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Family is (hopefully) forever, but in some ways parenting is a job like any other. We work, we put in our hours, and then we retire. At least, that’s how it’s supposed to go.

Admittedly, few of us can bring ourselves to pull back when the time comes, or even recognize this shift as a happy, natural thing. In subtle, usually accidental, ways, parents punish their children for growing up. We butt against their political autonomy, their sexual maturity, and their admiral lack of blind obedience. We struggle to forfeit control over the culture of the family unit and allow those growing pains to live as guilt on their shoulders.


But let’s not judge ourselves too harshly. After all, we’re still growing up, too. And it’s hard to go from being the person who knows best – the one in control – to a person who, once again, must focus on themselves and all the work there is to do within.

On top of that, the concept of paternal retirement is decidedly abstract. Hardly surprising for an era that equates involved parenting with hovering helicopters and growling tigers! Not to mention, we become parents with much fanfare and an undeniable point of entry – a tiny person is put in our arms. However, the punctuation to our term of service is much less obvious, which is perhaps why we rarely talk about parenthood as a phase of life with an achievable goal. There is one: to keep our offspring safe until they know how to figure things out on their own.

This is not a hard finish line, of course. More often it feels like a landing strip, a period of rest followed by another bout of effort. At some point, after so many hours of supervised practice, we must turn over the cockpit and accept the validity of our apprentices’ expertise.

When we fail to pivot out of the parent-child dynamic, the upcoming and outgoing generations get locked into mutually exclusive roles, roles that can’t collaborate or teach each other. The younger adults get a signal from us that they’re still not quite grown up and so they still can’t quite trust themselves. They then hold onto that imposter syndrome and sabotage their independence. Or they get annoyed and push us away, outright rebel, or simply allow the relationship to be strained and shallow. Either way, by insisting on our superior authority, we insist on their submissiveness. That does not by any definition count as “raising” a child.

So how can we prepare to welcome our offspring into the arena of adulthood, and show them that we indeed expect they’ll come to equal our good judgment?

Shift your attitude early

Remember that your job is not to protect your kid from ever making a mistake, but to model how to learn from mistakes and how to cautiously test their own boundaries so they can make wise choices. No matter what you do, they won’t have you forever, so it’s really best you both feel confident in their self-awareness.

Accept your own age

If your kid is dragging their feet toward the world of functional adulthood, perhaps that’s because they’re bombarded with messages that all the life worth living happens in the first half. Are you reinforcing this with your own behavior? Do you go to great lengths to deny your own phase of life, or curse it often? Do you shelter your kids from witnessing the passage of time as it pertains to your looks? Hey, it’s not the worst thing in the world, and everyone deals with getting older in different ways. Be aware that it sends mixed signals to pressure young adults to act their age while you openly defy your own. Find a way to show them that there is plenty to be proud of and excited about in any phase of life, if you are willing to embrace it.

Forgive yourself if they think you’re turning away

Parents and adult children should be able to express points of view that conflict without anyone feeling assaulted. Sometimes you will be pained by what seems like defiance, and you’re a human who’s allowed to feel hurt, disappointment, and confusion. If you turn your back to them for a moment, it’s okay. That’s their chance to be the big spoon. That’s their chance to let go of the need to win your approval and manage your emotions. You can take turns helping each other through difficult feelings.

Only offer advice when they ask for it

Once your kid is grown enough to be out of the house and strapping a life together, assume they’ve accumulated enough personal experience to posses valid theories and opinions, even if they contradict yours. Your job now is to be a willing mentor, a confidante, a role model, and an enlightened friend. I’m sure you have great advice, but if you turn every conversation into a lecture or even a pep talk, you’ll be shutting down the richness of the rapport between peers, and robbing them the pleasure of discovering life’s epiphanies for themselves.

If you find what they’re doing embarrassing, just laugh

Remember when your kid was two years old, and she would grab the side of the coffee table and make a poop squat right next to your guest sipping coffee? Hopefully you laughed, even if it was a bit embarrassing. Young adults also need to test out lots of “selves” in order to know who they are. They’ll try on fashion styles, vocabulary, relationship preferences, and career paths that may alarm you, but this is what it is to watch a human being grow up.

It’s not a tightly choreographed performance. It’s expressive, expansive, and non-linear. When worry comes without clear direction, don’t feed it with paranoid thoughts. Check in if it feels right, but let your first medicine be the magical cocktail of a laugh and shrug. If more action is needed, your heart will let you know. Your confidence will strengthen them and give comfort and inspiration to other nervous parents.

Don’t call them “kids”

At a certain age, addressing your kids as “kids” becomes condescending. Say, “Hey family,” or use their names. Lay down that verbal barrier with grace. They will thank you.

Look to learn from them

There is no greater vitamin you can give a relationship than asking to know someone better and showing their opinions respect. We parents may have been on Earth longer, but we’re also attached to versions of it that have passed away, and as those old worlds take up space in our head, along come these alert young people furiously gathering all the data they can on How Things Actually Are. Learn from them! Know that it’s wonderful you get to be close with such a different person, who’s felt the truth of different points in space and time. We truly need each other to get the fullest picture. So swap stories. Pose questions. Praise honesty. Share.

Don’t tell them who they are

Yes, you once knew your child best. However, you do not know them better than they know themselves by the time they’re 25. Everyone has blind spots (us too!), so there’s no need to harp on that. It’s important to realize that a lot of what we think we “know” about our kids’ character is how they behave when they’re around us. Young children develop behaviors early on to protect their relationship to their parents. Unconsciously, they cultivate traits that jive best with our values and also our wounds.

After they leave the nest, adulthood confronts them with the question of who they really are when their parents aren’t looking over their shoulder. Some of what we considered essential to their personality may be dismantled before our eyes. Our kids will seem to “change.” Although it’s difficult for us to watch them choose loyalty to their path over loyalty to our needs, we should be relieved and proud. It takes courage to disappoint your parents for the right reasons.

Cash your paycheck

Parents don’t get paid in a perfectly obedient adult child. We don’t get paid with a squire to parrot back our worldview or tell us that we made no mistakes (all parents do – with so much guesswork, how could we not!). We get paid with an opportunity: the opportunity to witness the unfolding of consciousness up close – as close as any other human can get – and hopefully we use that opportunity to learn something about human nature, about ourselves, and about the world, its potential, and its mystery. Revel in that. Grow from that. Never, ever stop growing.

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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.

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Military families give up so much for their country, particularly when they have small children at home. Those of us who have never witnessed this kind of sacrifice first-hand could use a reminder of it once in a while, which is just one of the reasons we're so happy to see the beautiful photoshoot Mary Chevalier arranged for her husband's return home from Afghanistan.

The photoshoot was extra special because while James Chevalier was serving a nine-month deployment, Mary gave birth to their second son, Caspian.

Getting ready to meet Dad

"During the laboring and birthing process of Caspian, I was surrounded by family, but that did not fill the void of not having my husband by my side," Mary told InsideEdition.com. "He was able to video chat during the labor and birth, but for both of us, it was not enough."

While James had yet to meet Caspian, their 3-year-old son, Gage, missed his dad a whole lot, so this homecoming was going to be a big deal for him too. That's why Mary arranged for her wedding photographer, Brittany Watson, to be with them for their reunion in Atlanta.

Gage was so happy to see his Dad 

"[He] had no idea he was going to be getting to see his daddy that day," Watson wrote on Facebook. "The family met at the Southeastern Railway Museum for Gage to go on a special train ride... little did he know, he'd be doing it with daddy!"

Watson did a beautiful job capturing the high emotions of every single family member, from Gage's surprise, to the delight on baby Caspian's face. It's no wonder her Facebook post went viral last week.

"Caspian is natural, a very happy baby, but both James and I felt like Caspian knew who his father was almost immediately," Mary told Inside Edition. "He was easily comforted by me husband right off the bat and seemed to have an instant connection. It was very emotional."

The moment this dad had been waiting for 

If we're sobbing just looking at the photos, we can't even imagine what it was like in real life.

"We are all so blessed and take so much for granted," Watson wrote. "I cannot contain the joy I feel in my heart when I look at these images, and I hope you feel it too!"

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During both of my pregnancies, I was under the care of an amazing midwife. Every time I went to her office for check-ups, I was mesmerized by the wall of photos participating in what may be the most painfully magical moment of a woman's life: giving birth. But there was a painting that always drew my attention: a woman dressed in orange, holding her newborn baby with a face that could be described as clueless. The line above the canvas read, "Now what?"

I felt like the woman in the painting as I kissed my mother goodbye when my daughter was born. She came from my native Colombia to stay with us for three months. When she left, I realized that my husband had been working as usual during those first 90 days of our new life. My baby was born on a Friday and on Monday he was back at the office. (No parental leave policy for him.)


Now what? I thought. The quote "It takes a village to raise a child" suddenly started to hit home, literally.

After a few years in Miami, I had some friends, but it truly didn't feel like I had a village. Some were not mothers yet, most of them worked full-time and others didn't live close by. My nomad life left my best friends spread out in different places in the world. I found myself signing up for "mommy and me" classes in search of new mothers, immigrants like me, alone like me.

It seemed like a utopian dream to think about when my grandmothers became mothers. Both of them had 6 and 10 children and they were able to stay sane (or maybe not? I don't know). But at least they had family around—people cooking, offering help. There was a sense of community.

My mother and father grew up in "the village." Big families with so many children that the older siblings ended up taking care of the little ones; aunts were like second mothers and neighbors became family.

When I was about to give birth to my second baby, my sister had just had her baby girl back in Colombia. Once, she called me crying because her maternity leave was almost over. My parents live close to her, so that was a bonus. Hiring a nanny back there is more affordable. But even seeing the positive aspects of it, I wished I could have been there for her, to be each other's village.

The younger me didn't realize that when I took a plane to leave my country in search of new experiences 19 years ago, I was giving up the chance to have my loved ones close by when I became a mother. And when I say close by, I mean as in no planes involved.

It hasn't been easy, but after two kids and plenty of mommy and me classes and random conversations that became true connections, I can say I have a mini-village, a small collection of solitudes coming together to lean on each other. But for some reason, it doesn't truly feel like one of those described in the old books where women gathered to knit while breastfeeding and all the children become like siblings.

Life gets in the way, and everyone gets sucked into their own worlds. In the absence of a true village, we feel the pressure to be and do everything that once was done by a group of people. We often lose perspective of priorities because we are taking care of everything at the same time. Starting to feel sick causes anxiety and even fear because it means so many things need to happen in order for mom—especially if single—to lay down and recover while the children are taken care of. And when the children get sick, that could mean losing money for a working mother or father, because the truth is that most corporations are not designed to nurture families.

In the absence of that model of a village I long for, we tend to rely on social media to have a sense of community and feel supported. We may feel that since we are capable of doing so much—working and stay at home moms equally—perhaps we don't need help. Or quite the opposite: mom guilt kicks in and feelings of not being enough torment our night sleep. Depression and anxiety can enter the picture and just thinking about the amount of energy and time that takes to create true connections, we may often curl up in our little cocoon with our children and partners—if they are present—when they come home.

Now what? was my thought this week while driving back and forth to the pediatrician with my sick son. I can't get the virus, I have to be strong, my daughter can't get ill, my husband needs to be healthy for his work trip next week, we all need to be well for my son's fifth birthday. And so, it goes on. I texted one of my mom friends just to rant. She rants back because her son is also sick. She sent me a heart and an "I'm here if you need to talk."

I am grateful to have talked to her at that random postpartum circle when I first became a mother. She's a Latina immigrant like me and feels exactly like me. I will do it more, get out of my comfort zone and have—sometimes—awkward conversations so I can keep growing my own little village.

It may not look like the one I'd imagined, but still may allow me to be vulnerable even through a text message.

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Halloween is around the corner, but if you are like me you are still trying to figure out what to dress your family (especially the little ones), so here are some cute ideas inspired by famous characters. There's something for everyone—from cartoon lovers to ideas for the entire family!

Here are some adorable character costumes for your family:

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