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I have 4 kids—and this is the most important thing I've learned about parenting

Someone asked me recently what it's like to have four kids, and I paused.

what is it like to have four kids

Every evening when I leave work, I see the same tired woman standing on the corner outside my building waiting to cross the street with her four little kids. It's a busy street always, but even more so at rush hour. There are no sidewalks and no convenient place for the five of them to wait safely.

She holds onto the ones she can, and they hold onto the ones she can't. They make an island together—a cluster of little bodies in winter hats and boots not more than two feet away from the traffic zooming past.

Eventually, the flow of cars will break enough for them to make a run for it, and run they do, still holding onto each other, the cluster now a chain, little legs pumping as the woman rounds up the rear, waving and yelling.

I'm fascinated by this woman and her family. I sit there in my car and wonder where she's coming from and where she's going. I'm anxious for her, even though she seems to have it together. I love how all five of them cling to each other, making a whole that is safer than the sum of its parts.

And even though I need to get myself home to my own four babes, often I'll wait, not pulling out of the parking lot until they've safely made it across. If I didn't, I would lay in bed at night and worry: Had they made it? Were they still waiting? Were they safe?

Someone asked me recently what it's like to have four kids, and I paused. Answers flew through my head, and none of them felt exactly right. I could say I hadn't slept soundly in more than a decade, how the fatigue is a tangible thing that sits between my shoulder blades, how on the worst days I can feel the weight pulling me downward.

I could talk about big-family-math—how one kid plus two kids plus one more somehow equals the noise level of 100 kids. I could say how I sometimes pull into my driveway after work and feel lost, my naturally quiet self begging me to sit in the car for just one more 90s hip-hop song before conjuring up the energy to face the evening.

But I didn't say any of that, because that's not the whole truth. It's not even the good part of the truth.

Instead I told the story of the woman on the corner.

I talked about how this woman needs to get those babies safely from one side of the road to the other, and so she just does it. I talked about how she has only two hands for four kids, so she's had to teach them to hold onto each other, and that the result is almost magical—the way they do it together, all serious with the responsibility of it, protective and fierce as they pull each other across the road to safety.

Because that, more than anything else, is what it's like to have four kids. There's only one of me, only my two hands and my two feet and my one checkbook and my one measure of patience, but there are four of them.

Pretty quickly into this parenting thing, I realized there was no way I could do all of the things myself. There was just too much. I want to hold all four of them, draw each of them close and keep each of them safe. But there isn't enough space in my arms.

So I've taught them to guide each other. If I hold the ones I can, and they hold the ones they can, we can all stay connected and we can all make it across the road, or the through the evening, and maybe even into adulthood.

Because this much is certain: the only way we are making it across this thing is together.

The next day when I left work, the woman and her family were there on the corner again. I smiled at her. “We're the same, you and me," I tried to say with my face, and I waved.

She met my eyes for a second, but she couldn't let go of the hands she held to wave back, otherwise the chain would have broken. I waited for them to cross just the same.

When I pulled in my driveway a few minutes later, I didn't linger there even for a moment. It was lonely in my car, and my own foursome was waiting for me inside.

They say necessity is the mother of invention—and nothing makes you more inventive than motherhood.

Sometimes that means fashioning a diaper out of paper towels and your older child's underpants (true story). Sometimes that means creating an innovative and life-changing weighted baby sleep sack and totally crushing it on Shark Tank. Tara Williams is the latter.

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14 sweet 'just thinking of you' gifts for every mama

A sweet surprise that tells her you've been thinking of her might be the pick-me-up she needs.

Who says you have to wait for birthdays or holidays to give your bestie a great gift? A sweet surprise that tells her you've been thinking of her might be the pick-me-up she needs in these more-than-trying times. We've rounded up some of our favorite go-to gifts that are certain to be a bright spot in her week. But be warned, you may want to snag a few for yourself. (You deserve it, mama.)

Here are some our favorite "just because" gifts to give our hardworking mama friends.

New Mother face + body care duo

volition face + body care duo

This correcting oil and stretch mark minimizer is perfect for the pregnant mama looking to keep her pregnancy glow. The correcting oil brightens the skin while reducing dark spots, and the stretch mark minimizer works to smooth her ever-growing belly.

$70

Allover roller

esker allover roller

This jade roller goes beyond your typical face roller and can be used anywhere on the body. It works to increase stimulation and reduce puffiness and is perfect for applying any oils to the face or body. Plus, it feels like a mini spa treatment.

$65

Kombucha making kit

farmsteady kombucha making kit

What could be a more perfect gift for the health-obsessed friend? This kombucha making kit comes with everything you need to brew your own homemade green tea kombucha. They'll think this is the tastiest gift ever.

$45

Laetitia lipstick

cupid & psyche laetitia

This red lipstick is perfect for your makeup enthusiast bestie who is looking to spruce up her life in quarantine. Crafted in the United States, these bee and vegan-friendly and cruelty-free lipsticks are created to flatter all complexions. Cupid and Psyche Beauty makes finding the perfect red lip way too easy!

$23

Jigsaw puzzle

inner piecec jigsaw puzzle

Mamas need to destress now more than ever during quarantine. This adorable jigsaw puzzle is perfect for the mama who needs a brain break! The 500-piece puzzle designed by artist Ray Oranges features an abstract gradient design that fits a standard frame when completed. Bonus: It's printed on recycled paper and the company donates $1 from every puzzle sold to youth mindfulness programs.

$30

Matilda's Bloombox

matilda's bloombox

If we have to be stuck inside, we might as well have some gorgeous florals to brighten up the space. Matilda's Bloombox locally sources blooms, delivers them to her door and provides simple tips on how to arrange it into a beautiful bouquet.

$39

'I Am Enough' bracelet

I Am Enough bracelet

Let this dainty bracelet serve as a constant reminder to your bestie that she is enough. She'll wear this on her wrist and read this daily oath to herself, "I Am Enough."

$35

Glow assorted teas

vahdam low assorted teas

This tea gift box set covers the entire spectrum of flavors from sweet to spicy. Individually packaged in beautiful tins, your gal pal will feel like a queen sipping her morning tea. Originally $40, this set is currently on sale for just $24. We'll take two, please.

$24

Find your voice journal

find your voice journal

Journaling is a great way to ease anxiety and will slow your bestie's racing mind before bed. This gift is perfect for first time journalists and includes prompts, daily quotes and coloring pages to help her unlock her potential and find her voice.

$22

Premium frother

shore magic premium frother

This gift is fitting for your latte-sipping bestie who can't go a day without her coffee. All she has to do is add two scoops of collagen to her favorite drink, and she'll have a perfectly foamy drink ready in seconds. Skipping the drive-thru line has never been so easy!

$25

Bath soak infusion kit

maude bath soak infusion kit

Say hello to hydration! She'll be feeling smooth and relaxed as ever after a long bath soaking in these salts. This vegan + cruelty-free set incorporates dead sea salt and dehydrated coconut milk powder for an ultra hydrating experience.

$32

Tiny Tags 'mama' necklace

Tiny Tags 'mama' necklace

It's a hard-earned title she answers to a hundred times per day. Whether she's new to the club or a seasoned professional, this delicate script 'mama' necklace is guaranteed to be a perfect fit.

$105

Superfood honey

Beekeeper's Naturals B.Powered honey

With a lack of sleep and jam-packed days, getting through the afternoon can be a real challenge. Send her a powerful pick-me-up in the form of a therapeutic blend of royal jelly, bee pollen, propolis and raw honey. It makes the ideal companion for tea, smoothies, yogurt or even on its on.

$17

Calming midnight mask with melatonin

Who doesn't deserve a reminder to pamper themself every once in awhile? Even better, this mask does all its work at night while you're sleeping with no extra effort needed. It's an amazing plant-powered antioxidant-packed mask that has melatonin, wild dandelion leaf and hyaluronic acid to rehydrate, repair and reset facial skin. It's so good, you might want to gift it to yourself. We won't tell, mama.

$68

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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In Montessori schools, parents are periodically invited to observe their children at work in the classroom. I have heard many parents express shock to see their 3- or 4-year-old putting away their own work when they finish—without even being asked!

"You should see his room at home!" or, "I ask him to put his toys away every day, and it's a battle every single time" were frequent comments.

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