympathy. "Hannah, you are so...unique," he chuckled.
So I caved a little and sighed, "It's where your feet go up in the air while your arms and hands go down and you turn over sideways. Your arms and legs look like the spokes of a cart's wheel as they go around." Hannah furrowed her brow, but clearly couldn't picture what I was describing.
"Oh, just do one to show her," Matt goaded me, smiling.
Now, I haven't turned a cartwheel in at least 15 years, and my body has gone through a few changes in those years, like giving birth to five babies. It was also ridiculously late at night and indoors, three good reasons for me to have laughed at Matt and shooed Hannah off to bed. But Matt's playful goading, Hannah's twinkling blue eyes, and my own curiosity spurred me off the couch. "OK, Hannah," I laughed, "Mommy will show you just one cartwheel, and then you go to bed."
I cleared a runway on the living room carpet as Hannah giggled, threw my arms up in the air, and wondered just how this would turn out. But I had to prove to my nay-sayer husband, and my adoring six-year-old fan that Mommy could still cartwheel. So over I went. I felt a small protest from a few ligaments that haven't been stretched that way in 15 years, but I landed on my feet, to Hannah's delight, and I think Matt's surprise.
"Pretty good, pretty good, but you forgot to point your toes," Matt teased. Which was not nearly the approval I deserved for accomplishing such a feat.
"Wait, wait," I laughed. "I can do better than that. One more. Here we go." This time my feet flew a little higher, I attempted to point my toes, and I had only a small hop on the landing. I threw my hands up in my best Gabby Douglas impression and awaited my score.
"You hopped on the landing," Hannah said, feigning disappointment in me.
"That's going to be a big deduction," Matt agreed.
Laughing and just about breathless I collapsed on the couch as Matt sprang up. "Watch, Hannah," he called. "This is how you do a cartwheel." He glided much more smoothly than I had, but I was able to fault his landing.
"I'm the judge," Hannah asserted, "and I'm not sure. One more time, Daddy." Matt was glad to oblige, especially since he had been better than me. "OK, I've got that one in my mind now," Hannah said, "but, Mommy, I need to see yours again."
Of course I couldn't turn her down now, not with my pride on the line. So I turned two more cartwheels for the pint-sized judge, each better than before. After an agonizingly long wait, Hannah announced, "The gold medal goes to Daddy, because his was the best, but I'm still proud of you, Mommy."
Then the three of us were laughing together in our cozy living room, in the old farmhouse, under the great pines and the black summer sky. In my estimation, that was a 10.0 bedtime-stall performance for Hannah, and I enjoyed every moment of it. She deserves a gold medal of her own.