How my 2-year-old taught me about bravery

When was the last time I had been so terrified of doing something I really wanted to do that I sobbed uncontrollably in public, and then did the thing anyway?

How my 2-year-old taught me about bravery
Tina Ly Johnson

We're supposed to teach our kids the important stuff. But all too often they end up teaching us and leaving us feeling confused about our own status as authority figures. (But then they throw a fit because you gave them pizza after they specifically asked for pizza and you make them eat at least two bites of pizza and the balance of power is back. So it all works out.)

This weekend, in between mini tantrums about the time I called her baby doll the wrong name, the time I handed her milk, and the time I asked her not to sucker punch her brother, my 2-year-old gave me a big ol' lesson in courage. And it was all kinds of humbling.

Mommy, I scared

Both of my kids go to gymnastics class each Saturday. It's super cute and they have learned how to walk on balance beams, climb rock walls and do forward rolls. It is also a fabulous way to burn off some toddler/preschool energy—worth every penny.

At the end of the session, there is a big show and the kids each get called up to get their medals. The Olympic music comes on and the parents take 1 million pictures.

My 2-year-old, Norah, had her show first and she was having a blast climbing, swinging and running. She's naturally athletic (I think) so she had done a great job with all the new skills and activities over the past six months. There were smiles and giggles and an intense amount of cuteness.

Until we got to awards.

Norah found a seat on the mat, waiting for her turn in line to get her medal. A medal she had been pining over for months because her big brother has one hanging on his doorknob from last year. A few kids went up to get their medals and we all clapped and cheered.

Then out of nowhere, Norah's face crumbled and she let out a terrified sob. My husband scooped her up and the poor thing just couldn't pull it together. She was beside herself, overwhelmed by the people, the music, and all the theatrics of the event. Norah looked at me with the saddest big blue eyes and said, "Mommy, I scared."

Eye of the tiger cub

I took Norah out into the hallway to help her catch her breath and through big sobs, she told me she wanted to go back into the class. I hesitated a bit but thought that we could try it and see if maybe her fear would subside after seeing a few more kids get their awards.

Not so much.

But she still wanted to sit back down on the mat. So we sat, me hugging her tightly, Norah hating everything but also showing more grit than most full grown adults. Little lady had no intention of leaving the class. She was getting that medal.

So the teacher called Norah's name and my brave little girl stood right up and walked over to the podium and climbed the steps, tears streaming down her face the whole time. The medal was put over her head and she climbed back down and walked over for some mom snuggles. The tears didn't stop until well after the class was over and we went to the Dunkin Donuts next door.

I felt awful at first. Should I have hugged her closer? Asked the teacher to get the medal later? Did I just traumatize my 2-year-old and solidify a nomination as worst mother of the year, toddler category?

But as Norah sat happily with her donut catching glances at the medal around her neck, I realized that she might be the bravest person I know.

Let's get terrified

When was the last time I had been so terrified of doing something I really wanted to do that I sobbed uncontrollably in public, and then did the thing anyway?

Norah had been thinking about the medal for a quarter of her life… She was a gymnastics champ, and she had earned that little piece of tin on a blue ribbon. There was no way she was going to let her fear of the crowd stop her from having her very own medal to hang on her doorknob. That's inspiring.

As she polished off the donut, I told Norah that I was so proud of her because she was courageous. She was scared but did it anyway. The very definition of bravery.

I should do a little more of that in my own life—be a little braver. And not just "go after the thing that makes you a little uneasy" kind of brave. The "shake you to your core, cry on the way to the podium" kind of brave.

I think I owe that to my kid.

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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

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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.


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!


Detective set

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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.


Wooden doll stroller

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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.


Sand play set

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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.


Water play set

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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.


Mini golf set

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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.


Vintage scooter balance bike

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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.


Wooden rocking pegasus

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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.


Croquet set

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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.


Wooden digital camera

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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.


Wooden bulldozer toy

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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.


Pull-along hippo

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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.


Baby forest fox ride-on

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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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And while that might not exist (yet), we have found some of the best products out there that can help baby fall asleep faster and for longer durations. Because when baby is sleeping, so are you!

Dreamland Baby weighted sleep sack and swaddle

Designed by a mama, parents swear by this weighted sleep sack. It mimics your hug to give your baby security and comfort that helps them get to sleep faster and stay asleep longer. The detachable swaddle wing makes it easy to transition as they grow.

It's also super easy to get on and off, and includes a bottom-up zipper for late night changes, so you don't have to wake your baby in the process.


Yogasleep Hushh portable sound machine

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Bebe au Lait muslin crib sheets

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The Simple Folk perfect pajamas

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The Snoo bassinet


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While this item is a bit on the expensive side, there is now an option to rent for $3.50 a day, which is a total game changer!


Hatch Baby Rest sound machine + nightlight

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The Hatch Baby Rest is a dual sound machine and nightlight that will grow with your family. Many parents use this product with their infants as a white-noise machine and then as a "time to rise" solution for toddlers.

The thing I love most about this product is that the light it gives off isn't too bright, and you can even select different color preferences; giving your toddler choices at bedtime.


Crane humidifier

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The only thing worse than a sick baby is a baby who is sick and not sleeping well. The Crane humidifier helps take care of this by relieving congestion and helping your baby breathe better while sleeping.

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Naturepedic organic crib mattress

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In the first few months of life, babies can spend up to 17 hours a day sleeping, so choosing a mattress that is safe (read: no chemicals!) and comfortable is incredibly important.

Naturepedic uses allergen-friendly and waterproof materials with babies and children in mind, making them easy to clean and giving you peace of mind.


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There are baby swaddles and then there is Sleepea. Similar to the brand's swaddle that is built into the Snoo, the Sleepea is magic for multiple reasons. First, it's got mesh panels ensuring baby never overheats. Second, the zipper zips from the top or the bottom, so you can change the baby's diaper in the middle of the night without ever waking them. Third, it's hip safe. Fourth, the patterns are SO cute. And fifth, the interior swaddle wrap that keeps baby's ams down has a "quiet" velcro that won't wake baby if you need to readjust while they're asleep.


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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.

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