Picture this

It is the last day of summer and a young woman, long, lean and tan walks languidly onto a beach, she wears a bikini, a blue bottom piece with a tan crotchet top. It is an ordinary piece but on her, it sings. She walks and as she does men watch, women do too. She is beguiling.

She finds a space in the sand and sinks into its softness. Cross legged she sits. With her face to the sun and a keen posture, she closes her eyes and meditates. She is perfection.

Another woman trudges onto the beach. Her skin is pale, spattered with freckles and an uneven tan. She belongs in another hemisphere. She is overweight, her thighs are dimpled and they wobble when she walks, at least she thinks they do, her hands are too full to lean over and check. She wears a one piece black and white poker dot swimsuit. She bought it off the internet. Anything to avoid the harsh lights of a change room.

She does not sit to meditate, in fact she laughs at the very idea. Instead, she drops her heavy load, walks past the woman on the sand and heads earnestly to the water. Her time is limited. Five minutes unencumbered is the goal.

She dives under the waves, once, twice. The cold, cool waves are invigorating, freeing.

She turns and looks back at the beach, the meditating woman sits on one side, her husband and children on the other. He watches the woman appreciatively and so he should. But a torrent of doubt floods her mind, wishing, berating, measuring, planning, failing. She is momentarily crest fallen.

But comparison is the thief of joy she tells herself. That reality is not her own, it never will be.

Her body she knows tells a different story. Her forehead is marked with creases from years of study and time spent scrapping with the black dog. Her eyes are dark from sleepless, baby filled nights. Her stomach is covered in stretch marks bequeathed to her by her children. Her breasts have lost their fervor, indeed they are red and calloused and punctured with holes from a baby too vigorous at the breast. Her hips are wide because she has a passion for food. Her thighs are too large because she lacks the will to beat them into submission.

She hears her baby and emerges from the water. Her body may not be beautiful, but it works. Her body may not attract the attention of men, but it is a source of comfort to her babies. Her mind may not be still, but it is constant and compelling. That she can turn her thoughts in this manner suggests to her she is wise and worth more than the pain of cruel and unnecessary thoughts.

Her baby is wrapped in a towel, he snuggles to her sandy breast. He drinks. He sleeps. The pale, imperfect body is his for a time. A rudimentary, soft patch of peace.

She looks up as the woman rises from her meditation and smiles.

Two women, different strengths, neither surpassing the other.

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This post was inspired by Kylie from A Study in Contradictions and The One Perfect Moment Link-up. Because perfect moments can be messy too.

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See that look, that smile, that body language? That’s love, that’s safety, that’s comfort and joy. His father, his hero.

A relationship like this is built every day. Through touch, through time, through play, through attention, through sacrifice and patience.

My husband is the master of these things.

His commitment is absolute. He understands the importance of this relationship and that these times are finite. He is also proud, just plain proud and thankful for his boys.

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Boys and young men are vulnerable creatures. They are inherently at risk, their physiology determines that. As a mother, it frightens me and I know that as my boys grow I will be required to step back and trust this man to be their guide at a time when I want to reign them in and hold them safe. I will have to trust him to set them on the right path, to establish boundaries, to have difficult conversations and to support them in taking risks.

I’m not quite sure what my role is in all of this. Where do I act? Where do I step back?

I do know it is my job to teach them about women. Their significance, their complexity, their beauty, their burden, their vulnerability and their possibility. Because our story is different to that of men, so very, very different. I want them to see that, understand it and value it. I also want them to value themselves well enough to draw strong, challenging and compassionate women into their lives. Women they are proud to stand alongside and learn from. Women they respect.

How do I do that? I have to be a woman they respect, a woman they are proud of. I have to set the bar, everyday.

My husband makes his role look easy, he really does. I think I make mine look hard. Everyday in some way I have to fight aspects of my personality that are not at all conducive to good parenting. I can beat myself up over that or I can acknowledge it and grow toward something more workable, hour by hour, day by day.

In truth, parenting is hard because we ourselves are forced to grow and develop higher faculties. We have to develop new levels of awareness, skill and response. I might make it look hard, but at least I’m trying.

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Each night, we hear the same thing “Can I have a story?”

Well of course you can, but it will likely be delivered with the enthusiasm of a sloth, plodding through mud after a big lunch, because Mummy and Daddy are positively stuffed.

In the two hours before, we’ve had the argument about having a shower, the argument about what will and won’t be eaten on the dinner plate, the manner in which it’s being eaten as well as the argument about actually going to bed. All of this wrapped in a bundle of witching hour shirtiness, theirs and yours.

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We tend to goal set through this period, bed time is the home run and lights out (or night lamps on) is the victory dance.

But before one can smash back a glass of wine and a tub of ice cream and watch trash tv retire and relax, one must run the story book gauntlet.

“I want this one! No, this one…oh and this one and one more! Puhleeeeeeeese!” he says.

“You can pick two, no not that one, too big, smaller…no, smaller…oh give it here” I say. My patience having up and fled about an hour ago.

In actual fact, it’s Daddy who is on story duty 70% of the time in this house. Firstly, because he usually has more patience left at this hour and secondly, because I like to see them have this time together.

But one day it occurred to me by rushing through this moment and giving it away I was missing out on something crucial, an opportunity to lay quietly and laugh, and more importantly listen.

In a breath, this rambunctious little boy will turn into a tall and lanky young man. A young man I want to know, a young man I want to talk to, a young man I want to want to talk to me.

If I can’t make time for him now, why should I expect him to make time for me then?

On having made this decision, we chose three books, length not important and I snuggled in under the covers, impatience swept aside by intentional presence, we read and we laughed and we talked about his day.

“I love you Mummy”

“What do you love about me?”

“Your shape and your bones…and your eyes and your mouth and your nose”.

“Oh that’s nice”.

The perfect end to an always imperfect day, because I made the space for One Perfect Moment.

This post was inspired by Kylie from A Study in Contradictions and The One Perfect Moment Link-up

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