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"You really need to start going out again. For coffee at least. There are so many new restaurants in town that you haven't even seen,” said my well meaning single friend to me, three months after the birth of my first born. I didn't have the heart to tell her that at that point in life, I had no desire to because all I really wanted, besides being with my baby, was to sleep.
Taking in my flat slippers that had replaced my heels (so I don't trip while carrying my baby) and face devoid of makeup (so I don't accidentally smear his soft baby skin) and my once long nails trimmed to within a millimetre of my fingertips (so I don't accidentally scratch him) she couldn't get over my transformation.
“You're such a good mom,” she grudgingly said finally. “Really go the extra mile for your child.”
Well years later, my high heels, makeup, long nails and social life have returned, as I knew they would. (Though the need for sleep has somehow become a constant one.) But I keep thinking back to what she said about 'going the extra mile.'
And I wonder. What exactly is the 'extra mile' when it comes to your kids?? What is the society approved ‘mile’ for parenting? And at what point does the ‘extra’ begin?
I’ve read of mothers in rural areas battling leopards with a sudden surge of superhuman strength to protect their sleeping child, or parents who have spent years pleading with lawyers and courts in the undying hope that the justice system won't spare their child's murderer. I've even read about mums who have then taken justice into their own hands and turned murderer to avenge their child's death.
Is that going the extra mile? Maybe! But do you have to be a special type of parent to go there? Or is this something any parent I know would do, when push comes to shove?
I think it most definitely is!
But even during life's mundane phases, once you're a parent you can have only two types of days. Challenging and more challenging! Becoming a parent is basically signing up for a lifetime of putting your child’s needs before your own.
And you're constantly on the ball making one ambiguous decision after another, each of which has the potential of helping or hindering your child's life.
Hours spent researching and deliberating whether guitar or drum is more suited for your child? Gymnastics or ballet? Surgery for those pesky allergies as the doctor suggests or not required as the second opinion revealed? Local college or university abroad? Hell, even something as mundane as the colour of their bedroom walls, so much of our time is spent making life choices for our children.
And then there are those situations that we really don't want to be a part of. The ones that we want to run away from at all costs, but cannot, for the sake of our flesh and blood. The ones that put that sinking feeling in the pit of our stomach and yet we face them head on with a brave face because it is an unavoidable part of the parenting portfolio.
Like the times spent in the labour room miraculously giving birth to another body out of your own....Or in the principal's office discussing your child's behaviour and results...Or apologising to the neighbour for that broken glass....Or to the mother of his friend for the accident that hurt her child.
All those times when you have to stick up for your child and politely but firmly inform the party claiming to be victim that while you feel bad for them and will correct your children, you still stand by them 100%.
If this doesn't constitute going the extra mile I don't know what does? Because if my emotions that constantly yoyo between being high strung and depleted are any indication, then I, along with every other parent I know, have definitely set up permanent residence over the extra mile, so much so that the 1 mile touchstone is a blur to me.
But would I change this feeling for anything in the world? No I wouldn't. Because when I think back to those carefree days before my children entered my life, when I didn't need to constantly think about feeding, nurturing and bettering two other lives besides my own, it was definitely a simpler time. But it also means my life would be devoid of giggles, tickles and hugs galore. Of the long, leisurely conversations with my children who have now become my best friends. And the opportunity to watch my babies grow into wonderful people. It's hard to even remember the way my life was before them. Imagining it without them is harder still. So bring on the extra mile. It maybe exhausting, but each day I'm ready to travel it, and a million more, just for them!