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Motherhood is: Sitting in the dark as your child learns to sleep on their own

Each night I spent at least 40 minutes waiting with him and, though it may not seem long, when you have just the few hours between his sleep and your own to prepare for the next day, standing still when there is so much to be done can seem painful.

motherhood is: sitting in the dark

My son is a good sleeper. He was born big at 9 lbs, 9 oz and after just a month, he began sleeping in stretches, letting my husband and I piece together four or five hours of rest at a time.

By the time he was 3 or 4 months old, he would sleep soundly for 10 hours at a time as long as I remembered to dream feed him a few hours after he first drifted off.

When he was 13 months old, we transitioned him to his own crib, in his own room. It felt odd at first, not hearing his night noises, the little snuffles and grunts that had become the background noise we fell asleep to each night, but it felt good, too. I relished being able to talk with my husband before we fell asleep and getting ready in my own room in the morning instead of gathering my clothes and sneaking into the hall bathroom.

My son is almost two now and he knows his bedtime routine well. He loves his bath, his stories and his special pajamas. On a usual night he leads the routine, instructing me on the steps, pushing towards rest as soon as he feels tired.

Despite his usual good temperament when it comes to bedtime and naps, he does have the occasional bad night or bad week. This week has been one of them. He's been happy each evening as I begin his bedtime routine but just as I lay him in his crib, he balks. He bucks backwards, clings to my neck and screams, loudly and firmly, “NO CRIB, NO BED."

The first night I assumed there was something wrong with his bed so I took out the mattress, remade it with his softest sheets, and placed his favorite stuffed owl in the top corner. Still, when I tried to lay him down I was met with a firm, desperate, “No mama. No crib, no bed."

I tried to lay him down anyway, hoping he wouldn't resist but he clung to my collar and twisted his fingers into my hair. I pried him off, laid him down, and tried to leave the room. He cried out, desperate and sad, needing me, so I went back in, sat down on the floor and held his hand through the bars of his crib.

We never did cry it out. I thought I might try it early on but the first time his cry hit my ear, a cry of sadness I knew I had the power to stop, I went back in and picked him up. There would be so much in his life I couldn't solve with a hug—I felt I should take advantage while that was all he still needed to feel better.

The transition into his room was scary for my baby so I sat with him, each night, for a whole month as he got used to it.

I started out in the crib with him, holding him close and letting him know he was safe.

The next week I sat next to his crib, holding his hand.

The week after, I sat in the middle of the floor, equidistant from his crib to the door.

In the final week I stood in the doorway, whispering occasional comfort as he learned to sleep on his own.

Each night I spent at least 40 minutes waiting with him and, though it may not seem long, when you have just the few hours between his sleep and your own to prepare for the next day, make lunches, and finish work, standing still when there is so much to be done can seem painful.

I was proud of myself when I laid him down, a month after we began the process and kissed his cheeks, sang his song and walked out the door. He didn't call out or stir and was able to sleep all on his own.

The time and effort I put into creating a sweet, tear-free bedtime routine makes it all the more difficult when my son has a hard sleep week. I wonder if I've done something wrong or if maybe I should have just let him cry. I wonder if he's sick or having nightmares or if something happened at preschool.

Each night for the past 12 days he has fought sleep and cried out for me to hold his hand, for water, or for “more song." I've rocked him and cuddled him and held his hand and sung to him but the moment I try to slip out, even if he's been still for 15 minutes, he snaps awake and cries out.

So night after night, I've found myself sitting in the dark, quiet and still, waiting it out, 45 minutes,60 minutes, 90 minutes. I use the time to make shopping lists in my head or brainstorm Christmas presents. If I'm feeling particularly frustrated, I try to reflect on all the beauty in my son, the curve of his cheek, the bridge of his nose, the smell of his hair, and to remember that this too shall pass and one day I'll look back and wonder where my small boy went.

And that's parenting really—you do all you can but sometimes you still find yourself sitting in the dark, waiting it out, trying as hard as you can to remember how quickly it will all rush by.

Maybe your dark is a preschool conference as the teacher tells you that your child's been biting again or the doctor's office as they diagnose the third ear infection of the year. You shake your head in frustration and wonder what else you could have done, wonder why nothing is working.

For me, right now, my dark is literal. As my boy grows, though, as his world expands and his problems shift outside of his crib, my dark may become murkier and my "waiting it out" longer. I hope that when these changes come, I'll hold onto my confidence, my patience and my ability to sit quietly in the dark.

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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.

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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.

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Balance board

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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!

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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Baby forest fox ride-on

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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.

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I never wanted to be a mom. It wasn't something I ever thought would happen until I fell madly in love with my husband—who knew very well he wanted children. While he was a natural at entertaining our nephews or our friends' kids, I would awkwardly try to interact with them, not really knowing what to say or do.

Our first pregnancy was a surprise, a much-wanted one but also a unicorn, "first try" kind of pregnancy. As my belly grew bigger, so did my insecurities. How do you even mom when you never saw motherhood in your future? I focused all my uncertainties on coming up with a plan for the delivery of my baby—which proved to be a terrible idea when my dreamed-of unmedicated vaginal birth turned into an emergency C-section. I couldn't even start motherhood the way I wanted, I thought. And that feeling happened again when I couldn't breastfeed and instead had to pump and bottle-feed. And once more, when all the stress from things not going my way turned into debilitating postpartum anxiety that left me not really enjoying my brand new baby.

As my baby grew, slowly so did my confidence that I could do this. When he would tumble to the ground while learning how to walk and only my hugs could calm him, I felt invincible. But on the nights he wouldn't sleep—whether because he was going through a regression, a leap, a teeth eruption or just a full moon—I would break down in tears to my husband telling him that he was a better parent than me.

Then I found out I was pregnant again, and that this time it was twins. I panicked. I really cannot do two babies at the same time. I kept repeating that to myself (and to my poor husband) at every single appointment we had because I was just terrified. He, of course, thought I could absolutely do it, and he got me through a very hard pregnancy.

When the twins were born at full term and just as big as singleton babies, I still felt inadequate, despite the monumental effort I had made to grow these healthy babies and go through a repeat C-section to make sure they were both okay. I still felt my skin crawl when they cried and thought, What if I can't calm them down? I still turned to my husband for diaper changes because I wasn't a good enough mom for twins.

My husband reminded me (and still does) that I am exactly what my babies need. That I am enough. A phrase that has now become my mantra, both in motherhood and beyond, because as my husband likes to say, I'm the queen of selling myself short on everything.

So when my babies start crying, I tell myself that I am enough to calm them down.

When my toddler has a tantrum, I remind myself that I am enough to get through to him.

When I go out with the three kids by myself and start sweating about everything that could go wrong (poop explosions times three), I remind myself that I am enough to handle it all, even with a little humor.


And then one day I found this bracelet. Initially, I thought how cheesy it'd be to wear a reminder like this on my wrist, but I bought it anyway because something about it was calling my name. I'm so glad I did because since day one I haven't stopped wearing it.

Every time I look down, there it is, shining back at me. I am enough.

I Am Enough bracelet 

SONTAKEY  I Am Enough Bracelet

May this Oath Bracelet be your reminder that you are perfect just the way you are. That you are enough for your children, you are enough for your friends & family, you are enough for everything that you do. You are enough, mama <3

$35

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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10 photos to take on baby’s first day that you'll cherish forever

You'll obsess over these newborn baby pictures.

Bethany Menzel: Instagram + Blog

As you're preparing for baby's birth, we bet you're dreaming of all of the amazing photos you'll take of your precious new babe. As a professional photographer and mama, I have some tips for newborn photos you'll want to capture.

Here are the 10 photos you will want to take on baby's first day.

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