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Does a Concealed Weapon Belong at a Family Playgroup?

We had a larger than normal turn out that day, influenced no doubt by the beautiful weather that had finally arrived here in Michigan. The event, a family hike being led by a member of our local dads group, was underway.

Like most of the parents in attendance I was more concerned with my daughters’ safety and keeping them on the path than watching the other parents. So I didn’t see it.

It was first noticed by one of the other members. As one of the group’s organizers he approached me first. “I don’t know if you noticed,” he said,  “but that guy in the back is making me uncomfortable.”

Confused, I asked him why. “I just don’t feel that comfortable with him having a gun.”  

I whipped my head around in a manner that was the opposite of subtle. I quickly scanned the other parents, looking for the weapon. Then I saw it. Near the back of the group, walking with his daughter and his wife, was a man with a gun.

I was unsure of exactly how to react to this. I think my silence prompted the first dad to continue. “I know it’s his right and all, but it just seems wrong to have a gun at a kids hike.”

Although I agreed with him, I remained silent, unsure of how to proceed. I thanked him for letting me know and excused myself. But the question burned into my head. “Why would you bring a gun to a family event?”

It wasn’t completely unexpected

I will admit this wasn’t a total surprise. When this particular dad joined our group he made no secret about his fondness for guns on our Facebook page. He often invited others to join him shooting or camping. He also was a very strong advocate for gun safety classes for kids. (A good idea if there is even a remote chance your kid may come into contact with a gun). We knew from what he posted that he had a concealed carry permit, and felt very strongly about his Second Amendment rights.

When he first joined the group, our leadership had a conversation about guns. Did we want someone like this in our group? Guns are a very divisive issue. I am not anti-gun. I have many hunters in my family, and know people who shoot skeet. I don’t have a problem with this.

I’m not pro-gun either. I personally see no point in automatic weapons, and don’t find guns all that effective for self defense. Most people aren’t trained well enough to make them a viable option. Shooting a person is much different than shooting a target, which is something a lot of gun owners can’t do with any consistency.

Other members of the leadership committee felt differently. They hated guns, and even the idea of one being at any of our events was an idea they couldn’t stomach. This topic was argued about for days. Would we allow this guy into our group, and around our children? The answer was, surprisingly, yes.

Our group prides itself on being open to anyone. Any race, religion, sexuality, heck our “dads group” is even open to moms. To deny this man membership would take that away. We would be judging him for actions he hasn’t taken.

To use a silly example, I hate Crocs. They are ugly and no grown man should wear them. But to exclude someone just because they have abhorrent taste in footwear is wrong, and so would be excluding this man. If we wanted to be an open group, we had to be open to everyone, not just those with whom we agree.

We decided to not take any action. A Facebook post isn’t something to get too worked up about. If he found another like-minded dad, great. That’s what our group is for. As long as he wasn’t threatening anyone or filling our newsfeed with pro-gun posts, who were we to judge? Like I stated above, “open” meant open to everyone.

But now the gun was here.

I hurried up the path to talk to the other group organizer leading the hike. I asked if he knew about the gun, and his feelings on the matter. With a sullen look he confirmed that, yes, he had noticed. He also confirmed that, like me, it was making him feel very uneasy. But we stood by our previous decision. As we talked, we tried to figure out why he had brought it. What made him think we would need a gun on this hike?

For the life of me could not think of a reason he felt he would need it on this trail. We weren’t in a dangerous place. With almost 35 people in our group, and at a park behind the police station, I felt we were pretty safe from any person who would wish to hurt us. I know anything is possible, but I didn’t feel like we even made a good target.

The same goes for any animals. We were at a public park in the suburbs. The biggest thing we saw that day were some squirrels. We had 14 adults and 20 screaming toddlers. If one of those squirrels was brave enough to attack us, there’s no guarantee a bullet would have stopped it.

As for the dad, at no point did I feel that he was a threat. He never removed the pistol from its holster or in any way gave us reason to suspect he didn’t know how to handle the gun or had any type of nefarious reason for having it. He was being respectful, if a little distant, to the other members. Like all of us, he was more concerned with keeping his daughter on the path and safe. The problem was, unlike the other parents, he was carrying a weapon.

About the gun…

We had to make a decision on how to handle this. What, if anything, should we do? Maybe talk to him, ask him to leave it home next time? We were left with only one choice.

We decided to do nothing. Based on his previous statements we were pretty sure he had a permit to carry the pistol. Being that the park was directly behind a police station only strengthened this belief. Also, as noted above, other than possessing the weapon, he wasn’t acting in a matter that made anyone feel threatened.

Simply put, he wasn’t doing anything wrong. He was legally allowed to have that gun. His actions weren’t threatening. We had no reason to exclude him or to infringe on his rights. 

In the future if he continues to bring the gun we may talk with him. While we will respect his rights, we don’t want other members of the group to be uncomfortable. We may ask if he could leave it in his car, or carry it in a less conspicuous manner. But we will never ask him to silence himself or not come to an event.

I stated above that we pride ourselves on being an open group. We welcome dads of any ethnicity, religion, or sexual orientation. Sometimes that means welcoming those we disagree with. During some subsequent events, I have had more of a chance to talk with this dad and he seems like a pretty good guy. He cares about his family, and like me, wants dads to be more active in their child’s lives.

I’m happy with the way we reacted to the situation and am proud that our kids got to see their dads living up to the ideals we preach. On that day we were open and understanding. We accepted someone who was different and who made us a little uncomfortable at first. I couldn’t be prouder of us.

Who said motherhood doesn't come with a manual?

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There's so much noise.

All. The. Time.

It feels like it's 24 hours, 7 days a week.

There's whining, crying, chatting, banging, tapping, scratching, singing, buzzing, yelling, snoring, crunching, schlopping, chewing, slurping, stomping, clapping, singing, laughing.

There's sound machines with crashing waves coming at me around every corner. There's a baby (doll) crying, and then my real baby crying. There's toys going off even when no one is playing with them.

There's requests, questions, demands, negotiations, plans, adventures, stories, performances—at all times.

There's ringing phones, alarms going off, voicemails, television theme songs (Daniel Tiger, I'm looking at you), Moana and Sing soundtracks playing. There's random loud videos playing when you're scrolling through Facebook and think you have your phone on silent.

I even hear things when there's nothing to be heard. Like the baby crying when I'm in the shower and she's sleeping. Like a bang from someone falling when everyone is fine. Like Imagine Dragon's 'Thunder' when it's not even on but it's stuck in my head because my daughter has requested to play it over and over and over.

At times, it makes me feel like I am going crazy. Like my brain doesn't work because I can't think clearly because the noise is all-encompassing.

This noise, paired with the never-ending, running-forever list of things to do in my head is one of the areas of motherhood that is hard for me. Really, really hard. It triggers my anxiety more than anything else does.

Sometimes, I just want to sit in silence. Alone. Not listening to anything or anyone.

Sometimes, I just want to hear myself think.

Sometimes, I just want the whining to stop.

Sometimes, I just want the brain fog to go away and never come back.

But what I've realized is that this is part of motherhood. Of my journey. Because, I have three children and it's never going to be quiet.

I need to get used to the noise, embrace the noise and know when I need to step back and take a break from the noise.

And I am used to the noise on some level.

I function fairly well on a daily basis getting work done and to-do lists checked off and taking care of my (loud, but wonderful) children. When all of the noise is overwhelming me, I've gotten into the habit of taking deep breaths and focusing on my task at hand.

It's not perfect, but it's something.

And I can definitely embrace the noise—especially the lovely noises of childhood.

Because when I think about it—is there anything better than hearing my 4-year-old belt out 'Thunder'?

Is there anything better than hearing my 2-year-old giggle uncontrollably?

Is there anything better than hearing the coos of my 3-month-old?

Is there anything better than hearing one of my daughters say "I love you, Mama"? Or "See you later, alligator"?

Is there anything better than hearing cheers from my kids to celebrate their siblings' accomplishment? ("Lucy went potty! Yay!")

Is there anything better than hearing your preschooler say "sh-sh-shhhhh" over and over to soothe her newborn sister like she sees her parents doing?

No, nothing is better. Not even silence.

But there will be days when it feels like it's too much. And I just want to say—

It's okay.

It's okay to want to sit in silence.

It's okay to look forward to the quiet that nighttime offers.

It's okay to admit to ourselves that sometimes the noise is too much.

And it's normal.

Our brains can only handle so much at one time. So, be gentle on yourself, mama. I know I'm trying.

I am learning to recognize when I need to step back and take a break from the noise.

I stay up late sometimes to enjoy the quiet—to listen to my thoughts.

I wake up early sometimes—to meditate and look inward.

I plan "me time" outside of the house—to spend time with myself and decide on choosing noise or not.

I hop in the shower when my husband gets home—to hand over the noise for a while and enjoy only the sound of rushing water.

There are moments of motherhood that challenge me—mind, body and soul. The constant noise is one of them. But these challenges will never beat me. I love being my children's mother too much.

So on the days when the noise is taking over, know that you're not alone. And know that peace and quiet is potentially just a shower away.

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This past year, I was diagnosed with depression. I was fighting what I believed to be a stubborn case of PPD. I thought things would get better as my baby grew, when I wasn't postpartum anymore. I was in denial, not receiving any kind of help, and definitely not getting any better.

Finally, I sought out help from a doctor and was diagnosed with clinical depression and am now receiving treatment. Part of this treatment involved visiting with a therapist for the first time in my life in hopes of combating the powerful force of negativity that has insidiously planted itself inside my mind.

I learned something significant in that meeting: that my thoughts were caused by something that was physically going wrong inside of my brain. Deep down, I believed I had been allowing the darkness—that it, too, was my fault. I found hope in that meeting, the hope of rewiring my brain.

I now know there are steps I can take to change how I think, to find the true me again. That is why I am going to take better care of myself this year. In fact, that's the only resolution I care to make.

My therapist advised me to do an exercise that's proven difficult for me. I literally have positive affirmations about myself taped to my bathroom mirror. My sarcastic side really fights this. I envision that I'm wearing a colorful collared shirt or sweater combination (a la Stuart Smalley) as I repeat these mantras to myself. The truth is they're a powerful counterbalance to the way I normally think about who I am.

Most people struggle with this at one time or another. I think we could all benefit from practicing a little self-love.

So for this year, I resolve not to make any resolutions about losing weight. I am at a healthy weight, and although I would love to re-lose the 10 pounds I lost when I began depression medication, I will instead resolve to replace the negative thoughts I have about my body with healthy ones.

My critical observations regarding my body began very early for me, as they do for most women. It may take some time, but I'm going to work on appreciating my body for what it can do, instead of worrying about how it appears to others.

I resolve to be the best mom I can be. And that is only possible when I work on taking better care of myself. For many years, I've devoted myself completely to my children, believing it was best for them. But you can't pull water from an empty well, and this past year my well went dry.

I resolve to take more breaks, indulge in some mental health days, and spend more quality time with my family.

Society is hard on mothers, so I'm going to pull a Taylor Swift, and "shake it off." I will ignore the negative commentators who feel compelled to troll my writings. I will look to the positive instead of dwelling on the negative.

I will support and seek to uplift other mothers. We should be each other's biggest fans, not harshest critics. I will stand up for those who are belittled, judged, or misunderstood.

I resolve to let go of past mistakes and less than perfect parenting moments. I will seek to learn from the past instead of dwelling on it. I will work on treating myself with more kindness, moving forward in hopes that my three boys will learn from my example and speak kindly toward themselves.

I will continue my treatment—even the daily affirmations—and be patient with my progress.

So here's to a new year and a new way of thinking, to not giving up, and to practicing kindness that begins from within.

One of the best—or worst—parts of the holiday season is taking our littles to get their pictures with Santa. Some kids relish in those few minutes of telling Santa Claus exactly what they want under their tree, while others are terrified and hate every second of it. Either way, it usually makes for some adorable photos to look back on over the years.

We asked #TeamMotherly to share their best Santa pics. With nearly 700 responses, it was hard to pare down our favorites. Here are some that we adored.

1. Pure happiness

—Aimee R.

2. A magical look

—Jen L.

3. Everyone is a bit unsure...

—Holly H.

4. The cutest elves

—Julia V.

5. A sweet encounter

—Rosanne S.

6. A little bit of drama

—Besty P.

7. Santa cuddles each year, please

—Chelsey S.

8. Mama said she cried after she took a good look at him 😂

—Chantille B.

9. Third time isn't always the charm

—Gina M.

10. Playing in the snow

—Liz T.

11. SO much excitement

—Ieena S.

12. Nope

—Melissa H.

13. She definitely made the 'nice' list

—Janesa N.

14. Mama, no!

—Jenny S.

15. One mama's heart grew by three sizes this year

—Melanie R.

16. Two loved this, two hated it

—Rose E.

17. This baby was happier than Santa

—Angelica A.

18. A precious encounter

—Stacy B.

19. "I'm only here for the cookie." 🍪

—Laura R.

20. Two Santas are better than one

—Menakshi S.

The temperatures are dropping and that can only mean one thing. Whether we like it or not, winter's cold chilly months are upon us. As a born-and-raised Alaskan, and mama of three, I've got a lot of cold weather experience under my belt, and staying inside half the year just isn't an option for us. As my husband likes to say, "There's no bad weather, just bad gear."

Here are some of my favorite picks to keep your family toasty warm this winter.

1. Bear bunting

This sherpa bear bunting wins winter wear MVP for being a comfy snowsuit for your littlest babe, or base-layer under another snowsuit for the chilliest of winter outings. Bonus: your baby bear will never look cuter!

Sherpa Hooded Bunting, Carter's, $15.20


2. Patagonia Capilene base-layers

Speaking of base-layers, for any prolonged winter activity outside in the cold, it's best to layer up to create air pockets of warmth. These moisture wicking base-layers are a family favorite.

Baby Capilene Bottoms, Back Country, $29.00


3. Arctix Kids limitless overall bib

These adjustable snow pants keep kids warm and the bib style keeps snow from going down the back of their pants. Bonus: the price is excellent for the quality and they can grow with your child. The Velcro strap also makes bathroom breaks for kids so much easier.

Arctix Kids Limitless Overall Bib, Amazon, $14.99-$49.99


4. Hooded frost-free long jacket

Keep your little one warm and stylish in this long puffer jacket. Great for everyday outings.

Hooded Frost-Free Long Jacket, Old Navy, $35.00


5. Patagonia reversible jacket

This jacket is windproof, waterproof and the built-in hood means one less piece of gear to worry about (or one more layer for your little one's head). It's a best buy if you live with cold winter temperatures for many months of the year and still love to get outside to play. It also stays in great condition for hand-me-downs to your next kid.

Reversible Down Sweater Hoodie, Nordstrom, $119.00


6. Under Armour Decatur water repellent jacket

Made of waterproof fabric and lined with great insulation, kids will no doubt stay warm—and dry—in this. It features plenty of pockets, too, so mama doesn't always have to hold onto their items. We love that the UGrow system allows sleeves to grow a couple inches.

UA Decatur Water Repellent Jacket, Nordstrom, $155.00


7. Stonz mittens

Ever tried to keep gloves on a 1-year-old? It's a tough task, but these gloves make it a breeze with a wide opening and two adjustable toggles for a snug fit they can't pull off! Warm and waterproof, and come in sizes from infant to big kids.

Stonz Mittz, Amazon, $39.99


8. Sorel toot pack boot

Keep their little toes warm with these cozy boots from Sorel. With insulated uppers and waterproof bottoms their feet are sure to stay warm. They're well constructed and hold up over time, making them a great hand-me-down option for your family.

Sorel Kids' Yoot Boot, Amazon, $48.73-$175.63


9. Stonz baby boots

These Stonz stay-on-baby booties do just as their name says and stay on their feet. No more searching for one boot in the grocery store parking lot!

Stonz Three Season Stay-On Baby Booties, Amazon, $29.99-$50.29

Motherly is your daily #momlife manual; we are here to help you easily find the best, most beautiful products for your life that actually work. We share what we love—and we may receive a commission if you choose to buy. You've got this.

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