“Parents always stretch an extra limb for their children.”

I know already that when I check the “categories” boxes for this I’ll be checking “Your guess is as good as mine.”

I can imagine parents stretching out a helping hand for their children. I can see them going the extra mile. I know they will risk life and limb.

My student’s bizarre image may be an amalgam of these: the stretch, the extra, the limb…

But what I see is a tree-like parent sprouting a new branch that then grows and grows, out in the direction of the children, eventually reaching them. Perhaps then they clamber up onto the branch to swing, or climb, or read a book. I don’t know if I find this idea sweet or creepy. Certainly it’s a creepy picture. And if the parents always do this, they must develop quite a thick and tangled maze of branches before the kids finally move out of the house in search of other, younger limbs.

This picture is less bizarre than the other one I get, parents producing extra arms and legs, those limbs elongating themselves…. Would this stretching be done “for” the children’s assistance, “for” their comfort, or “for” their amusement? My student does not say. For their sakes, I guess.

I believe that if my niece needed some extraordinary kind of help, my sister and brother-in-law would find a way to generate an extra limb if that’s what it took. This is parental love.

And I know my student meant to describe just that kind of love.

However creepy (or just bizarre) the picture she created, it certainly beats the hell out of what most of my students say their parents will do for them: “be there for them.” Cold-hearted, I always write “where?” in the margin. I know what this expression is meant to mean, too; I’m just sick of it. Talk about wishy-washy sentimentality. I can’t steel myself to be so cruel as to write that in the margin; I’ll have to let the writers live long enough to read the phrase a thousand times or two, at which point they’ll realize that its meaning resides only in the writer’s mind (or soul), doesn’t make the trip onto the page where the reader can see it. And then they’ll stop writing it.

Meanwhile, I’ll prefer the image of that extra parental limb, stretching, endlessly stretching….

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About RAB

Teacher of English writing and literature (college-level); academic-freedom activist; editor and copy editor; theater director, costumer, actress, playwright. View all posts by RAB

2 responses to ““Parents always stretch an extra limb for their children.”

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