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It's okay if all you did was watch 'Paw Patrol' today

Most weekends I take my 4-year-old to the library for a program called Sensory Sunday. For a kid on the Autism spectrum it's a chance to engage in sensory play and build social connections. But this Sunday we obviously stayed home.

"Is the library closed because people are sick?" kiddo asked me. I told them yes—and we spent our day watching Paw Patrol, eating pickles and folding laundry. It's hardly stimulating, but I refuse to mom-shame myself over this.

For the next several weeks I am embracing imperfect parenting, loosening up about screen time and giving myself a high-five for every day we get simply get through. Our school is closed. Our support system is gone. And I'm not going to hold myself to an unrealistic parenting standard during this pandemic. My daily schedule is not going to be worthy of Pinterest.

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I'm going to be very honest with you: It's gonna be frozen pizzas and PJ Masks marathons up in here until things get back to normal (or at least until I find my feet in this new normal).

Our "old normal" involved playdates, playgrounds, parenting coaches, respite workers, therapists and support from our community. My preschooler goes to a special needs Pre-K program. It is amazing. The kids get multiple therapies and tailored early learning lessons to enhance their language and social skills. There are multiple professional educators in the classroom at all times. I don't even know how many years of post-secondary training in education they have between them, but I know how much I have: zero.

I don't have any degree in education. I'm not trained in supporting kids with special needs. I just love one and I'm doing my best as an amateur mom. We're going to read. We're going to go for walks. We're going to practice the skills we've been learning in Pre-K. But I'm not going to pretend that I have the capacity or training to do what my child's teachers and therapists do every day (especially as I am also working from home).

We just learned my child's school will be closed indefinitely. This comes one week after my child missed a week of Pre-K due to a fever (we didn't want to risk getting classmates sick). So kiddo stayed home with me for four days while I worked. They watched me type on my laptop, watched a ton of TV and ate the McDonald's breakfast burritos I asked Uber Eats to leave on our front porch when I realized I had no food (as school provides hot meals).

It was not a super awesome week. My spouse worked outside the home 12 hours a day. My child interrupted my video meetings and my productivity. I spent my evenings catching up on work after they were asleep. And I did not have the time or the energy to do in-home speech, occupational or behavioral therapy sessions. I was exhausted.

I want my child to thrive, but without my village all I can do is survive.

All I can do right now is pizza and Paw Patrol and that's okay.

I worry that without proper teachers and therapists my child will regress, their progress will stall and my patience and parenting skills will be tested. But I'm not worried about keeping up with all the awesome homeschooling ideas and COVID-19 family schedules on Instagram and Pinterest.

Parenting a special needs child means that my parenting experience is different from my peers' a lot of the time and this is just going to be another example of that. But we have survived so much so far. We have survived the horrible time before our diagnosis when we didn't know what was going on with our child. We survived the diagnosis and all the feelings that comes with it.

And we will survive this. It just might not look good on the 'gram. But I can confidently say—I am okay with that.

Let this be your permission to be okay with whatever your 'that' is, too.

When I was expecting my first child, I wanted to know everything that could possibly be in store for his first year.

I quizzed my own mom and the friends who ventured into motherhood before I did. I absorbed parenting books and articles like a sponge. I signed up for classes on childbirth, breastfeeding and even baby-led weaning. My philosophy? The more I knew, the better.

Yet, despite my best efforts, I didn't know it all. Not by a long shot. Instead, my firstborn, my husband and I had to figure it out together—day by day, challenge by challenge, triumph by triumph.

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The funny thing is that although I wanted to know it all, the surprises—those moments that were unique to us—were what made that first year so beautiful.

Of course, my research provided a helpful outline as I graduated from never having changed a diaper to conquering the newborn haze, my return to work, the milestones and the challenges. But while I did need much of that tactical knowledge, I also learned the value of following my baby's lead and trusting my gut.

I realized the importance of advice from fellow mamas, too. I vividly remember a conversation with a friend who had her first child shortly before I welcomed mine. My friend, who had already returned to work after maternity leave, encouraged me to be patient when introducing a bottle and to help my son get comfortable with taking that bottle from someone else.

Yes, from a logistical standpoint, that's great advice for any working mama. But I also took an incredibly important point from this conversation: This was less about the act of bottle-feeding itself, and more about what it represented for my peace of mind when I was away from my son.

This fellow mama encouraged me to honor my emotions and give myself permission to do what was best for my family—and that really set the tone for my whole approach to parenting. Because honestly, that was just the first of many big transitions during that first year, and each of them came with their own set of mixed emotions.

I felt proud and also strangely nostalgic as my baby seamlessly graduated to a sippy bottle.

I felt my baby's teething pain along with him and also felt confident that we could get through it with the right tools.

I felt relieved as my baby learned to self-soothe by finding his own pacifier and also sad to realize how quickly he was becoming his own person.



As I look back on everything now, some four years and two more kids later, I can't remember the exact day my son crawled, the project I tackled on my first day back at work, or even what his first word was. (It's written somewhere in a baby book!)

But I do remember how I felt with each milestone: the joy, the overwhelming love, the anxiety, the exhaustion and the sense of wonder. That truly was the greatest gift of the first year… and nothing could have prepared me for all those feelings.

This article was sponsored by Dr. Brown's. Thank you for supporting the brands that support Motherly and mamas.

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As mamas we want our babies to be safe, and that's what makes what happened to Glee actress Naya Rivera and her 4-year-old son Josey so heartbreaking.

On July 13, the Ventura County Sheriff's Department announced the 33-year-old mother's body was found at Lake Piru, five days after her son was found floating alone on a rented boat. According to Ventura County Sheriff Bill Ayub, Rivera's last action was to save her son.

"We know from speaking with her son that he and Naya swam in the lake together at some point in her journey. It was at that time that her son described being helped into the boat by Naya, who boosted him onto the deck from behind. He told investigators that he looked back and saw her disappear under the surface of the water," Ayub explained, adding that Rivera's son was wearing his life vest, but the adult life vest was left on the unanchored boat.

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Ayub says exactly what caused the drowning is still speculation but investigators believe the boat started drifting and that Rivera "mustered enough energy to get her son back onto the boat but not enough to save herself."

Our hearts are breaking for Josey and his dad right now. So much is unknown about what happened on Lake Piru but one thing is crystal clear: Naya Rivera has always loved her son with all her heart.

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