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When I was 12 years old, my dad took my best friend and me camping for the first time in the wild Adirondacks.


He started preparing us weeks in advance. We needed everything, beginning with footwear. It was spring and the mountains would be muddy. Our white, unlaced Keds would not be “fine,” as we tried to insist. We were going to hike up an actual mountain and needed actual boots. Hiking boots were, according to my dad, absolutely necessary.

We refused. Hiking boots were ugly, and therefore embarrassing. My dad pointed out that the only folks we’d encounter on this trip – even if they happened to be teenage boys – would also be wearing hiking boots. We didn’t care. We compromised on high top basketball sneakers.

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Of course my dad already had boots, and a good backpack, and gear aplenty. He’d been hiking since he was a young boy. He’s an Eagle Scout, a triathlete, a mountain climber. He’s always been “that guy.” But I was not “that kid.” I was a ballet dancer, prone to dramatics, and not a fan of getting dirty. Getting me to the outdoor gear store, let alone into the car to and out to the woods, was an uphill battle.

While my father tried patiently to explain what we needed in our packs, and how to organize it, we whined, yawned, bitched, and complained. We fooled around and laughed. We should have listened. Adirondack hiking is no joke. The terrain is widely varied, often steep and tough, and it changes rapidly, just like the weather.

But at 12 years old we cared not at all for any of my dad’s vast knowledge on the subject.We assumed he was going to do everything for us, and we’d be left to our giggly and moody tween ways. We wanted to zip ourselves into a tent in the dark and talk about boys. Fuck the rest.

Twenty-seven years later, the story of that first trip has become a family legend, told and retold so many times, that I often wonder how the  details have changed over the years.

On that first trip, it rained relentlessly. It rained so hard, and so long, that our gear failed – the tents leaked and we woke up before dawn on hike day in three inches of water. My dad let Theresa and me sit in the car with the motor running, heat blasting, while he worked on the tent in the dark to get the situation under control.

Our complaining knew no bounds.

We set off on the big hike in our sneakers and layers of cotton t-shirts and sweatshirts. We deemed all traditional gear too ugly and too dorky for consideration, in spite of my dad’s explanations of the practical purposes of wool, quick-dry fabric, and sturdy footwear.

“I hope you’ve got your rain gear!” my dad said, smiling at us.

Theresa snorted and shot back, “You’re looking at it.”

I’m still not sure if we ever actually made it to the top of Mt. Jo, our first ascent. I believe my dad may have given up on us three-quarters of the way up, told us we were done, and turned us around. There is, after all, only so much abuse one can take from two preteen girls in the name of outdoor pursuits.

We went home. Unpacking wet, smelly clothes from my backpack and digging mud from underneath my fingernails, I vowed never to hike again. My dad let it go.

I love my dad. My parents were divorced when I was nine. My brother and I split our time between them, and he’s always been there for me. Like my mom, he came to every ballet recital, every chorus concert, and patiently watched every living room performance I staged from my very first pirouette (there were many).

He chaperoned sleepovers, drove my friends and me to and from school dances, basketball games, and parties. He once drove us two hours away on a school night so we could go to an INXS concert, and waited in the parking lot until it was over, before driving us home.

He saw me through my turbulent teenage years, executing feats of parenting heroism I could never truly appreciate or understand until I had kids of my own. He was always encouraging, and always pushed me to do my best, even when I was making questionable choices. Even when I told him to leave me alone.

Watching kids grow into adolescents is painful enough for parents, even when the process goes smoothly. My dad, while always supportive of my various forms of self expression, had nonetheless hoped I’d work on the high school yearbook and take to wearing plaid skirts with penny loafers.

Instead, I saw myself as a rebel ballerina. I washed dishes in an Italian restaurant for spending money. I wore steel-toed Doc Marten boots, dyed my hair inky black, dated troublemakers, and smoked cigarettes.

He loved me anyway.

Seven years after that first hike, I was 19 and home for the summer from college, shell-shocked after having lived on my own in New York City for a school year. With a window between school ending and my summer job starting, I had a little time on my hands. My dad suggested a hike, and I surprised myself by accepting.

I’d just spent a year learning that I wasn’t good enough at anything. I was used to being good at things. School, like ballet, had come easy to me. I assumed college would bring more success. But during my senior year I’d abruptly decided it was my destiny to become a famous actress. So instead of a finding a dance program, like I’d always planned, I auditioned for a spot in a theatre program at a small school in NYC. I got in. Easy breezy, I thought.

I arrived at my new school in the fall to discover that there were at least a hundred girls smarter and more talented than me right in my dorm, to say nothing of New York City. And they knew what they were getting into. They had head shots, and resumes. I did not.

My hope of becoming a performer suddenly looked a lot less like a potentially attainable dream and more like a harsh reality that I wasn’t sure I wanted. I couldn’t bring myself to say this out loud to anyone, but I needed to regroup, and rebuild my confidence.

My dad was there. We drove North.

I don’t remember a lot of details about that trip, but I know that I relented and wore Timberland work boots instead of sneakers, but still insisted on my red cotton sweatshirt. And I remember that it was a turning point in my life. I was out of shape, having abandoned ballet, and sad. I climbed the peak anyway, and then down again.

In the car on the way home I was dirty, sweat-soaked, and exhausted. Every one of my muscles ached. But I was happy for the first time in months. When we got home I went out and bought a pair of real hiking boots – brown Vasque Sundowners. I started going on regular weekend trips with my dad.

Slowly, I began to understand how important the mountains were to him. Hiking had always been just one of the things that made my dad, my dad. I’d never given any thought to why he did the things he did.

But I was learning that hiking meant something to him, something big. And little by little – driving, camping, climbing, talking, breathing in the high elevation air with him – it started to mean something to me, too.

There were so many hikes, and there as many good stories.

Like the hike when my brother tripped on the trail and fell over a fallen tree that pierced his pants. Our dad, thinking that my brother had impaled his leg and trying to get to the wound, ripped his pant leg right off, leaving my brother half naked for the rest of the hike.

Or the hike my dad convinced me to keep climbing up into a storm cloud instead of backing off, and suddenly we were inside an thunderstorm, at 5,000 ft, leaning back under a tiny rock overhang for shelter. As thunder clapped all around us, I shouted, “DAD! I’m feeling VERY ALONE up here right now!!”

And the hike when I was so busy yelling at my dad for getting us lost in this wilderness and marching me to certain death, that it took me a minute before I realized we’d broken through the trees and arrived at our camping destination – the most incredible mountain lake and view I’d ever seen.

Or the hike when we woke up to find a family of mice peeking out of our drying boots.

These are my most treasured memories of my dad. Walking along, breathing hard in the elevation, watching his feet hit the trail ahead of me to keep myself going, or leading the way and hearing his steps behind me.

When I was hiking, I was on a clear path, even when I felt like I couldn’t find the right one in real life.

And my real life was kind of a mess. After three years of college I moved home from the city, disillusioned about my direction, unsure of my goals. I’d spent the last few semesters going to more clubs than classes, and I hadn’t made a very good actress after all.

The mountains were there. Steady. Same as always. Like my dad.

We teamed up with friends and formed a sort of climbing gang. It wasn’t unusual for me to be the only female on what became epic, weekend-long, multiple-peak expeditions. Eventually, my dad started talking about me finishing the 46 Adirondack high peaks, each over 4000 feet – something he had accomplished years ago. I’d learned so much, and come so far, the idea didn’t seem crazy. In fact, it seemed completely possible.

I enrolled in a social work degree program at the state school in my hometown. I studied, and I hiked. Every weekend the weather permitted, and sometimes when it didn’t, we went hiking.

I learned a lot from my dad on our hikes, and I marveled at his vast and (mostly) unfailing knowledge of the Adirondacks, and how to move through wild spaces. I learned that a positive attitude does truly improve any situation. I learned that on the trail, as in life, when someone is hurt, try to help them. I learned that a few bungee chords and some duct tape can improve, or even fix, nearly any disaster.

I understood that my dad’s life in the woods mirrored his regular every day. What he learned on the trail was applied in life. These were the values and practices that defined him. These were life skills worth having.

I learned that I could work hard, that I could accomplish what didn’t come easily. After years of having my appearance picked apart by ballet teachers and acting coaches, I began to truly internalize the idea that my body was more than an object. My body was me – strong and capable.

I learned that I could live on dried fruit and reconstituted meals in foil packets for days on end. That I could, in fact, dig my own holes and poop at 3700 ft of elevation. I learned that yes, “pack it in/pack it out” includes tampons.

I learned about the peace that comes with wandering out into the woods. I learned that I can see and hear more clearly in the woods, that the air changes the higher you climb, and that a good sweat has a purifying effect. I learned that nature is always right. More than once, I was moved to speechless tears by the raw and soul-shattering beauty of the place.

I chewed the same piece of gum from the bottom to the top of the giant and forboding Mt. Colden. My legs shook and I struggled to keep up with my partners. I did yoga on a rock in the sunshine at the top of Rocky Peak Ridge. I spent many freezing nights wrapped in a sleeping bag in the bed of a pickup truck parked at one trailhead or another.

I stared down a black bear.

I spent 18 hours in a tent with my dad, four miles from civilization at the base of the three-peak Seward Range, while an icy storm blew over us. We had one ancient trail guide between us for entertainment and we took turns reading it all day and night. I managed to tear our campsite down alone, and carry all of our gear four miles out the next morning when my dad woke up with the full-blown flu. It was the only time I ever drove him home from a hiking trip.

Even after the worst break-up of my life, the mountains were still there, still the same. My dad was too. Both waiting patiently for me.

I climbed my 46th peak alone with my dad. I was 23. It was a hot spring day. We started off in silence. A few minutes into the hike, I slipped on a wet log crossing a stream and fell in. My dad stopped and waited while I sat in the murky water, soaked and muddy with the entire last ascent still ahead of me, and cried.

I couldn’t articulate what I was feeling then. Now, 17 years later, I know. I was crying for my failed relationship. For my many mistakes. For not knowing where the path of my life was leading, or if I was even on it at all. I cried for everything I’d accomplished, and everything I hadn’t. And I cried for the final mountain, and for the journey about to end.

He waited a minute, then asked, “What do you want to do?”

“I want to finish this.” I replied.

And so I put one foot in front of the other, on the path in front of me. Just like we had so many times before. We hiked in silence for a while, up and up. We stopped a lot. I felt tired and heavy.

With the summit in sight, we picked up the pace, climbing faster and faster, ahead of my dad. I turned around once to make sure I hadn’t missed a turn and he pointed past me, forward.

And finally, there we were, on the top of the 46th mountain.

“We made it.” I said, catching my breath.

“You made it,” my dad replied, taking a bottle of champagne from his backpack.

On the way down, I felt different, changed. Half a lifetime later, I still do.

I later earned a Bachelor of Science degree in Human Development, but I skipped my graduation. I moved to Vermont and married a great guy. We eloped in the backyard of the Justice of the Peace. We have three beautiful kids. I have a community, and work, that I love. And I found it all through a series of unconventional choices. I love and respect tradition, I’ve just never been very good at following it.

I’m still not an official “46er.” I don’t have the patch, or a finisher number. I never completed the required journal of my hikes. I meant to, but after a few years my original notes were scattered, then mostly lost.

Eventually, I’ll finish the paperwork. For myself. For my dad. So that he truly knows how important those 46 mountains are to me, and to thank him for putting me on the trail, again and again.

But in the meantime, I wrote this.

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As a former beauty editor, I pride myself in housing the best skincare products in my bathroom. Walk in and you're sure to be greeted with purifying masks, micellar water, retinol ceramide capsules and Vitamin C serums. What can I say? Old habits die hard. But when I had my son, I was hesitant to use products on him. I wanted to keep his baby-soft skin for as long as possible, without tainting it with harsh chemicals.

Eventually, I acquiesced and began using leading brands on his sensitive skin. I immediately regretted it. His skin became dry and itchy and regardless of what I used on him, it never seemed to get better. I found myself asking, "Why don't beauty brands care about baby skin as much as they care about adult skin?"

When I had my daughter in May, I knew I had to take a different approach for her skin. Instead of using popular brands that are loaded with petroleum and parabens, I opted for cleaner products. These days I'm all about skincare that contains super-fruits (like pomegranate sterols, which are brimming with antioxidants) and sulfate-free cleansers that contain glycolipids that won't over-dry her skin. And, so far, Pipette gets it right.

What's in it

At first glance, the collection of shampoo, wipes, balm, oil and lotion looks like your typical baby line—I swear cute colors and a clean look gets me everytime—but there's one major difference: All products are environmentally friendly and cruelty-free, with ingredients derived from plants or nontoxic synthetic sources. Also, at the core of Pipette's formula is squalane, which is basically a powerhouse moisturizing ingredient that babies make in utero that helps protect their skin for the first few hours after birth. And, thanks to research, we know that squalane isn't an irritant, and is best for those with sensitive skin. Finally, a brand really considered my baby's dry skin.

Off the bat, I was most interested in the baby balm because let's be honest, can you ever have too much protection down there? After applying, I noticed it quickly absorbed into her delicate skin. No rash. No irritation. No annoyed baby. Mama was happy. It's also worth noting there wasn't any white residue left on her bottom that usually requires several wipes to remove.


Why it's different

I love that Pipette doesn't smell like an artificial baby—you, know that powdery, musky note that never actually smells like a newborn. It's fragrance free, which means I can continue to smell my daughter's natural scent that's seriously out of this world. I also enjoy that the products are lightweight, making her skin (and my fingers) feel super smooth and soft even hours after application.

The bottom line

Caring for a baby's sensitive skin isn't easy. There's so much to think about, but Pipette makes it easier for mamas who don't want to compromise on safety or sustainability. I'm obsessed, and I plan to start using the entire collection on my toddler as well. What can I say, old habits indeed die hard.

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

Our Partners

We all want our children to be confident and resilient, but often the conversation around confidence is tied to the social aspects of a new school year: new friends, the first day of school outfit, who to sit with during lunch. In many cases, we aren't always thinking about the role confidence in learning plays as students take on a new curriculum that comes with a more advanced academic year.

Confidence in learning is an important distinction because this type of confidence is what helps students try new things and overcome the perception that they are inherently bad at a given subject area. Confident learners see failure as a process that requires iteration—or learning from a mistake and trying again—instead of disengaging or shutting down in fear of getting the answer wrong or receiving negative feedback.

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At LEGO Education, we believe the best way to build this confidence is by getting students out of their desks and learning in a hands-on way. In fact, our recent survey found that 90% of teachers believe hands-on learning builds students' confidence, and students say they tend to remember topics longer when they learn through hands-on projects.

Learning doesn't end with the school day, and I believe parents like us have an important role to play in continuing to cultivate our children's learning at home.

Here are a few tips to help your child become a confident learner in school:

1. Get involved

There are countless ways for you to be present in your child's education, so don't be afraid to jump in, try new things, and find what works best for you and your family. Whether you advocate for more hands-on learning in your child's school, help in their classroom or ask your child open-ended questions about what they're learning, parent engagement can play a key role in supporting learning inside and outside the classroom.

2. Rethink what failure means

Failure is essential to learning but still comes with a negative connotation—47% of students avoid subjects where they have failed before, yet 90% of teachers agree that students need to learn to fail to become more confident and succeed in school. Remember, failure is a process, not an endpoint. Everyone makes mistakes, but it becomes meaningful when we reflect and learn from it. Instead of reacting negatively, try asking what your child learned and encourage them to try again. You can also use the moment to share your own experience of a time you failed and how your confidence helped you overcome it.

3. Recognize effort, not just success

It can feel natural to reward success, but the learning journey is just as important. Next time, instead of posting the A+ test on the refrigerator, start a conversation with your child about how you noticed how hard they worked and studied leading up to it. By changing how you respond to success you are in turn reshaping how your child perceives what is valuable in the learning process.

4. Provide blank space

Give kids the opportunity to be creative and curious. It's easy to fall into a routine with a packed calendar of extracurricular activities and playdates, but allowing kids the time and space to explore their own curiosities through free play will help reinforce the valuable skills they learn at school. Encourage your child to play in whatever way they'd like—outside, playing pretend, an arts and crafts project. Their imagination and choices might surprise you!

5. Allow kids to be their own heroes

When kids face a roadblock, such as a math problem they can't solve, it's natural to want to jump in and find a solution for them but sometimes it's best to let them try first. In many situations, having the freedom to try it themselves first can also help develop real-world skills such as creative thinking and effective communication, in addition to new academic skills.

6. Let the student become the teacher

If your child is excited about something they've learned in school recently, harness that joy and engagement by asking them to teach you about the topic. Not only are they reinforcing the subject matter in their own brain, but they will also feel confident and empowered teaching an adult and being an expert in something that interests them.

7. Sign up for STEAM teams

Similar to team sports, afterschool STEAM or robotic programs can be a great way to help children build confidence and camaraderie, while also developing skills for the jobs of the future. LEGO Education and non-profit FIRST have run FIRST LEGO League for more than 20 years, creating programs for ages 4-18. I've seen firsthand how the program not only teaches STEAM and robotics skills but also important skills like teamwork, collaboration and critical thinking that are relevant throughout their lives. Find a program near you or start your own team as a coach or mentor.

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Learn + Play

This week an investigation by Healthy Babies Bright Futures (HBBF) made headlines, proclaiming 95% of baby foods the group tested contain at least one toxic chemical, including lead, arsenic, mercury and cadmium. The results are similar to those The Clean Label Project released in 2017.

These reports suggest many commonly consumed products, including formula, baby food in jars and pouches, and snacks contain contaminants like arsenic and lead, in some cases at levels higher than trace amounts.

These reports were not published in peer-reviewed journals, but the items were tested and reviewed by third-party laboratories. The products were screened for heavy metals and other contaminants, and, in many cases, tested positive for things no parent wants to see in their baby's food.

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It's important to note that all of us are consuming arsenic in some form. According to the FDA, it's naturally found in soil and water and absorbed by plants, so many foods, including grains (especially rice) and fruits and vegetables contain arsenic.

Everyone is exposed to little bits of arsenic, but long-term exposure to high levels is associated with higher rates of some cancers and heart disease. Previous studies have shown that babies who consume infant formulas and rice products already tend to have higher than average levels of arsenic metabolites in their urine (due in part to the natural levels of arsenic found in rice), so additional arsenic in baby goods is certainly not ideal.

“To reduce the amount of arsenic exposure, it is important all children eat a varied diet, including a variety of infant cereals," says Benard P. Dreyer, MD, FAAP and president of the American Academy of Pediatrics (AAP). “The AAP encourages parents to speak with their pediatrician about their children's nutrition. Pediatricians can work with parents to ensure they make good choices and informed decisions about their child's diet."

According to the World Health Organization, arsenic exposure is associated with an array of health problems, including cardiovascular disease, diabetes and cancer.

Arsenic was not the only chemical found in the tested products that could potentially pose a danger to the babies consuming them. The new report from HBBF looked at 168 baby foods from 61 brands and found 94% of the products contained lead, 75% contained cadmium and 32% contained mercury.

This is not the first time lead (which can damage a child's brain and nervous system, impact growth and development and cause learning, hearing, speech and behavior problems) has been found in baby food. A previous report released in 2017 by another group, the Environmental Defense Fund, found 20% of 2,164 baby foods tested contained lead.

As the FDA notes, lead is in food because it is in the environment. "It is important for consumers to understand that some contaminants, such as heavy metals like lead or arsenic, are in the environment and cannot simply be removed from food," says Peter Cassell, an FDA spokesperson.

Cassell says the FDA doesn't comment on specific studies but does evaluate them while working to ensure consumer exposure to contaminants is limited to the greatest extent feasible. “Through the Total Diet Study, the FDA tests for approximately 800 contaminants and nutrients in the diet of the average U.S. consumer," Cassel explains.

The FDA works with the food manufacturing industry to limit contaminants as much as possible, especially in foods meant for kids. “We determine, on a case-by-case basis, whether to take enforcement action when we find foods that would be considered contaminated," Cassell adds.

The people at HBBF are calling on the FDA "to use their authority more effectively, and much more quickly, to reduce toxic heavy metals in baby foods," says HBBF research director and study author Jane Houlihan.

HBBF is circulating a petition urging the FDA to take action "by setting health-based limits that include the protection of babies' brain development."

Parents who are concerned about heavy metals in baby foods should also consider speaking with their pediatrician.

"Pediatricians can help parents understand this issue and use AAP guidance to build a healthy diet for children and limit exposure to lead from different sources," says Stephen R. Daniels, M.D., Ph.D., FAAP, chair of the AAP Committee on Nutrition.

[A version of this post was originally published on October 26, 2017. It has been updated.]

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News

Over the last few months, I've made a new friend called Grief. She first showed up when the midwife told me, "I'm sorry, I don't see a heartbeat anymore." She quickly barged into my life, inviting herself into every moment of every day. She was an overwhelming, overbearing, suffocating presence. But in time, we learned to set some boundaries. Together, we created space for Grief to live in my life without feeling all-consumed.

Grief is pushy. I have learned that when she knocks on the door, it's best to just let her in. She has things to say and she's going to make you listen. Sometimes, we'll sit together for a while before one of us will say "My, look at the time. I've got things to do." Other times, it's a quick visit, and I can move on with my day.

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I've learned a good bit about my friend Grief through the experience of having a miscarriage. We've spent a lot of time together, and I've gotten to know her well. I hope this helps you get to know her better, too.

1. Grief can become a friend.

Over time, Grief has morphed from feeling like an invader, an attacker, and a bully to feeling more like a friend with a hand resting on my shoulder. She is gently present, palpable and—unexpectedly—comforting. Grief reminds me of the love I felt; that I have something to miss; that my baby was here. Grief comes to visit much less often, now. Some days, she still barges in unexpectedly. Some days, I go calling for her to come over.

2. Grief will teach you.

Grief has taught me that you never really know what others are going through. She has taught me to try to listen better, to be a better friend, to be more empathetic. Grief has emboldened me and demanded space for my feelings when I felt I couldn't. She's forced me to learn how to ask for help, how to advocate for myself and not apologize when I have needs. She has made my worldview richer, my love deeper and my appreciation for life stronger.

3. Grief will make you brave.

I never knew my own strength before I met Grief. Through her, I witnessed myself suffer and persevere with a strength I didn't know I had. I have felt her fully, and I am less scared of her now. I have walked through the fire with her, and she's shown me that I could do it again if I had to. But we both hope I never do.

4. Grief will bring you together, apart.

Grief has shown me some of her many friends, and through her, we have become friends too. Our relationships with Grief are all different. But, Grief unites us in a way that people who don't know Grief could not understand. In my marriage, Grief has made it clear she has a relationship with both of us, differently. She has shown us that we can visit her together, but more often than not, she wants to spend time with us alone. She visits us on different days, at different times, and in different ways. Learning to know Grief together, and apart, was challenging.

5. Grief knows when you need her before you do.

Grief knows me in a way that a friend knows me. She remembers the milestones and helps me remember too. She has the hard dates etched in her calendar and I'm sure she won't forget them. She's quietly with me, her hand on my shoulder when we see a stroller, a butterfly, a new pregnancy announcement. Sometimes she is there waiting for me before I even realize why.

"Welcome to your third trimester!" my email greeted me this morning. I thought I had unsubscribed from them all, but this one snuck through. An unpleasant reminder of what I already knew: Today should have been a milestone.

I took a moment to let it sink in when I felt her hand on my shoulder. Once you get to know her, Grief can be a really good friend.

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Life

I check my phone. It's 3 am. I wrench myself from bed and zombie-walk into my screaming son's room. Please just let him go back to sleep quickly. I'm so exhausted. I see my 9-month-old son crying and reaching out for me. I immediately pick him up and plop down in the rocking chair feeling discouraged and depleted.

I stare exhaustedly at the wall, contemplating what I should be doing right now.

Should I let him cry it out? Should I give him his stuffed bunny so that he can comfort himself? He should know how to self soothe, right?

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I definitely should not be picking him up out of his crib.

I definitely should not be nursing him back to sleep. That is definitely NOT what I am supposed to be doing. (*I know this because I've read about 8,000 articles and a dozen or so books saying just that).

But it's what he wants, and I'm tired. It's what my heart wants, regardless of what the "experts" say I should do. I feel like a failure for giving in. The books say to be firm—he's fine; he's just crying; he's being lazy because he knows I'll swoop in and comfort him back to sleep.

I should be able to treat him like an appliance—follow the instructions without input from my heart. Right? Maybe I can redeem myself by putting him back "drowsy but awake." Yeah, right.

I'll just have to start this whole process over again when he goes from "drowsy but awake" to "wide-eyed and screeching."

In the midst of the mental ping-pong between my head and my heart, a thought suddenly and forcefully rushes in—you're missing it.

I look down into the face of my infant son. His big teary eyes are locked on mine. He smiles, letting a little dribble of milk out of the corner of his smirk. This is what I'm missing. These moments—loving and being loved despite the crippling exhaustion of nursing throughout the night for the last nine months, these moments of real connection, of being a mother.

I'm missing the joy in motherhood under a dark cloud of shoulds. I can't see the good because I'm so focused on the bad.

And just as I am reveling in this epiphany, a chubby little hand reaches up. I watch his hand coming and think, This can't get any better! This sweet child is going to lovingly stroke my cheek! But, it turns out to be so much better than that. He literally slaps me in the face and giggles, delivering humor and lightness as only a child can.

Life is not as serious as I make it out to be most of the time. I've learned this from my children. I prayed that night that my child would go back to bed. I prayed that he would do what he was supposed to, or that I could do what I was supposed to (according to whichever expert I was abiding that week). But all I'm really supposed to do is show up and trust my heart without trying to fix it all, ALL the time.

Life isn't perfect. Otherwise, we wouldn't have moments like these at 3 am that crack us open and lay bare what really matters.

My mantra now is radical acceptance.

It's radical because, for me, it means defiantly and unequivocally accepting what my anxious mind tells me is unacceptable—the messy, the imperfect, the difficult.

It is a radical act of rebellion against the mind and its need to control and fix.

It is choosing to trust my heart and seeing through that lens rather than the broken lens of my mind.

It is seeing the good, the joy, the love, the humor, rather than what is broken and what is wrong.

It is radical for me to look at my life in all its messy splendor and not try to fix, change, or be perfect.

That is a radical act, I assure you, and my mind coils up in a panic every time.

But the moment I overcome that initial coiling and clinching and embrace simple acceptance, the fear and doubt are vacuumed up, and the joy inevitably rushes in. Little miracles, every time. Radical acceptance.

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Life
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