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You didn’t sleep well last night. You tossed and turned and lay in bed until the rays of sun peeked through the window then got up. You came straight to my side, waking me up. I grumbled, growled, and barked an order to get back in bed; it was too early to be up.

Your shoulders slumped in defeat as you retreated to your room.

Silently I shuffled across the carpet to the kitchen for a cup of coffee. While rubbing the sleep from my eyes you bounded in and squeezed me with all your strength, giving me an undeserved hug. Instead of hugging you back I fussed for you to be careful – you nearly knocked my hot coffee on you.

You let go and looked at the floor, saddened that I did not hug you back.

I made breakfast and halfway listened to you and your sister play at the table. She began to fuss and whine and I told you to be nicer, let her have her way so I wouldn’t have to hear her cries. You began to defend yourself and explain you did nothing wrong but I didn’t want to hear it. I interrupted you and told you to do what I said.

You swallowed your anger and complied, no longer excited and having fun.

You dressed yourself in what we picked out last night at my first request. You put your shoes on without being told and ran to my room filled with pride that you did what I would want. As you rounded the corner you fell over the dog. I did not notice your shoes, instead I sternly reminded you not to run in the house.

Your pride dissolved as your cheeks became flushed with embarrassment.

I commented the dog needed to go out and you jumped up and yelled you would do it. You brought her to the door and turned with a grin because you just knew you wouldn’t get in trouble for this. Daddy saw the door still open and bellowed for you to shut it before bugs came in.

You shoved it closed and blinked hard to hold back your tears.

I picked you up early from school to take you to the dentist. You did not want to go but you hid your anxiety to show your sister there is nothing to be afraid of. You went first and never grumbled or complained. I came back when you were finished and you were thrilled to see me and let me hear how well you did. The dentist told me you had a cavity and that you needed to brush more. She complimented you on how well you did during the visit, how kind and caring you were to your sister.

You forced a fake smile and hid your disappointment that you were the one to have a cavity.

You thanked them for the coin that would get you a prize from the machine. You helped your sister get hers first then used yours. Nothing came out. You told the woman working there you needed a new one; that it didn’t work and she gave you another. You tried again and still you got nothing. I told you we needed to leave, that we were late and you would get something later.

You did as I said, glancing back at the machine holding the toy you felt you deserved.

We got to school and you pleaded not to go back. You begged me to stay with you, to call in sick to work just for that day. Only once.

I told you I could not and I walked you to your class.

The lights were off and the room was empty. You realized you were missing recess and you wouldn’t be able to play. You began to cry but wiped your tears on your sleeve and fought the urge. I had you come with me as I walked your sister to class, she missed lunch but not recess – hers is at the end of the day. As we started to head toward the playground your classmates came down the hall, red and sweaty from playing so hard.

You broke down.

You slid down the wall in defeat, the tears you fought so hard all morning to contain finally spilling over, running hot down your cheeks and landing on your shirt. You crossed your arms in anger and stomped your feet in protest, wanting to scream, to yell how unfair it all was, but instead you hissed so only I could hear.

I knelt down and you fell into me shaking, sobbing – all the disappointment, fear, anger, and despair flowing out with your tears. You clung to me, begging me to stay, no longer caring if others heard your pleas.

I scooped you up and away from the crowd, from the traffic and the noise. I sat down with you; and I listened.

I did not talk until you finished.

I did not correct you or tell you to stop exaggerating.

I did not remind you of any rules or expectations.

I did not fuss at you or tell you to get over it.

I waited for you to finish and finally said what you what you so badly needed to hear. What you hoped I would say all morning long.

I love you. I’m proud of you. I’m sorry I was so crabby this morning. You are smart, and kind, and amazing. I wish I could spend the entire day with you, too. Yes, today really has sucked. So far you had a really super craptastic kind of day. But it doesn’t have to stay that way.

You had a bad morning, and that’s okay. Bad days happen. But it’s up to you whether or not you are going to wallow in the depths of misery or suck it up and find the silver lining.

I needed to go back to work but at that moment you needed me more. Your smile grew with every minute I sat next to you in the lunchroom. You introduced me to your new friends and showed me things in your new school I hadn’t yet seen. You finished eating and I gave you a big hug and kiss before I left.

You were the first to let go. 

I hated to leave you this morning. I wanted more than anything to grab your hand and to run out of there, ignoring all our responsibilities; to be free for the day from all the stresses of life. I wanted to give you an entire day of laughter and uninterrupted joy. I wanted to be able to prove to you that your sister and you are always my number one priority, something I don’t get to show you in during the limited time we have together.

I walked away, shoulders slumped in disappointment and blinked back tears of guilt for having to leave you yet again; for the way I treated you this morning. I looked back once more to see if you were okay and I saw you laughing, your smile brightening the room like rays of sunlight. You weren’t thinking about your bad morning, about how mean I was and how unfair it all seemed. You chose to change your day and to find your silver lining.     

And in that instant my day got better, too. Because I found my silver lining in you.

Who said motherhood doesn't come with a manual?

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It's a conundrum many parents wrestle with: We don't want to lie to our kids, but when it comes to Santa, sometimes we're not exactly giving them the full truth either.

For Kristen Bell and Dax Shepard, lying to daughters Lincoln, 5, and Delta, 3 just isn't an option, so everyone in the Bell-Shepard household knows the truth about Santa.

"This is going to be very controversial," Shepard told Us Weekly earlier this month. "I have a fundamental rule that I will never lie to them, which is challenging at times. Our 5-year-old started asking questions like, 'Well, this doesn't make sense, and that doesn't make sense.' I'm like, 'You know what? This is just a fun thing we pretend while it's Christmas.'"

According to Shepard, this has not diminished the magic of Christmas in their home. "They love watching movies about Santa, they love talking about Santa," Shepard told Us. "They don't think he exists, but they're super happy and everything's fine."

Research indicates that Shepard is right—kids can be totally happy and into Christmas even after figuring out the truth and that most kids do start to untangle the Santa myth on their own, as Lincoln did.

Studies suggest that for many kids, the myth fades around age seven, but for some kids, it's sooner, and that's okay.

Writing for The Conversation, Kristen Dunfield, an Assistant Professor of Psychology at Concordia University, suggests that when kids come to parents with the hard questions about Santa, parents may feel a bit sad, but can take some comfort in "recognizing these challenging questions for what they are—cognitive development in action."

Kids aren't usually the ones who are upset when they figure it out, researchers note. Typically, kids are kind of proud of themselves for being such great detectives. It's the parents who feel sadness.

Some parents may not choose to be as blunt as Shepard, and that's okay, too. According to Dunfield, if you don't want to answer questions about Santa with 100% truth, you can answer a question with a question.

"If instead you want to let your child take the lead, you can simply direct the question back to them, allowing your child to come up with explanations for themselves: "I don't know, how do you think the sleigh flies?" Dunfield writes.

While Dax Shepard acknowledges that telling a 3-year-old that Santa is pretend might be controversial, he's hardly the first parent to present Santa this way. There are plenty of healthy, happy adults whose parents told them the truth.

LeAnne Shepard is one of them. Now a mother herself, LeAnne's parents clued her into the Santa myth early, for religious reasons that were common in her community.

"In the small Texas town where I grew up, I wasn't alone in my disbelief. Many parents, including mine, presented Santa Claus as a game that other families played," she previously wrote. "That approach allowed us to get a picture on Santa's lap, watch the Christmas classics, and enjoy all the holiday festivities so long as we remembered the actual reason for the season. It was much like when I visited Disney World and met Minnie Mouse; I was both over the moon excited and somewhat aware that she was not actually real."

No matter why you want to tell your children the truth about Santa, know that it's okay to let the kids know that he's pretend. Kristen Bell's kids prove that knowing the truth about Santa doesn't have to make Christmas any less exciting. Pretending can be magical, too.

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Last year my sons and I gave my wife the one thing every mom really wants every now and then: the absence of us.

We woke up that morning, kissed her on the cheek, and got out of dodge. Ten hours later we returned to find her eating carrot cake in a bathrobe and listening to podcasts.

Like so many dads when they do any solo-parenting, I posted a picture to Facebook. It got a big response, with more moms than I expected saying that's just what they wanted, too. I'm not an expert in presents or parenting, but consider this my recommendation to dads to make "taking the kids and leaving" this year's gift for moms—and a much bigger part of your regular life.

Don't get me wrong, we love my wife Kate. She's everyone's favorite family member. She's brilliant and funny and full of adventure. She's both the strongest person I know and the most caring. She's amazing at freeze dancing. She can name one million Pokemon. She knows instantly which injuries need Band-aids and which need kisses... and which, like me stabbing my hand trying to open a coconut with a kitchen knife, need the ER.

That's precisely why on her birthday we needed to get out of there. For a few hours Kate didn't have to do our emotional labor or be the default parent. No one asked her to make his brother return a toy or to check the tone in an email. She didn't have to perform appreciation for a breakfast in bed we would have made wrong. For one day, she didn't have to take care of anyone. It's embarrassing this is rare, but I admit in my family it is.

This brings up some big questions.

Why couldn't we have just stayed and taken care of her for a change? Did we really have to leave?

The answer is yes, at least for now. Our family's modes should include times when we're all around and Kate's not working, but they just don't.

When the kids need a Lego separated, it's her name they yell first down the stairs. If they're bored and looking to gin up some interaction, it's her lap they cannonball onto from the back of the couch. And that all goes for me, too, only without the Legos and cannonballs (mostly). That means whenever we're with Kate she has to be at some level of "on."

She shouldn't have to feel like the decision-maker, problem-solver, and nurturer in chief whenever she's in the same house as her husband and children, but she does. That means, for now, the quickest way to free her from that burden is just for us to get out that door.

That brings us to the biggest questions.

Does one day make a difference when there's such an everyday imbalance in the parenting load?

If Kate shoulders so much of the practical and emotional labor in our house that a day on her own can be a *literal* gift, what does that say about us?

It says a lot of things, but here's the main one: we need to change. If you'd asked us on our wedding day if our plan for raising a family was to divide the load unequally, we'd have both said "no way." But here we are.

So what do we do about it?

Well, the better question is what do I do about it. The problem is—I need to transform my share of the work around here. It can't be on Kate to solve that, too. That means I need to step up, to start doing much more not only of the caretaking and meal-planning and cooking, but the playdate-scheduling, doctor appointment-making, and child-life-organizing.

Leaving the house for one day doesn't turn me into a co-primary parent, but maybe it can be a jump-start. Sometimes the best way to begin changing habits is to create situations where those habits are impossible.

I might not have the strength to change our caretaking patterns when all four of us are together, but if it's just me and the boys with mom inaccessible, no one has another choice. The more days where I'm the primary parent, the more all four of us get accustomed to me in the role we're used to just having Mom in.

Kate might be superior to me in every aspect of parenting—which makes sense, given she's been practicing more than I have for eight years—but it's important to remember that a shared load is better for everyone. Of course it's better for her, but it's so much better for the boys, too. And it's better for me.

Our children are wonderful, hilarious and exquisite tiny humans. The focus on my 5-year-old's round face as he tries to make a card tower. The sound of my 7-year-old's boot cracking a puddle of ice as he walks to school. Pokemon. I miss all that when I'm not leaned forward as a parent.

And it's now or never. I've been a father for eight years. In 10 more, if we're lucky, our oldest will be in college. Childhoods go by fast. If don't become a better dad now, when will I?

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Breakfast is often said to be the most important meal of the day, but in many households, it's also the most hectic. Many parents rely on pre-prepared items to cut down on breakfast prep time, and if Jimmy Dean Heat 'n Serve Original Sausage Links are a breakfast hack in your home, you should check your bag.

More than 14 tons of the frozen sausage links are being recalled after consumers found bits of metal in their meat.

The United States Department of Agriculture's Food Safety and Inspection Service announced the recall of 23.4-oz. pouches of Jimmy Dean HEAT 'n SERVE Original SAUSAGE LINKS Made with Pork & Turkey with a 'Use By' date of January 31, 2019.

"The product bears case code A6382168, with a time stamp range of 11:58 through 01:49," the FSIS notes.

In a statement posted on its website, Jimmy Dean says "a few consumers contacted the company to say they had found small, string-like fragments of metal in the product. Though the fragments have been found in a very limited number of packages, out of an abundance of caution, CTI is recalling 29,028 pounds of product. Jimmy Dean is closely monitoring this recall and working with CTI to assure proper coordination with the USDA. No injuries have been reported with this recall."

Consumers should check their packages for "the establishment code M19085 or P19085, a 'use by' date of January 31, 2019 and a UPC number of '0-77900-36519-5'," the company says.

According to the FSIS, there have been five consumer complaints of metal pieces in the sausage links, and recalled packages should be thrown away.

If you purchased the recalled sausages and have questions you can call the Jimmy Dean customer service line at (855) 382-3101.

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Flying with a 2-year-old and a 5-year-old isn't easy under optimal conditions, and when the kids are tired and cranky, things become even harder.

Many parents are anxious when flying with kids for exactly this reason: If the kids get upset, we worry our fellow passengers will become upset with us, but mom of two Becca Kinsey has a story that proves there are more compassionate people out there than we might think.

In a Facebook post that has now gone viral, Kinsey explains how she was waiting for her flight back from Disney World with her two boys, Wyatt, 2, and James, 5, when things started to go wrong, and the first of three kind women committed an act of kindness that meant so much.

After having to run all over the airport because she'd lost her ID, Kinsey and her boys were in line for security and she was "on the verge of tears because Wyatt was screaming and James was exhausted. Out of the blue, one mom stops the line for security and says 'here, jump in front of me! I know how it is!'" Kinsey wrote in her Facebook post.

Within minutes, 2-year-old Wyatt was asleep on the airport floor. Kinsey was wondering how she would carry him and all the carry-ons when "another mom jumps out of her place in line and says 'hand me everything, I've got it.'"

When Kinsey thanked the second woman and the first who had given up her place in line they told her not to worry, that they were going to make sure she got on her flight.

"The second woman takes evvvverything and helps me get it through security and, on top of all that, she grabs all of it and walks us to the gate to make sure we get on the flight," Kinsey wrote.

Kinsey and her boys boarded, but the journey was hardly over. Wyatt wolk up and started "to scream" at take off, before finally falling back asleep. Kinsey was stressed out and needed a moment to breathe, but she couldn't put Wyatt down.

"After about 45 min, this angel comes to the back and says 'you look like you need a break' and holds Wyatt for the rest of the flight AND walks him all the way to baggage claim, hands him to [Kinsey's husband], hugs me and says "Merry Christmas!!" Kinsey wrote.


It's a beautiful story about women helping women, and it gets even better because when Kinsey's Facebook post started to go viral she updated it in the hopes of helping other parents take their kids to Disney and experience another form of stress-relief.

"What if everyone that shared the story went to Kidd's Kids and made a $5 donation?! Kidd's Kids take children with life-threatening and life-altering conditions on a 5 day trip to Disney World so they can have a chance to forget at least some of the day to day stressors and get to experience a little magic!!"

As of this writing, Kinsey has raised more than $2,000 for Kidd's Kids and has probably inspired a few people to be kind the next time they see a parent struggling in public.

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