Very soon, in September, Ruby will get her third day at nursery. For now though, she and I still have Mondays together, just the two of us. She does spend a large proportion of the day repeatedly asking me whether or not it's time to go and get Ava (which slightly dents my ego), but in between that we have some great quality time.
This week, for example, we had a very busy morning. We did four jigsaws, then we played a game of Tummy Ache, then a game of Spotty Dogs. We read some stories, hung out some washing, ate some Wensleydale and did a bit of painting. Actually, we did a lot of painting: snails, butterflies (x 8), flowers, a snowman.
Pictures laid out to dry and lunch (practically) inhaled, we headed to the living room for a bit of quiet time.
This often means Ru is tired and she needs a nap so I let her snuggle. But instead of going in face first and wiping her nose all over my shoulder before conking out, as she usually does, she nestled into the crook of my arm and looked very intently at my face.
"Are you alright, darling?" I inquired.
Ruby looked quite serious. She stroked my eyelashes for a little while, and then my cheek, staying quiet for several minutes before finally saying: "Pretty mummy."
Now it has to be said, I do not spend a great deal of my time feeling pretty. Most of the 'beauty regimes' I once had have faded in the wash as it were - rather like my clothes, which are rarely replaced (shopping? Time? Money?!), and my hair which, since having my babies, has become more white than it is any other colour.
So those two little words sent a rush of love through my torso which was so strong I could physically feel it.
How wonderful, I thought. If only we mums could regard our own faces and bodies in the same way our toddlers do. Ruby doesn't notice bags and wrinkles - she simply sees eyes sparkling with adoration. She doesn't clock grey hairs or unsightly roots - she just likes the feel of my hair tickling her face. She doesn't roll her eyes at my not-so-solid abdomen - a squishy tum and bat wings are all the better to envelop her with.
Toddlers, I concluded, do not judge us on the imperfections for which we so vigorously chastise ourselves. To them, our bodies are comfort, and safety, and nurturing love - and what could be more lovely than that?
As I sat there, staring at one of the two most beautiful things I have ever seen (beautiful things actually created by this heap of bones and wobbles), I loved my body for a moment or two – and my face, and the wrinkles and the white hair my children have contributed to.
I stroked Ruby's soft forehead until she went to sleep, then I lay her down with a blanket and went to go and have the wee I'd been meaning to have for the previous two hours or so.
And there in the bathroom, I looked at my own reflection – and I suddenly understood what Ruby had meant.
What she had REALLY meant.
One blob of red paint on my cheek. One tiny smear of blue-ish paint on my eyelid.
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