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Raising hard-working children: How swim lessons taught us to persevere

The smell of chlorine floods my nose as we walk into the building. Kids are everywhere tightly holding onto their parent's hand unsure of where they are going.


“Okay, everyone, it’s time to get in your lines,” announces the lead instructor.

“Mommy, I don’t want to go,” my daughter says while burying her head into my leg.

“You’ll be okay. Come on, let’s go.” I gently push her forward into the arms of a teacher waiting nearby. The teacher smiled and winked, which tells me a reluctant child is not out of the ordinary.

I know in the grand scheme of things it’s only swimming lessons, but seeing my child teary-eyed and unsure of the situation, saddens me. Last year we tried lessons, and it didn’t go over very well. Let’s just say there were lots of tears from both kids and a very fragile feeling parent.

This time it was going to be different. It has to be. Each child is a year older and if other parents can do it, so can I. Besides, I don’t want to be purchasing floaties for a future 30-year-old.

I focus my attention on a group of moms walking up the stairs to the balcony, carrying coffee and holding squirmy toddlers, and wonder why I can’t be so calm and collected like them? Maybe they didn’t notice their own child’s first day jitters while being distracted by their fussy little cherub.

As I find my seat, I stare at a giant swimming pool with a sea of children anxiously awaiting the arrival of their coaches. I scan the area and spot my 3-year-old son sitting in line hugging his knees. Our eyes meet and we both wave. Phew. He’s not crying. Yet.

One kid down, now where’s his sister? Like a hawk, I stare at the locker room door waiting for her to exit. I start to panic a little. Did she get lost? Is she looking for me and can’t find me? The locker rooms were rather dungeon-like and reminded me of a never-ending maze.

Thoughts start to flood into my mind. You’re acting ridiculous, I think. Get ahold of yourself. I shake myself into reality and focus on the end goal of getting through two-weeks worth of lessons unscathed.

Grasping the hand of one of the instructors, with tears rolling down her cheeks, I spot my daughter making her way to the pool. I read her lips as she cries, “I want my mommy.” The instructor does her best to make her feel better by rubbing her back and reassuring her that everything will be okay.

I wave my arms to get her attention. “I’m over here, sweetie. You’re going to be great. Now, get in the pool.”

She shakes her head no. I mouth, “Yes. Look, your brother is in already. See?” She finds her brother, who’s now starting to cry.

Great, I think. Now what? I’m not exactly dressed to get into the pool with them. Not to mention, I paid for these lessons. There’s no backing out of this now.

As I see others kids swimming, laughing, smiling, having fun, I wonder why mine isn't doing the same? Maybe I didn’t expose them enough to water as babies? Perhaps they’re not ready yet? This is when I notice my son screaming at his teacher, “Let me go! I don’t want you!” He’s fighting with all his little body strength to swim to the side. Oh no, not another round of lessons wasted.

I find my daughter. She’s in the pool swimming. Quick, look away before we make too much eye contact and she starts to cry again.

“Excuse me. Ma’am, excuse me?”

I peer down over the rail where my son is below. The head coach, a stern looking lady, was trying to get my attention.

“Is this your son?” I’m starting to feel that I’m picking him out of a line-up.

“Yes.” Oh God, what is she going to say. Kick him out of swimming? He’s only three.

“Have you thought about putting him in the Splash and Babies class? If not, that might be something to consider until he gets more comfortable with water.”

I glance around. Some of the parents are looking at me. Possibly feeling sorry for my son or me because as a parent, how can you not tell that your child isn’t ready for lessons? Please don’t judge me. I know they can do this.

“Should I come and get him?” I ask anticipating a shaming response.

“There’s no need. Just consider taking it along with this class,” she says with a wave of her hand.

I smile. Easy for you to say, but how am I to convince a 3-year-old who can’t wait to be a grownup, that he has to go to a baby swim class? This isn’t going to go over very well.

Eventually, my son gets used to the water, and by the end of the hour, he’s smiling. An assembly line of parents and babysitters wait in the lobby with towels in their hands ready to pick up their swimmers. My son comes out first. Shivering, I bundle him up in his Olaf towel and tell him how proud of him I am.

“Mommy, I can swim now. I don’t need any more lessons,” he says to me in all seriousness.

I smile. “Okay, honey.”

Next, my daughter comes out of the locker room nervously scanning the lobby for me. I rush over to her and wrap her up in a pink mermaid robe.

You did it! You were amazing!” Again, she buries her head into my leg, but this time, smiling and feeling proud.

I’m happy to say that we made it back the following day and eventually completed the full lesson. There were tears, moments of doubt, and true bravery not only on my children’s part, but mine as well.

In life, there will be times when we all feel we want to quit. I have felt it many times. But what kind of example would I be setting if I let them give up? This was the perfect time to show them the meaning of perseverance. After watching parents return day after day coaxing their child to get into the pool, they gave me hope and encouragement to keep trying.

So, to be honest—this was a lesson in perseverance for me, too.

Maybe last round of lessons they just weren’t ready yet (or perhaps it was me?). Either way, we’re accomplishing this milestone in life. When it comes down to it, in this season of my life with two young kids—it’s time to sink or swim. And we choose to swim.

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Summer heat has a way of making the house feel smaller, more congested, with less room for the air to circulate. And there's nothing like heat to make me want to strip down, cool off and lighten my load. So, motivation in three digits, now that school is back in, it's time to do a purge.

Forget the spring clean—who has time for that? Those last few months of the school year are busier than the first. And summer's warm weather entices our family outdoors on the weekends which doesn't leave much time for re-organizing.

So, I seize the opportunity when my kids are back in school to enter my zone.

I love throwing open every closet and cupboard door, pulling out anything and everything that doesn't fit our bodies or our lives. Each joyless item purged peels off another oppressive layer of "not me" or "not us."

Stuff can obscure what really makes us feel light, capable and competent. Stuff can stem the flow of what makes our lives work.

With my kids back in school, I am energized, motivated by the thought that I have the space to be in my head with no interruptions. No refereeing. No snacks. No naps… I am tossing. I am folding. I am stacking. I am organizing. I don't worry about having to stop. The neat-freak in me is having a field day.

Passing bedroom doors, ajar and flashing their naughty bits of chaos at me, is more than I can handle in terms of temptation. I have to be careful, though, because I can get on a roll. Taking to my kids' rooms I tread carefully, always aware that what I think is junk can actually be their treasure.

But I usually have a good sense for what has been abandoned or invisible in plain sight for the lack of movement or the accumulation of dust. Anything that fits the description gets relegated to a box in the garage where it is on standby in case its absence is noticed and a meltdown has ensued so the crisis can be averted. Either way, it's a victory.

Oh, it's quiet. So, so quiet. And I can think it through…

Do we really need all this stuff?

Will my son really notice if I toss all this stuff?

Will my daughter be heartbroken if I donate all this stuff?

Will I really miss this dress I wore three years ago that barely fit my waist then and had me holding in my tummy all night, and that I for sure cannot zip today?

Can we live without it all? All. This. Stuff?

For me, the fall purge always gets me wondering, where in the world does all this stuff come from? So with the beginning of the school year upon us, I vow to create a new mindset to evaluate everything that enters my home from now on, so there will be so much less stuff.

I vow to really think about objects before they enter my home…

…to evaluate what is really useful,

...to consider when it would be useful,

...to imagine where it would be useful,

...to remember why it may be useful,

…to decide how to use it in more than one way,

... so that all this stuff won't get in the way of what really matters—time and attention for my kids and our lives as a new year reveals more layers of the real stuff—what my kids are made of.

Bring it on.

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In the moments after we give birth, we desperately want to hear our baby cry. In the middle of the night a few months later it's no longer exactly music to our ears, but those cries aren't just telling us that baby needs a night feeding: They're also giving us a hint at what our children may sound like as kindergarteners, and adults.

New research published in the journal Biology Letters suggests the pitch of a 4-month-old's cry predicts the pitch they'll use to ask for more cookies at age five and maybe even later on as adults.

The study saw 2 to 5-month olds recorded while crying. Five years later, the researchers hit record again and chatted with the now speaking children. Their findings, combined with previous work on the subject, suggest it's possible to figure out what a baby's voice will sound like later in life, and that the pitch of our adult voices may be traceable back to the time we spend in utero. Further studies are needed, but scientists are very interested in how factors before birth can impact decades later.

"In utero, you have a lot of different things that can alter and impact your life — not only as a baby, but also at an adult stage," one of the authors of the study, Nicolas Mathevon, told the New York Times.

The New York Times also spoke with Carolyn Hodges, an assistant professor of anthropology at Boston University who was not involved in the study. According to Hodges, while voice pitch may not seem like a big deal, it impacts how we perceive people in very real ways.

Voice pitch is a factor in how attractive we think people are, how trustworthy. But why we find certain pitches more or less appealing isn't known. "There aren't many studies that address these questions, so that makes this research especially intriguing," Hodges said, adding that it "suggests that individual differences in voice pitch may have their origins very, very early in development."

So the pitch of that midnight cry may have been determined months ago, and it may determine part of your child's future, too. There are still so many things we don't know, but as parents we do know one thing: Our babies cries (as much as we don't want to hear them all the time) really are something special.

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For many years, Serena Williams seemed as perfect as a person could be. But now, Serena is a mom. She's imperfect and she's being honest about that and we're so grateful.

On the cover of TIME, Williams owns her imperfection, and in doing so, she gives mothers around the world permission to be as real as she is being.

"Nothing about me right now is perfect," she told TIME. "But I'm perfectly Serena."

The interview sheds light on Williams' recovery from her traumatic birth experience, and how her mental health has been impacted by the challenges she's faced in going from a medical emergency to new motherhood and back to the tennis court all within one year.

"Some days, I cry. I'm really sad. I've had meltdowns. It's been a really tough 11 months," she said.

It would have been easy for Williams to keep her struggles to herself over the last year. She didn't have to tell the world about her life-threatening birth experience, her decision to stop breastfeeding, her maternal mental health, how she missed her daughter's first steps, or any of it. But she did share these experiences, and in doing so she started incredibly powerful conversations on a national stage.

After Serena lost at Wimbledon this summer, she told the mothers watching around the world that she was playing for them. "And I tried," she said through tears. "I look forward to continuing to be back out here and doing what I do best."

In the TIME cover story, what happened before that match, where Williams lost to Angelique Kerber was revealed. TIME reports that Williams checked her phone about 10 minutes before the match, and learned, via Instagram, that the man convicted of fatally shooting her sister Yetunde Price, in 2003 is out on parole.

"I couldn't shake it out of my mind," Serena says. "It was hard because all I think about is her kids," she says. She was playing for all the mothers out there, but she had a specific mother on her mind during that historic match.

Williams' performance at Wimbledon wasn't perfect, and neither is she, as she clearly states on the cover of time. But motherhood isn't perfect either. It's okay to admit that. Thanks, Serena, for showing us how.

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There are some mornings where I wake up and I'm ready for the day. My alarm goes off and I pop out of bed and hum along as I make breakfast before my son wakes up. But then there are days where I just want 10 more minutes to sleep in. Or breakfast feels impossible to make because all our time has run out. Or I just feel overwhelmed and unprepared.

Those are the mornings I stare at the fridge and think, Can someone else just make breakfast, please?

Enter: make-ahead breakfasts. We spoke to the geniuses at Pinterest and they shared their top 10 pins all around this beautiful, planned-ahead treat. Here they are.

(You're welcome, future self.)

1. Make-ahead breakfast enchiladas

www.pinterest.com

Created by Bellyful

I'd make these for dinner, too.

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