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What I wish I could tell you when you see my child having a tantrum

In this moment I don’t know what to do. But I am trying really hard.

What I wish I could tell you when you see my child having a tantrum

Dear grocery store onlooker,

It’s me, the mom with the messy bun (but not in the trendy way), coffee stained shirt (also not trendy), and screaming toddler you saw in the store today. I wanted to take a few moments to talk to you.


You see, even though I looked (and felt) totally out of sorts, I still noticed the way you stared at me, and I’ll be honest—it stung. There were a thousand things I wanted to say, but the aforementioned screaming toddler prevented me from being able to.

But now he’s tucked quietly into bed and I am ready to share some thoughts.

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It’s normal

Tantrums. Are. Normal. Period. This wasn’t my child’s first tantrum this week, and he probably wasn’t the first child to have a tantrum in that store today. Every child has them. I mean, it kinda makes sense—he’s only been on this planet for two years and sometimes he doesn’t know how to deal with his big feelings. (I’ve been on the planet for over thirty years, and I sometimes need help with my big feelings too.)

He is such a good kid

I know it’s hard to imagine that based on what you saw today. But really, he is the sweetest and funniest little guy. He fills my heart with so much warmth and happiness. That wasn’t him. He was temporarily taken over by some powerful stuff, but in his core he is so good.

There’s probably a really good explanation for it

He was hungry. I stretched him a little too far past his nap time. He’s getting a tooth. Any one of those reasons is reason enough for him to have a total meltdown. I know he made your shopping trip less pleasant. But I promise, he’s not trying to give you or me a hard time. He’s having a hard time. Big difference.

I’m on the verge of tears too

I’ve been up since 5 a.m. I’ve already made 3 breakfasts (for the same person), done a load of laundry, gone to a play date, and as you know, gone grocery shopping. And for the record, I haven’t been thanked once today. I’m not trying to complain...I’m trying to explain.

I love this job, and I know that I am lucky to be in the position to be here. But I am so utterly exhausted. And stressed. And full of self-doubt. I looked away when you looked at me so that you wouldn’t see my eyes well up with tears. That was a really hard moment for me.

In this moment, I don’t know what to do...

I’ve read the books. I’ve Googled “how to deal with tantrums” 50 times...(51 after today.) I’ve tried timeouts, ignoring them, hugging it out—all of it. But right now, I feel totally lost. And kind of alone. If I could make it stop I would. But I can’t.

...but I’m trying really hard

I love that kid so much and I am trying so hard to be a good mom. And I’ll be honest, I think I’m doing a pretty good job. Perfect? NO WAY. But everything I do comes from a place of love and good intention. (And also a place of coffee.) I have to trust that when I act from my heart, I am parenting well. Even when it looks like the scene you saw today.

So please don’t judge me.

Please make sure the looks you give me are compassionate and the words you say are kind. You may have been in my shoes once yourself, or you may be in them soon. We’re all in this together.

And to the people who have parents backs—thank you

To the mom who made eye contact with me as I was leaving, smiled and said, “You’ve got this”—you will never know how much that meant to me.

Thank you for giving me that.

Thank you for understanding.

Thank you for throwing me a lifeline when you saw I was drowning.

Mostly, thank you for speaking up. That two second exchange allowed me to take a breath and remind myself that I do have this. I am good at this. It is going to be okay.

When I got into my car and started crying, it wasn’t because of my toddler’s tantrum. It was because of the kindness and solidarity you showed me in that brief but powerful moment. You reminded me that I’m not, in fact, alone in this. Thanks to you, I’ll have the courage to try again tomorrow.

This is how we’re defining success this school year

Hint: It's not related to grades.

In the ever-moving lives of parents and children, opportunities to slow down and reflect on priorities can be hard to come by. But a new school year scheduled to begin in the midst of a global pandemic offers the chance to reflect on how we should all think about measures of success. For both parents and kids, that may mean putting a fresh emphasis on optimism, creativity and curiosity.

Throughout recent decades, "school success" became entangled with "academic achievement," with cases of anxiety among school children dramatically increasing in the past few generations. Then, almost overnight, the American school system was turned on its head in the spring of 2020. As we look ahead to a new school year that will look like no year past, more is being asked of teachers, students and parents, such as acclimating to distance learning, collaborating with peers from afar and aiming to maintain consistency with schooling amidst general instability due to COVID.

Despite the inherent challenges, there is also an overdue opportunity to redefine success during the school year by finding fresh ways to keep students and their parents involved in the learning process.

"I always encourage my son to try at least one difficult thing every school year," says Arushi Garg, parenting blogger and mom of a 4-year-old. "This challenges him but also allows me to remind him to be optimistic! Lots of things in life are hard, and it's important we learn to be positive during difficult times. Fostering a sense of optimism allows kids to push beyond what they thought possible, like biking without training wheels or reading above their grade level."

Here are a few mantras to keep in mind this school year:

Quality learning matters more than quantifying learning

After focusing on standardized measures of academic success for so long, the learning environment this next school year may involve more independent, remote learning. Some parents are considering this an exciting opportunity for their children to assume a bigger role in what they are learning—and parents are also getting on board by supporting their children's education with engaging, positive learning materials like Highlights Magazine.

As a working mom, Garg also appreciates that Highlights Magazine can help engage her son while she's also working. She says, "He sits next to me and solves puzzles in the magazine or practices his writing from the workbook."

Keep an open mind as "school" looks different

Whether children are of preschool age or in the midst of high school, "going to school" is bound to look different this year. Naturally, this may require some adjustment as kids become accustomed to new guidelines. Although many parents may wish to shelter our kids from challenges, others believe optimism can be fostered through adversity when everyone is committed to adapting to new experiences.

"Honestly, I am yet to figure out when I will be comfortable sending [my son] back [to school]," says Garg. In the meantime, she's helping her son remain connected with friends who also read Highlights Magazine by encouraging the kids to talk about what they are learning on video calls.

Follow children's cues about what interests them

For Garg, her biggest hope for this school year is that her son will create "success" for himself by embracing new learning possibilities with positivity.

"Encouraging my son to try new things has given him a chance to prove that he can do anything," she says. "He takes his previous success as an example now and feels he can fail multiple times before he succeeds."

There's no denying that this school year will be far from the norm. But, perhaps, we can create a new, better way of defining our children's success in school because of it.

This article was sponsored by Highlights. Thank you for supporting the brands that support Motherly and mamas.

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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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Becoming a mother has been life-changing. It's been hard, tiring, gratifying, beautiful, challenging, scary and a thousand other things that only a parent would ever understand.

It is these life-changing experiences that have inspired me to draw my everyday life as a stay at home mom. Whether it's the mundane tasks like doing laundry or the exciting moments of James', my baby boy's, first steps, I want to put it down on paper so that I can better cherish these fleeting moments that are often overlooked.

Being a stay-at-home-mom can be incredibly lonely. I like to think that by drawing life's simple moments, I can connect with other mothers and help them feel less alone. By doing this, I feel less alone, too. It's a win-win situation and I have been able to connect with many lovely parents and fellow parent-illustrators through my Instagram account.

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