Watching my kiddo have a virtual playdate is so bittersweet

I feel eternally indebted to each and every one of these children—my own included.

virtual playdate

I've always thought of myself as a person who doesn't really like kids. I mean, I have two of my own and I like them most of the time. I've also got a bunch of nieces and nephews I adore and a few close friends whose kids I would absolutely fold into my family should tragedy strike.

But kids in general? Not my bag. I've long been the kind of person who would see people posting photos of their own kids on social media with the caption "Love this kid!" and think to myself, "Yeah, not so much."

I'm joking, of course. Your kids are all great!

So I'm kind of joking, yes, but it's also kind of true. For example, a couple of months ago when I had eight 9-year-olds in my house for several hours for my daughter's birthday party, I was happy to see the last of them leave when the festivities were done.

Little did I know, that would literally be the last I saw of them—or anyone, really—for months. The week that followed was when our city started comprehending the scale of the coronavirus crisis and abruptly shut down. Everything about my 9-year-old's normal life went away and that party—a Harry Potter one, of course—now feels like a weirdly distant magical memory.

At the start of this, I didn't realize how much I was going to miss other people. Especially other people's kids.

So these days, when I hear the tiny voices of other people's children coming through a phone via Messenger Kids or FaceTime, my heart bursts with emotion. I go out of my way to say hello.

Little do they know, these kids are helping us keep it together. They're a bright light for my daughter in a moment of darkness.

These days, my 9-year-old has drawing playdates with Beatrice, a spirited 5-year old who lives around the corner.

She's study-buddies with June, whose parents I barely know but who are happy, like me, to let the girls keep an open channel while they do schoolwork together.

She bombards Charlie from her musical theater class with emojis while they chat.

She's illustrating a book that her classmate Elettra is writing, and choreographing modern dance numbers with Evelyn. (Hi Elettra! Hi Evelyn!)

A few weeks ago, there were several days in a row when any number of the children in our lives indulged my daughter in her virtual tours of the city she built out of Dixie Cups on the living room floor. ("That's the town square. It's empty because of social distancing.")

I honestly feel eternally indebted to each and every one of these children—my own included. They're handling this whole period of time with grace and resilience, and maybe most of all, solidarity and creativity.

So the joke's on me, I guess. Because other people's children are saving our sanity as a family, and I've never loved them more. I feel like I suddenly see all their quirks and unique, special personality traits and I understand—like I never would have before if we weren't all socially distancing—the way their relationships with my daughter work. I understand why she's chosen these awesome kids as her friends.

Today she'll play Battleship with Skye—and they won't have to be separated like they sometimes are in real life because they just won't stop talking.

She'll shout directions on where to find the pizza on the game she plays with Jason (a friend who has the added bonus of also being a cousin).

We miss Skye and Jason and June and Beatrice and all the other children and people out there who are trying so hard to stay connected to our lives. I miss them. And I'll invite them all over someday. I promise.

These are the best bath time products you can get for under $20

These budget-friendly products really make a splash.

With babies and toddlers, bath time is about so much more than washing off: It's an opportunity for fun, sensory play and sweet bonding moments—with the added benefit of a cuddly, clean baby afterward.

Because bathing your baby is part business, part playtime, you're going to want products that can help with both of those activities. After countless bath times, here are the products that our editors think really make a splash. (Better yet, each item is less than $20!)

Comforts Bath Wash & Shampoo

Comforts Baby Wash & Shampoo

Made with oat extract, this bath wash and shampoo combo is designed to leave delicate skin cleansed and nourished. You and your baby will both appreciate the tear-free formula—so you can really focus on the bath time fun.

Munckin Soft Spot Bath Mat

Munchkin slip mat

When your little one is splish-splashing in the bath, help keep them from also sliding around with a soft, anti-slip bath mat. With strong suction cups to keep it in place and extra cushion to make bath time even more comfortable for your little one, this is an essential in our books.

Comforts Baby Lotion

Comforts baby lotion

For most of us, the bath time ritual continues when your baby is out of the tub when you want to moisturize their freshly cleaned skin. We look for lotions that are hypoallergenic, nourishing and designed to protect their skin.

The First Years Stack Up Cups

First year stack cups

When it comes to bath toys, nothing beats the classic set of stackable cups: Sort them by size, practice pouring water, pile them high—your little one will have fun with these every single bath time.

Comforts Baby Oil

Comforts baby oil

For dry skin that needs a little extra TLC, our team loves Comforts' fast-absorbing baby oil aloe vera and vitamin E. Pro tip: When applied right after drying off your baby, the absorption is even more effective.

KidCo Bath Toy Organizer

KidCo Bath Organizer

Between bathing supplies, wash rags, toys and more, the tub sure can get crowded in a hurry. We like that this organizer gives your little one space to play and bathe while still keeping everything you need within reach.

Another great tip? Shopping the Comforts line on to find premium baby products for a fraction of competitors' prices—and follow along on social media to see product releases and news at @comfortsforbaby.

This article was sponsored by The Kroger Co. Thank you for supporting the brands that support Motherly and mamas.

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Every week, we stock the Motherly Shop with innovative and fresh products from brands we feel good about. We want to be certain you don't miss anything, so to keep you in the loop, we're providing a cheat sheet.

So, what's new this week?

Meri Meri: Decor and gifts that bring the wonder of childhood to life

We could not be more excited to bring the magic of Meri Meri to the Motherly Shop. For over 30 years, their playful line of party products, decorations, children's toys and stationery have brought magic to celebrations and spaces all over the world. Staring as a kitchen table endeavor with some scissors, pens and glitter in Los Angeles in 1985, Meri Meri (founder Meredithe Stuart-Smith's childhood nickname) has evolved from a little network of mamas working from home to a team of 200 dreaming up beautiful, well-crafted products that make any day feel special.

We've stocked The Motherly Shop with everything from Halloween must-haves to instant-heirloom gifts kiddos will adore. Whether you're throwing a party or just trying to make the everyday feel a little more special, we've got you covered.

Not sure where to start? Here's what we're adding to our cart:

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It's science: Why your baby stops crying when you stand up

A fascinating study explains why.

When your baby is crying, it feels nearly instinctual to stand up to rock, sway and soothe them. That's because standing up to calm babies is instinctual—driven by centuries of positive feedback from calmed babies, researchers have found.

"Infants under 6 months of age carried by a walking mother immediately stopped voluntary movement and crying and exhibited a rapid heart rate decrease, compared with holding by a sitting mother," say authors of a 2013 study published in Current Biology.

Even more striking: This coordinated set of actions—the mother standing and the baby calming—is observed in other mammal species, too. Using pharmacologic and genetic interventions with mice, the authors say, "We identified strikingly similar responses in mouse pups as defined by immobility and diminished ultrasonic vocalizations and heart rate."

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