I teach them to sidestep baby grass, stroke the velvet ears of uncut tulips, leave plump lilacs untouched on sun-stretched branches. Together, we veer from the bouncing arcs of squirrels, scatter organic oats for sparrows and starlings alike, rehearse the anthems of mourning doves and black-capped chickadees. But celery sticks sprout into swords, wily fingers craft ziti into slippery pistols, an unwrapped tampon becomes a grenade. My son comes to breakfast with four cardboard toilet paper rolls taped end to end and zaps his brother dead. Their screams of joy smother the maple warmth of steaming waffles. The catbird mimics my children’s battle cries and the cardinal at the freshly filled feeder is a splotch of blood seeping from a wound. April wind peels pink blisters from the cherry tree. A worm struggles against a robin’s razor beak. Nature must have laughed when I believed I could trellis my children to gentleness.