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My child isn’t giving me a hard time—he’s *having* a hard time

Once I could see his struggles from a lens of empathy, I was able to respond in love.

My child isn’t giving me a hard time—he’s *having* a hard time

We were so close to getting out the door on time and for once I felt like maybe, just maybe, we would bypass the morning meltdown.

I decided not to fight the clothing battle. I prepared snacks that gained my son's approval. I even remained calm when he spilled the milk all over the table, inches from where my phone was lying—no use crying over spilled milk, right?

But just like every other morning in our household, the tantrum rears its ugly head and there I stood, standing at the door, watching my child lose his mind.

This time it was over the suggestion that he should leave his football at home instead of trying to sneak it in his backpack and risk it getting taken away at school.

I'm not sure I will ever quite understand how it is possible for such a simple request to be the cause of the wrath that followed, but I have realized a way to remain calm during such erratic outbursts.

You see, as we finally made it to school and I watched him walk away with a scowl that seems to be stuck on his face, I repeated to myself: He's not trying to give me a hard timehe's having a hard time.

This insight, for me, has been a mindset shift that has made a big difference in how I respond and help my child.

As exhausted as I am and as hard as it is to remain calm and in control when my child is screaming “I hate you," I've learned that it is not about me. The moment I stopped taking it personally, is when I was able to start navigating these tricky situations calmly and effectively.

But it took me a long time to get here.

Previously, I tried to pretend like the behavior wasn't happening. Ignoring the freak outs worked about 40% of the time.

I tried disciplining in the moment with a reminder that consequences were coming, which created a consistent “I don't care" response.

I even succumbed to the idea that I could control every negative display of behavior or just give in to avoid the storm—as you can imagine this did not work.

Then, I started noticing a pattern in my responses: I was either trying to make the behavior stop or trying to prevent the behavior from happening completely—and then feeling like a failure when it (inevitably) did not go as I expected.

I also realized a common theme in my physical response—I felt hot, overwhelmed, and some form of anger, and it did not feel good.

Finally it clicked: “If this situation doesn't feel good to me, I'm sure it doesn't feel good to him either."

Once I could see his struggles from a lens of empathy, I was able to respond in love.

When he's upset that I didn't make the breakfast he wanted—I'm learning that he's feeling frustrated with his lack of control over some aspects of his life.

When he's upset the TV needs to turn off, he might be sad that fun time has come to an end.

When he refuses to get out the door on time, he might be needing some more quiet time together that day before school.

I realized how expectations drive much of our disappointment and that disappointment often leads to anger—especially in boys. I discovered this after many desperate conversations with child psychologists but also from my own experiences.

When I want something and assume I'm going to get it, but someone tells me no, I am not exactly happy about it. Yet so much of the time I expected my son to just “deal with it."

I'm pretty sure my son doesn't intentionally come up with ways to give me a hard timegive me a hard time. I know he loves me and I know that he struggles to understand ways to cope with his disappointment and manage his own overwhelming feelings.

I know sometimes he is tired and hungry and he is trying to tell me that with his behavior but I'm not listening. But I also know that when I stay calm and when I show him that there are healthy ways of expressing these big, scary emotions that I'm the parent he needs in that moment.

Yes we will talk about consequences after inappropriate behavior, and yes he will continue to be disappointed when I say no to things he wants—but instead of trying to push my own agenda on him, I'm going to keep my cool and show him that is possible for him to do hang on and deal with his emotions, too.

And guess what? Parenting with the knowledge that “He's not giving me a hard time, he's having a hard time," actually feels really good. Today I am patting myself on the back after gracefully dealing with another morning meltdown.

And in that moment of empathy, I got to be the mom my son needed. Crisis averted.

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14 outdoor toys your kids will want to play with beyond summer

They transition seamlessly for indoor play.

With Labor day weekend in the rearview and back-to-school in full swing, most parents are fresh out of boxes to check on their "Fun Concierge" hit list. It's also the point of diminishing returns on investing in summer-only toys. So with that in mind, we've rounded up some of our favorite toys that are not only built to last but will easily make the transition from outdoor to indoor play. Even better, they're Montessori-friendly and largely open-ended so your kids can get a ton of use out of them.

From sunny backyard afternoons to rainy mornings stuck inside, these toys are sure to keep little ones engaged and entertained.

Meadow ring toss game

Plan Toys meadow ring toss game

Besides offering a fantastic opportunity to hone focus, coordination, determination and taking turns, lawn games are just plain fun. Set them up close together for the littles and spread them out when Mom and Dad get in on the action. With their low profile and rope rings, they're great for indoors as well.

$30

Balance board

Plan Toys balance board

Balance boards are a fabulous way to get the wiggles out. This one comes with a rope attachment, making it suitable for even the youngest wigglers. From practicing their balance and building core strength to working on skills that translate to skateboarding and snowboarding, it's a year-round physical activity that's easy to bring inside and use between Zoom classes, too!

$75

Detective set

Plan Toys detective setDetective Set

This set has everything your little detective needs to solve whatever mystery they might encounter: an eye glasses, walkie-talkie, camera, a red lens, a periscope and a bag. Neighborhood watch? Watch out.

$40

Wooden doll stroller

Janod wooden doll strollerWooden Doll Stroller

Take their charges on a stroll around the block with this classic doll stroller. With the same versatility they're used to in their own ride, this heirloom quality carriage allows their doll or stuffy to face them or face the world.

$120

Sand play set

Plan Toys sand set

Whether you're hitting the beach or the backyard sandbox, this adorable wooden sand set is ready for action. Each scoop has an embossed pattern that's perfect for sand stamping. They're also totally suitable for water play in the wild or the bathtub.

$30

Water play set

Plan Toys water play set

Filled with sand or water, this tabletop sized activity set keeps little ones busy, quiet and happy. (A mama's ideal trifecta 😉). It's big enough to satisfy their play needs but not so big it's going to flood your floors if you bring the fun inside on a rainy day.

$100

Mini golf set

Plan Toys mini golf set

Fore! This mini golf set is lawn and living room ready. Set up a backyard competition or incorporate into homeschooling brain breaks that shift focus and build concentration.

$40

Vintage scooter balance bike

Janod retro scooter balance bike

Pedals are so 2010. Balance bikes are the way to go for learning to ride a bike while skipping the training wheels stage altogether. This impossibly cool retro scooter-style is built to cruise the neighborhood or open indoor space as they're learning.

$121

Wooden rocking pegasus

plan toys wooden rocking pegasus

Your little will be ready to take flight on this fun pegasus. It gently rocks back and forth, but doesn't skimp on safety—its winged saddle, footrests and backrest ensure kids won't fall off whether they're rocking inside or outside.

$100

Croquet set

Plan Toys croquet set

The cutest croquet set we've ever seen! With adorable animal face wooden balls and a canvas bag for easy clean up, it's also crafted to stick around awhile. Round after round, it's great for teaching kiddos math and problem-solving skills as well.

$45

Wooden digital camera

fathers factory wooden digital camera

Kids get the chance to assemble the camera on their own then can adventure anywhere to capture the best moments. With two detachable magnetic lenses, four built-in filters and video recorder, your little photographer can tap into their creativity from summertime to the holidays.

$179

Wooden bulldozer toy

plan toys wooden bulldozer toy

Whether they're digging up sand in the backyad or picking up toys inside, kids can get as creative as they want picking up and moving things around. Even better? Its wooden structure means it's not an eye sore to look at wherever your digger drops it.

$100

Pull-along hippo

janod toys pull along hippo toy

There's just something so fun about a classic pull-along toy and we love that they seamlessly transition between indoor and outdoor play. Crafted from solid cherry and beechwood, it's tough enough to endure outdoor spaces your toddler takes it on.

$33

Baby forest fox ride-on

janod toys baby fox ride on

Toddlers will love zooming around on this fox ride-on, and it's a great transition toy into traditional balance bikes. If you take it for a driveway adventure, simply use a damp cloth to wipe down the wheels before bringing back inside.

$88

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I never wanted to be a mom. It wasn't something I ever thought would happen until I fell madly in love with my husband—who knew very well he wanted children. While he was a natural at entertaining our nephews or our friends' kids, I would awkwardly try to interact with them, not really knowing what to say or do.

Our first pregnancy was a surprise, a much-wanted one but also a unicorn, "first try" kind of pregnancy. As my belly grew bigger, so did my insecurities. How do you even mom when you never saw motherhood in your future? I focused all my uncertainties on coming up with a plan for the delivery of my baby—which proved to be a terrible idea when my dreamed-of unmedicated vaginal birth turned into an emergency C-section. I couldn't even start motherhood the way I wanted, I thought. And that feeling happened again when I couldn't breastfeed and instead had to pump and bottle-feed. And once more, when all the stress from things not going my way turned into debilitating postpartum anxiety that left me not really enjoying my brand new baby.

As my baby grew, slowly so did my confidence that I could do this. When he would tumble to the ground while learning how to walk and only my hugs could calm him, I felt invincible. But on the nights he wouldn't sleep—whether because he was going through a regression, a leap, a teeth eruption or just a full moon—I would break down in tears to my husband telling him that he was a better parent than me.

Then I found out I was pregnant again, and that this time it was twins. I panicked. I really cannot do two babies at the same time. I kept repeating that to myself (and to my poor husband) at every single appointment we had because I was just terrified. He, of course, thought I could absolutely do it, and he got me through a very hard pregnancy.

When the twins were born at full term and just as big as singleton babies, I still felt inadequate, despite the monumental effort I had made to grow these healthy babies and go through a repeat C-section to make sure they were both okay. I still felt my skin crawl when they cried and thought, What if I can't calm them down? I still turned to my husband for diaper changes because I wasn't a good enough mom for twins.

My husband reminded me (and still does) that I am exactly what my babies need. That I am enough. A phrase that has now become my mantra, both in motherhood and beyond, because as my husband likes to say, I'm the queen of selling myself short on everything.

So when my babies start crying, I tell myself that I am enough to calm them down.

When my toddler has a tantrum, I remind myself that I am enough to get through to him.

When I go out with the three kids by myself and start sweating about everything that could go wrong (poop explosions times three), I remind myself that I am enough to handle it all, even with a little humor.


And then one day I found this bracelet. Initially, I thought how cheesy it'd be to wear a reminder like this on my wrist, but I bought it anyway because something about it was calling my name. I'm so glad I did because since day one I haven't stopped wearing it.

Every time I look down, there it is, shining back at me. I am enough.

I Am Enough bracelet 

SONTAKEY  I Am Enough Bracelet

May this Oath Bracelet be your reminder that you are perfect just the way you are. That you are enough for your children, you are enough for your friends & family, you are enough for everything that you do. You are enough, mama <3

$35

We independently select and share the products we love—and may receive a commission if you choose to buy. You've got this.

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The 6 biggest lies I believed before having kids

Just about all of us had set assumptions about raising kids before we became parents ourselves.

Just about all of us had set assumptions about raising kids before we became parents ourselves. Some of these ideas might have been based on our own ideas of how we would absolutely do things differently than everyone else. Others, we believed what everyone else told us would happen would apply to our littles, too. But, that's not always the case, mama.

Below are six of the biggest lies I believed before having kids—and the reality of what actually happened for me.

1. Put your baby down drowsy, but awake

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