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I was disappointed by the sex of my baby—at first

Until I realized it could make a positive impact in today's world.

I was disappointed by the sex of my baby—at first

There we were at the moment we had been waiting for, the 16-week ultrasound, when we would be able to find out the sex of our next baby. Of course it goes without saying that all we really wanted was a healthy baby, but when the doctor asked what we were hoping for, we admitted it: a girl.

We had 2-year-old twin boys at home and we wanted to round things out. In hindsight the doctor's acting performance was pretty good. She knew the sex because she had just reviewed my genetic testing blood work. So she poked around for effect, and we saw a nice strong heartbeat, an adorable nose, a little wave. And then, there it was—the unmistakable presence of boyhood.

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We were a little shocked. Could I really be having another boy? In fact when we found out our twins were to be boys, my husband said, “Love it—two boys. But, we'll have to try for that girl!" We weren't even out of the office yet.

I felt sad my husband wouldn't get his own Daddy's girl, and I kept asking if he was okay because he was really hoping. I was a major Daddy's girl. My Dad was my number one, and if you even thought about looking sideways at him, you had to get through me first. It's a really special relationship that I had hoped my husband would have the chance to experience.

While there was a part of me that was hoping for a boy because a girl would be new territory and I knew what to do with a boy, I too had become enchanted with the idea of a sweet little girl with dark curly hair like mine—a contrast to my blue eyed, blonde surfer boys. Who doesn't want a mini me, right? A girl was what we and seemingly everyone else had been hoping for. So we were all pretty convinced that's what we'd get.

It took us a day or so to recover, and I started to think about why we felt a little down about it. Is it okay to feel a little disappointed? Was I being a brat? Ungrateful? We got to see a healthy, waving and kicking baby boy on the ultrasound that day. It was a relief and thrilling, but we were feeling a little blue.

I realized it wasn't about feeling entitled. We just simply hoped to have our chance at the baby girl experience too. I'm really close with my mom, and my husband has an amazing bond with his mother and sisters. We'd be great at raising a girl. But my fate has been sealed. The factory is now closed. We're having a boy, and I was going to have to produce enough estrogen for all five of us.

But the disappointment didn't last long, and the prospect of raising good men ultimately trumped everything else. A friend pulled me out of my pity party with one beautiful text in reply to the news: “💙 😘 👍🏽…The world needs more good men!! The universe knew you were up for the task!!"

I welled up and replied with even more kiss and heart emojis. How powerful is that?

She was right. We have been given the chance to raise three strong, caring, thoughtful, respectful, emotionally in-touch men to make a positive impact somehow, somewhere in the world. Hopefully that is what we all aim to teach our children, but I do feel a certain additional responsibility raising three boys. Sure I'll teach them they can do anything. But I'll also make sure they know that so can a girl and that they should support that too.

As the only woman in the house, I need to ramp up my own feminist side and be sure to teach them about the strengths of men and women, and raise their awareness of gender equality and respect with actions and words. With that and in light of the current #metoo movement, my husband and I have discussed how we together need to mold our sons' thinking, and we realized we had already begun to excuse our toddlers and ourselves with “boys will be boys" type of rhetoric in response to certain behavior.

We've now been given a platform to discuss our own experiences and observations, and it resonated with both of us that this isn't something to take lightly with these sponge-for-brains toddlers. So if you meet me now with my sweet and sometimes rambunctious toddlers in tow and are brave enough to ask me what I'm having, I'll understand what you're getting at with the blank trying-not-to-offend stare or less discrete jaw drop when I say “another boy." But don't worry, I'm good! I'm truly excited to be a full-on #boymom. Bring on the mess, the noise and property damage. We consider ourselves to be very lucky.

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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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