“Ouch! How does she do that?” they said.
Luella just smiled. Her Natalia was a little monkey all right.
Just watching her made people wince. Even Luella wondered if it was some sort of genetic mutation. That much flexibility just isn’t normal.
But it was for Natalia. As a toddler she preferred walking on her toes. At two Luella would prompt, “Talia, do a split.” And Natalia would spread her legs wide open into a perfect split – with no effort whatsoever. She even pointed her little toes.
“She should take ballet,” people said.
Maybe later, thought Luella. They say it’s best not to start till age six.
Natalia was still a little monkey at age three. And she could still walk briefly on her knuckle-toes -- with all of her slight weight on her folded toes – toes folded under.
It made people cringe. But Natalia wasn’t even conscious of it. She just did it.
It’s time to sign her up for gymnastics, thought Luella.
Of course Natalia’s gymnastics teachers were impressed – once Talia opened up and started participating fully in tumbling class.
“She’s a natural,” they said.
“It’d sure be great to have her on the traveling team,” hinted the manger of the gym.
Luella smiled weakly. Competitive gymnastics, at her age? I don’t think so, she thought.
One week, Boris, a coach for Olympic-level gymnasts co-taught Natalia’s toddler class.
Luella didn’t know who he was, but quickly figured it out when she overheard the other parents talking – and asking for his autograph. He’s here to observe Natalia, thought Luella. Is she really that good?
But quiet Natalia was wary of the bear of a man with a thick accent.
After class Boris told Luella, “She even better than Saskia at that age.” Saskia was his most famous protégé. She did so well at the last Olympics; she was known world-wide by just her first name. Even Luella had heard of her. -- She was on the front of Natalia’s cereal box.
“l take her on. She dance? She need ballet…” said Boris, not waiting for an answer. He handed Luella his business card along with a card for a dance studio. Finding her voice, Luella finally said, “But she’s so young!”
Boris replied, “Better to get them before they make bad habits.”
“I’ll discuss it with my husband,” said Luella.
Boris looked perplexed. He was a top-notch (and famous) coach. -- No one said no to Boris.
Luella called her husband as soon as she got home. “The gym and the dance studio are both two hours away! And what about Tatiana? I can’t just drag her to all these places to watch her little sister all the time, can I? I mean, maybe someday, if she really gets into it, but now?” She yelled into the phone, “Talia’s not even out of diapers yet!”
Natalia’s dad said, “Maybe she’ll make us rich.”
Others cautioned, “She’ll get burned out or develop an eating disorder trying to stay small and light…”
What about her childhood,thought Luella. God, please help me do what’s best for Natalia.
Still undecided in mind, but sure of heart, Luella made an appointment with the pediatrician. “I don’t want to mess up Natalia’s whole future if she really is that talented, but… There are so many buts!”
Luella was hoping the doctor would back up her decision. “She’s still growing… It’s good exercise, but you can’t plan on the Olympics yet…”
“An early start doesn’t necessarily mean she’ll reach her potential any sooner – if at all. She’s much too young to make such a big decision on her own, but...” The doctor squatted down to face Natalia who was sitting in her mother’s lap, “Natalia, do you like gymnastics?”
“I like the monkeys!” said Natalia.
Luella smiled. “Her favorite thing about gymnastics is the stuffed monkeys she carries around in between the obstacle course equipment. They have a few of them lying around and she always finds at least one. She really is my monkey girl.”
Luella hugged Natalia tight. She really isn’t ready; maybe someday, but not yet, not so soon. -- She needs to be a kid.
As if to confirm Luella’s decision, that night the girls’ bed-time blessing quoted Eccl. 11:9. “Young people, it’s wonderful to be young! Enjoy every minute of it.” (NLT)
Thanks God, thought Luella. And she knew she’d made the right choice.
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