Only this morning, I was chatting about how solitary it has been for all of our kids over the last few months. As our older boys started to regain their social connections gradually, Alivia has not had the same opportunity being so much younger and with us both working full time at home. She has missed her playmate Joy and she has missed her little chums in church and creche.

We took a race out to the playground on our lunch hour today. Nothing out of the ordinary occurred, nevertheless it was special to me as a mum.

Alivia made a fast friend. It brought so much pleasure to watch them. It brought back memories of how it was before lockdown where this was a regular occurrence and something taken for granted. The twosome skipped and raced from slide to swing to roundabout. They twirled and giggled and called each other ‘my friend.

This simple little coupling made me so thankful for the connection I have with women in my own life. Connections that started small like this and grew through all sorts into strong bonds. Women who have become not only friends but my family. Today reminded me again, we are not made to do life alone, we are made for true connection.

Women can get a bad rap for their complexities in relationships. This can sadly come from even the very women who are meant to love us without strings attached. Too many of us share some kind of story like this one but we don’t have to carry the story on.

We can bravely change the narrative for the next generation. We can teach our daughters that being authentically their true selves and wonderful feminine relationship can be a powerful partnership when carefully cultivated.

I have a small circle of treasured confidantes but a wide circle of connection with women who are very different than me. They are kinswomen – I want to share my life, faith, friends and interests with them and they, me.

Some are ex-colleagues; who I maybe only see seldom or connect with over the phone but there’s an attachment that remains no matter the distance or time elapsed. Those relationships have matured and become rich with good boundaries and mutual expectations known and respected.

Some are beloved church family connections whose love and prayers come close especially in times of need and in celebration. They can be messy like any family yet ultimately united by the highest of loves helping us cover it all.

But there are new friends and acquaintances I have yet to meet. At the same time; there are those sometimes sadly; now left behind, we enjoyed their friendship only for a season.

Today, I sought out the mother of Alivia’s new friend to say hello. We chatted about the challenges of lockdown and potty training and we were friendly because that is what the world needs…us to stop looking down at our phones and be kind in real places and spaces. I knew I wasn’t going to make a friend for life in her today. That’s okay! But maybe no one had really looked at her lovely face today or sought her out. Just maybe, she appreciated the encouragement as much as I did as we laughed about how everyone tells you that girls are a breeze to potty train! Eh, NO!

There is opportunity for delight and great pleasure in all the beautiful and celebrated aspects of womankind.

There are ‘me too!’ moments were we share our vulnerabilities and know we are not alone. There is encouragement, where we put each other straight about our strengths. There is love, as in thoughtful action we seek the good of another friend before ourselves. There is of course inclusion, where no girl, little or grown, is left behind. We learn to break our circles and extend a warm invitation. We give thanks for when someone did this for us.

I leave you with this thought; maybe the idea of Womankind is to be the kind of women united in making a better ‘playground’ for everyone.

To be, as the word ‘woman-kind’ unintentionally suggests – kind women.

Let’s send the bullies running (including the ones within ourselves). Let’s stop playing mind games and play fair like we teach our little girls. Let’s talk and dream wild and wonderful things for and about our friends and especially behind their backs and even, yes, even when we feel they don’t deserve it.

I love you precious friends in my life. You’ll know who you are. You are mothers, sisters, daughters and life-speakers. Thank you for loving even the unlovable in me, saying good and true things behind my back, keeping me accountable when I wander off track, telling me bravely what I don’t want to hear, believing there’s more out there for me and gracing me with that undervalued and precious benefit of the doubt.

Your friendship is a safe harbour and your company ever sweet.

'Above all, love each other deeply, because love covers over a multitude of sins.'

1 Peter 4:8

Charmaine is a runner, writer and picnic enthusiast. Mum of Lucas; Caleb, Alivia and wife to Keith. She loves pouring out words as an expression of what God has done and is doing in her life.

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