I used to be so flexible. I used to be able to do the splits when I was in high school. I also used to stretch before and after running and could bend sideways, forwards, and backwards farther than any of my cohorts. Later when I was pregnant, my ligaments became even more loose in preparation for the Big Day when my hips would open sesame to expel a human from within. Sideways splits were easy as pie in those days.
I thought I would always be limber, but then something happened a few weeks after giving birth. My ligaments hardened up like concrete! And no, they didn’t go back to the way they were before pregnancy but in whatever position I happened to be sometime between noon and 1pm, 30 days postpartum. I know this, because I was standing in the kitchen with my feet slightly apart, washing the dishes. I now walk like a duck. I can barely touch my toes today, and the floor remains far, far away if I attempt the splits. When I try to bend sideways, my brain thinks that I’m at 90 degrees while my body stubbornly remains stuck at around 170 degrees.
While waddling around in my ever-stiffening body one day, I realized that becoming a parent has ironically made me more flexible in my heart. I used to have such rigid expectations about myself, but now I’ve had to let go of them for the sake of our kids. I also used to have every minute of the day scheduled with my to-do list, but a sick child would completely throw off all of my carefully-laid plans…and I wouldn’t resent it one bit. I’ve let go of a perfectly organized house for a more realistic, fun home. I’ve also stopped beating myself up when my kids didn’t meet some milestones, because some things are beyond my control. Actually, not much in life was ever under my control; it just took motherhood for me to recognize this.
I don’t think I would ever go back to my former, inflexible self. Back then, things always HAD to be a certain way. Who wants a perfectly clean home when the kids are all stressed about it? What child wants every minute of their days planned with activities? Who cares about doing the splits when there is a sick child who needs you?
I’m writing this today, because Josh missed his baptism this morning due to yet another illness. He really did have a high fever and looked rather contagious. In my past life, I would have thrown him in the ice tub, made him get dressed, and fed him Tylenol for breakfast so he could be lucid enough for the 10 minutes at church. After all, his name was already printed in the bulletin! Instead, we let him go back to bed and sleep in. Thankfully, Pastor Tim assured us that there will be another opportunity after he gets well.
Yeah, it would be nice if I could regain some of my physical flexibility from my glory days, but I wouldn’t trade the flexibility I’ve gained as a mother for anything.
Now, if you’ll excuse me, I’m going to go do some stretches on the floor next to the bed where my sick child is sleeping upstairs.
Tell me — are you more or less flexible after becoming a parent, physically or emotionally? What are some big lessons you’ve learned as a result of having a child?