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What I Learned About Being a Parent From Staring at the Grand Canyon

The feeling in my legs disappeared – dragging the color in my face along with it – as I watched my adult kids and husband perch themselves on the edge of the Grand Canyon.


An ache filled my womb, now 18 years barren, which dispersed fear like medicine in an IV. Risk-taking is not in my DNA, so seeing everyone I love one wind gust away from certain death turned my stomach.

After capturing the moment on my iPhone, I mustered up some courage and cat crawled my way over to join my family. It’s surreal having a front row seat to one of the seven natural wonders of the world. Gazing into the vastness is indescribable. Sitting mere inches from a 6,000-foot drop is strangely blissful and nauseating; and mostly a bad idea.

Nonetheless, inhaling the magic of such a massive display of beauty with offspring in tow set the stage for cavernous insight into the past 22 years of my parenting journey. It was as if the walls of the crater beckoned me to embrace the emotional connection point where the miracle of giving birth and staring into an abyss intersect.

Whether you are pregnant, cuddling a newborn, in the midst of grade school years, riding the waves of tweens and teens, or trying to accept an empty nest, perhaps these whispers will settle in your heart and inspire your journey.

Momspeak from a huge hole in the ground

1 | The vastness is far reaching.

Like the canyon, there are no foreseeable boundaries along the journey of raising children. Holding a newborn is overwhelming both in love and responsibility. Watching our kids learn to walk, speak, read, play, create, interact with the world provides limitless awe and joy. Witnessing the Houdini-like evolution towards independence is radical. How humbling to know our small role in bringing up our kids merely sets in motion a generational pull longer, farther, wider, and deeper than our eyes will ever see.

2 | Standing on the edge takes your breath away.

Regardless of the current childrearing stage we are wading through, our kids are always on the edge of something new. In the early years, anticipating the next phase is exciting. As kids get older, new fears and stresses have a tendency to weigh down our delight.

In this case, as I watched my grown kids literally dangle their feet over the rim of a massive gorge, I witnessed the real truth of all three being on the brink of living on their own. Permanently. I have no idea when or how this happened. What I do know is, rather than fast forwarding and/or worrying about what comes next, the blessing lies in taking in the view right where our kids are at. Living for the moments that take our breath away at every stage allows us to pause and savor the mixed bag of here and now.

4 | You can never see the other side.

Parenting is full of unknowns. We’re faced with choices every day about how to best care for, instruct, and protect our kids. Many of these decisions we cast into the wind on a bubble gently blown through a tiny wand hoping the end result lands on solid ground before bursting. Truth is, only God knows what lay ahead. We do our best, both in preparing our kids and then trusting in the outcome. Though we fear what we can’t see, maybe the never-ending horizon of motherhood spares us from viewing something even scarier on the other side.

5 | Fences do have a purpose.

A little fence over a mile deep crater seems utterly pointless. Anyone can swing a leg up and over and find themselves face down in the Colorado River. But, these feeble barricades serve a purpose in certain areas of the park, providing a safe view for those too scared to stand on an unprotected brim. If the park restricted access to all areas of the canyon except from designated sections alone, spectators would miss out on the splendor from countless vantage points.

Boundaries are necessary and healthy in certain instances for our kids. They are particularly helpful while we teach them the laws of nature and foster their well-being. Restrictions can also keep our children from thriving and learning from their mistakes. Knowing the when and how of boundary-setting is a great challenge for us as parents.

Eventually our kids need to set their own limits. If fear drives us to continuously protect them, we hamper their ability to figure out what works for them, accept defeat/disappointment, and manage life on their own.

6 | All kinds of hidden gems exist below the surface.

The canyon is gargantuan; difficult to truly comprehend. But hiking down a few hundred feet reveals a world of flourishing plant life, scurrying animals, and colorful geology – aspects hidden from view unless we trek beneath the ridge.

Same goes with our kids. We see the surface – demeanor, appearance, attitude – while underneath lies dreams, hopes, fears, insecurities, joys, unspoken emotions. The soul of our child is hidden unless we delve beneath the veneer through genuine communication. The quality of questions we ask, investments made in supporting their pursuits, interest taken in emotional welfare all create for us a window into the life within.

7 | What goes down may not come up.

Chances are a fall into the canyon doesn’t end well. The lucky ones survive if the descent is marked with gradual grades rather than a sheer drop-off. Parenting is hard. Period. We make countless mistakes, feel hopeless and lost in certain situations, and worry too much.

Burying guilt over our failures, stuffing down our despair, and drilling doubt into our psyche are all actions which can take root in our soul. In doing so, we risk preventing these negative feelings from ever emerging to the healing light of day. I’ve learned this the hard way by jumping into emotional pits and hoping for the best. Thankfully I’ve been able to climb my way out over the years, but I know I would have been a better mother in certain seasons with a healthier approach.

8 | Rain changes perspective.

Googling pictures of the Grand Canyon results in hundreds of images capturing the glorious cavern glowing like a box of Crayolas, rainbows aplenty and glistening sunsets. When you plan a trip you expect and hope to see the same.

As our family gazed into the gorge for the very first time, the sky was grey and dumping a monsoon of rain. Much of the cavern was hidden beneath clouds and shadows replaced brilliant colors. But when you’re taking in such an enigma, the awe outweighs the expectation. Our spirits were moved as we stared slack-jawed into the monstrosity; the rain only added to the beauty.

Often times my mothering experience leaves me soaked to the bone from the storms of life. This happens when I allow expectations to dictate my reactions. Having expectations is a recipe for disappointment. Raising a family is a haphazard affair and the more we choose to roll with things and be wowed by the journey the more spectacular the experience.

9 | Fear grips you when you look down.

I’ve spent too many years – even still – looking down and feeling scared and paralyzed. Facing our fears means keeping our heads up and focusing on things which bring us peace and comfort. Even something as simple as gazing into the eyes of our children can wash away the most debilitating fear. This in turn gives us strength to endure those moments we find ourselves on the edge of something traumatic, pressing, uncomfortable. Looking out around us opens our eyes to blessings which may otherwise go unnoticed.

10 | Everything is small in comparison.

The Grand Canyon dwarfs everything in its path. Even the breathtaking river at the bottom looks insignificant. If we do an inventory of our daily struggles and trials of parenting we will find many are woefully small in the grand scheme of raising a family. Sometimes the biggest mountain we have to climb lies between our ears, as our thoughts create virtual realities filled with stress and strain.

It takes mindfulness and determination to accept there is something much greater than us at work in every situation. If we allow the big picture to grab our attention, the prickly details are conveniently lost in the grandeur.

Standing on a precipice with my adult children reminded me that the chasm caused by physical separation runs deep, but the connection through heartstrings still grips you with majestic force. When you’ve parented for over two decades, having crossed the threshold from hands-on to hands-off, the essence of what love has to offer, both divine and earthly, inverts your perspective.

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When you become a parent for the first time, there is an undeniably steep learning curve. Add to that the struggle of sorting through fact and fiction when it comes to advice and—whew—it's enough to make you more tired than you already are with that newborn in the house.

Just like those childhood games of telephone when one statement would get twisted by the time it was told a dozen times, there are many parenting misconceptions that still tend to get traction. This is especially true with myths about bottle-feeding—something that the majority of parents will do during their baby's infancy, either exclusively or occasionally.

Here's what you really need to know about bottle-feeding facts versus fiction.

1. Myth: Babies are fine taking any bottle

Not all bottles are created equally. Many parents experience anxiety when it seems their infant rejects all bottles, which is especially nerve wracking if a breastfeeding mom is preparing to return to work. However, it's often a matter of giving the baby some time to warm up to the new feeding method, says Katie Ferraro, a registered dietician, infant feeding specialist and associate professor of nutrition at the University of California San Francisco graduate School of Nursing.

"For mothers returning to work, if you're breastfeeding but trying to transition to bottle[s], try to give yourself a two- to four-week trial window to experiment with bottle feeding," says Ferraro.

2. Myth: You either use breast milk or formula

So often, the question of whether a parent is using formula or breastfeeding is presented exclusively as one or the other. In reality, many babies are combo-fed—meaning they have formula sometimes, breast milk other times.

The advantage with mixed feeding is the babies still get the benefits of breast milk while parents can ensure the overall nutritional and caloric needs are met through formula, says Ferraro.

3. Myth: Cleaning bottles is a lot of work

For parents looking for simplification in their lives (meaning, all of us), cleaning bottles day after day can sound daunting. But, really, it doesn't require much more effort than you are already used to doing with the dishes each night: With bottles that are safe for the top rack of the dishwasher, cleaning them is as easy as letting the machine work for you.

For added confidence in the sanitization, Dr. Brown's offers an incredibly helpful microwavable steam sterilizer that effectively kills all household bacteria on up to four bottles at a time. (Not to mention it can also be used on pacifiers, sippy cups and more.)

4. Myth: Bottle-feeding causes colic

One of the leading theories on what causes colic is indigestion, which can be caused by baby getting air bubbles while bottle feeding. However, Dr. Brown's bottles are the only bottles in the market that are actually clinically proven to reduce colic thanks to an ingenious internal vent system that eliminates negative pressure and air bubbles.

5. Myth: Bottles are all you can use for the first year

By the time your baby is six months old (way to go!), they may be ready to begin using a sippy cup. Explains Ferraro, "Even though they don't need water or additional liquids at this point, it is a feeding milestone that helps promote independent eating and even speech development."

With a complete line of products to see you from newborn feeding to solo sippy cups, Dr. Brown's does its part to make these new transitions less daunting. And, for new parents, that truly is priceless.

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

Jessica Simpson celebrated her baby shower this weekend (after getting a cupping treatment for her very swollen pregnancy feet) and her theme and IG captions have fans thinking this was not just a shower, but a baby name announcement as well.

Simpson (who is expecting her third child with former NFL player Eric Johnson) captioned two photos of her shower as "💚 Birdie's Nest 💚". The photographs show Simpson and her family standing under a neon sign spelling out the same thing.

While Simpson didn't explicitly state that she was naming her child Birdie, the numerous references to the name in her shower photos and IG stories have the internet convinced that she's picking the same name Busy Philips chose for her now 10-year-old daughter.

The name Birdie isn't in the top 1000 baby names according to the Social Security Administration, but It has been seeing a resurgence in recent years, according to name nerds and trend watchers.

"Birdie feels like a sassy but sweet, down-to-earth yet unusual name," Pamela Redmond Satran of Nameberry told Town and Country back in 2017. "It's also just old enough to be right on time."

Simpson's older kids are called Maxwell and Ace, which both have a vintage feel, so if Birdie really is her choice, the three old-school names make a nice sibling set.

Whether Birdie is the official name or just a cute nickname Simpson is playing around with, we get the appeal and bet she can't wait for her little one to arrive (and her feet to go back to normal!)

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Mamas, if you hire a cleaning service to tackle the toddler fingerprints on your windows, or shop at the neighborhood grocery store even when the deals are better across town, don't feel guilty. A new study by the University of British Columbia and Harvard Business School shows money buys happiness if it's used to give you more time. And that, in turn could be better for the whole family.

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As if we needed another reason to shop at Target, our favorite store is offering some great deals for mamas who need products for baby. Mom life can be expensive and we love any chance at saving a few bucks. If you need to stock up on baby care items, like diapers and wipes, now is the time.

Right now, if you spend $100 on select diapers, wipes, formula, you'll get a $20 gift card with pickup or Target Restock. Other purchases will get you $5 gift cards during this promotion:

  • $20 gift card when you spend $100 or more on select diapers, wipes, formula, and food items using in store Order Pickup, Drive Up or Target Restock
  • $5 gift card when you buy 3 select beauty care items
  • $5 gift card when you buy 2 select household essentials items using in store Order Pickup, Drive Up or Target Restock
  • $5 gift card when you buy 2 select Iams, Pedigree, Crave & Nutro dog and cat food or Fresh Step cat litter items using in store Order Pickup
  • $5 gift card when you buy 3 select feminine care items using in store Order Pickup, Drive Up or Target Restock

All of these promotions will only run through 11:59 pm PT on Saturday, January 19, 2019 so make sure to stock up before they're gone!

Because the deals only apply to select products and certain colors, just be sure to read the fine print before checking out.

Target's website notes the "offer is valid using in store Order Pickup, Drive Up or Target Restock when available".

The gift cards will be delivered after you have picked up your order or your Target Restock order has shipped.

We won't tell anyone if you use those gift cards exclusively for yourself. 😉 So, get to shopping, mama!

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