Friday, February 21, 2014

For the Moms with Wild Ones



There's a boy in this house with the ability to tilt the axis of our world and our home, each and every day, with just the flick of his whims.

My head still on the pillow, moonlight bleeding into day, I listen for the first sounds he makes, because I know they chart my course.

Too early spells a long slog of disagreeable hours, their end not in plain sight.
Giggling and raised voice is precarious, too. There's a fine line between the kind of happy that lifts us up together and the kind that spins us into a hiccuping overdrive.

It probably shouldn't be this way.

I've believed the lie that this is my problem to solve while the solution hides just out of reach. I never stop grasping, falling tear-stained and frayed into the condemnation of almost everyone, or so I tell myself, my own accusing finger wagging fastest.

All this, after years of progress.

We remind ourselves how far we've come, and either the hard days are fewer or we're just more immune to the fall-out. Either way, it's a better place to be.

But we default so quickly to making him our scape-goat. Our apologies for him trip too easily off our lips, desperate to be seen as anything other than part of the problem.

This child? He's not a problem. He's the best thing ever.

I've known for so long. I've believed it in my home when things get far out of hand. I've believed it when he rockets us off-balance and we burn all day from our nearness to the sun. I've even known it through a long stretch of short winter days where, in desperation, I stuck vinyl letters to my living room wall as a reminder of what my job really is - to make everyone here feel safe, feel loved.

It's okay to get things wrong. I might forget things, be grumpy, come down too hard or let everything slip out to sea. As long as we're tucked in at the end of the day feeling safe and feeling loved, I get an A.

A few weeks ago we had out-of-town visitors on an afternoon that capped a row of difficult days. I found myself parroting those tired apologies, unable to bear another voice in my head saying I should have a handle on this by now.

She interrupted me mid-sentence, looking me square in the eye, saying, "I'm telling you this because I love you..." and my heart stopped cold, because I knew what she was going to say and I've never doubted her love. She would tell me he needed help. Maybe we all need help. She would say she saw what was happening and loved me anyway. She'd tell me everything was going to be alright.

But I was wrong.

What she said was that he was a little boy, full of "gusto", a bit squirrely, but aren't so many of them? She said she had a wild one, that all of her friends had at least one. When they're together, chaos ensues and it's loud and gusto-y, the kids taking turns as the naughty one, everyone sharing the burden, leaving no one as the scape goat.

She's a mom. She knows she wasn't seeing the half of it, but she saw enough to recognize a sweet little boy, so full of life and curiosity that it leaked out in inconvenient ways. She saw a kid trying to figure out his place, trying to grow, not to be fixed. She saw a tired mom who needed permission to trust her instincts.

It was after 2 a.m. that night when I made it to my bed, but I couldn't come close to sleep because all I wanted to do was get to work loving my child. She reminded me of my ability to do this well.

I'm at my best as a mom when I'm meeting the needs of my kids instead of my own. It's a war I'd rather rise above, but I wage it daily. I need a lot of silence, but they need my voice. I'd like to live like a vampire, up all night and sleeping with the curtain drawn. They're normal humans with normal circadian rhythms. They need me there. I crave order and around-the-clock amicability, they thrive on pell-mell energy, they fuss about toys and tasks. They don't listen all the time. They disobey and suffer from selective hearing. They're emotional, irrational, hyper and quirky. They're children. So wonderful, imaginitive, stubborn and complex.

I've spent too long trying to mold them into my lumpy image.
I've lost too much time trying to meet an ideal that just doesn't exist for my family.

In how many ways do we do this? Why are we prone to digging through the garden in search of the weed?

A true friend bears our burdens. There's nothing quite like the gifts of commiseration and solidarity in the midst of a struggle. But ultimately, a true friend makes us want to do better, to be better - a better wife, a better mom, a person who calibrates herself not according to the humans around her, but who boils life down to its simplest syrup.

All I need is to feel safe and feel loved.
All they need is to feel safe and feel loved.

The end.


60 comments:

  1. yes. yes. yes. trust your instincts. we do all have a wild one. loud is alive. quiet is alive. there is no standard. dig in your heels and go with the flow sister. it is the life of a mother well lived.

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  2. You're nailing this. Even when it feels slippery and you'd rather just pause everyone and retreat. I need to remember this, that my expectations, the ones beyond teaching my girl that she is safe and she is loved, are high and lofty and okay to consider but dangerous to strive for. xxox

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  3. Hear hear!!! I have a child that could have more letters attached to her name than I care to think about.. I go through the "poor me" times of withdrawing socially because it's just too hard...too embarrassing, too many apologies... And the ongoing mommy guilt.. Always the "should be more consistent" etc.. I have 3 "prayed for, born in my heart" kids as well.. It's a BRUTIFUL life... Love your space..

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  4. so. much. truth.

    Thank you, thank you. My LO is only 11 months old, and I can already tell he's going to keep us on our toes. He feels everything so passionately -- already trying to express the emotions that leave him bursting at the seams. I could be wrong. Maybe we aren't in for a wild ride, but if we are, I will do my best to remember your words :-)

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  5. I have 4 kiddos, my youngest, age 11 is my wild one. More tears, more happiness, more guilt than all the rest. Obviously I didn't read enough to him. Or, there was marital discord during his pregnancy, that's it! So many excuses I tell myself. God reminds me over and over that He has big plans for this wild one, I just need to steady the course. I cried out to him just this week to just give me a glimpse of the future, to let me know it will be ok. I guess that's what faith is. Believing what I can't see, I will just keep keeping the faith.
    Praying today is the beginning of a string of good days for all of us parents of wild ones.

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  6. I had a woman lean over in church because my 4 and 5 year old were too wiggly. She told me they had ADHD. I really struggled with her judgments, because to me, they were just wiggly, busy, rowdy boys. Boys are full of energy an life and I loved them and was exhausted for that. What a wonderful friend you have!

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  7. Oh.. yep. I had one. A wild one. The one the other mother's whispered about so I wouldn't hear. The one that didn't get invited to the play groups at that pretty houses. The one that got gently kicked out of nursery school because he wasn't mature enough.. Mature enough for nursery school? The one the 2nd grade teacher called me to to tell me he needed medication. I cried. A lot. But I just gave him as much love as I could. everyday. More than I thought I had. Even when I was tired and wanted to give up. You know what...?? He turned out great. Superstar. Did better in High School than all his well behaved playgroup friends. Played sports and led his team. Got into one of the best colleges in the United States.. Is the boy that makes me proud. The boy I knew he would be.. He just had his own pace. and all the energy? It turned out to be what channels his drive and success as a man. Hang in there!

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  8. Oh how I needed to read something like this. Some days feel like they may be the death of me. Some days I feel so guilty for the turmoil that our family feels, especially for my younger son. Thanks to blogging though, I can go back and see all of the posts where my spirited son's heart is shown....and I can smile, truly feel the good, feel his heart, and move ahead trying to bring that out. Trying to channel his qualities to do amazing things. I have often said that he will change the world, because the world certainly will not change him.

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    1. (((Hugs))) I'm right there with you (even though my toughest is my dramatic tomboy)!

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  9. You are so right . . . we are all tending beautiful gardens if we will only take a moment to notice what's blooming : )

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  10. My eldest was in kindergarten. First report card parent/teacher meeting. Just me and Miss Clella Lee. The teacher of all our dreams. She shows me the report card. Straight As blah....blah.....blah....then....she is a bit bossy. Somehow that's all I heard. I actually welled up with tears(I'm baring my soul here! Particularly ugly right?) but God bless Miss Clella Lee. She reaches out and clasps my hand. She gently rebuked me "do you want God to judge YOU on those standards? Or do you crave His grace and approval? Parents so often forget that. ........she was so kind to me that day. I think of her often. Grace and approval. Crave it and give it.

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  11. Let me start by saying my kids are perfectly fine now. (And I promise that one day you'll try to reassure a younger mother with those same words.)
    Two of them were maniacs. MAY-NEE-ACKS. I have since learned that boys in particular (although one of my maniacs is a girl) have an actual, physiological need to move and keep moving. I cannot stress enough how hardwired this is in them. They are not defective girls; they need to move. Not moving is unnatural and therefore worrisome. The only thing I really tried to concentrate on with them (you really have to pick your battles, right?) was to respect other peoples' belongings and personal space.
    And here's where I left everyone thinking I was a nutjob: I got some of those ear protector headphone things at the hardware store - the kind people use when they're using a chainsaw or leaf blower. When the noise got to be too much, I just put those things on. They don't block out all sound, just muffle it; you can still hear people talking. It would just give me a chance to unjangle my nerves and have a moment while I was doing the dishes or folding laundry. The unintended and happy consequence was that they could see, in a real way, that the noise was too much and that their actions were directly affecting someone else. I may or may not have dramatized the pain my ears were feeling with all the screeching, yelling and whining, and the sweet, sweet relief of the headphones.
    You already have a glimpse into the future: little kids = little problems, big kids = big problems. No one has to tell you that one day you're going to look back at this stage and crack up.

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    1. GENIUS!!!

      Also, in your words I see an interesting truth - I think our Big Kid (and his BIG problems) have really helped put our littlest, most difficult kid into perspective. Makes so much sense! Thanks!

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    2. Thank you. I too needed this as I have a son AND daughter like this. Love 'em to pieces, but some days I fail and flounder. (Most strangers and all teachers think they're great as they rarely see the drama at home) We're traveling right now, they're continually over tired, and I'm about done in from sharing a hotel room with them! Xo

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  12. Speaking powerful truth today - as always!
    It's a blessing to those of us reading - even if our days of parenting our 'wild ones' are in the past.
    Many thanks!

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  13. The people around us make us feel crappy like we are doing something wrong when in my case, a gran, is just growing up. I have much more grace now that I am older and just want the best for kids and not myself.

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  14. Love love LOVE all of this. Especially that I can't force mine to fit my image. Yowza.

    Also, love that little crazy, dark-eyed, wild-haired, unique thinker, sweet gift-giver chatterbox. I love the friend he is to Leo and am so grateful for that!

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  15. Well, exactly. To be safe and loved. Period. And to encourage kindness wherever possible, beginning with ourselves. LOVED this.

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  16. Thank you, thank you for this post. I can't tell you how much it meant on this particular day. I am a Gran with a three and a half year old in her home. One who thought that she was too old and too tired to do it for one more day. This was the reminder that it is not all about me.

    Tomorrow is another day...with no mistakes in it.

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  17. Thank you for sharing this beautiful post. I found you from your Tim Riggins toast over on What's Gaby Cooking and thought that MGD reduction was too good not to investigate. Little did I know I would find someone who would speak so near to my heart. From one mother of a "passionate child" to another......you're amazing!

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    1. Sister, THANK YOU! I'm so glad someone appreciates my Tim Riggins avocado toast genius. haha
      I went to Ethiopia with Gaby in August and I'm officially obsessed with her. She's as awesome as you'd imagine.

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  18. As a mother of two boys, thank you. I love their "enthusiasm for life" but my friends with all girls tend to look at me like I'm crazy too often!!!

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  19. the environment we are raising our kids in right now tells us we, as parents, are inadequate when our kids make mistakes. kids need to be kids. i firmly believe that a kid's job is to make mistakes and learn from them. maybe a million times. and moms need to feel safe and loved in that. not judged.

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  20. Thank you so much for this. I have one "wild" one at home. We are also adopting an older one and are unsure of the adventures that wait us. To feel safe and feel loved. That's my job. Just read in a great book about parenting hurt children that as parents are job is not to solve their problems, but to provide an environment where healing can take place. Carry on, Mama.

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    1. oooh...I love that!
      Excited for you and your adventure. Strap that seat belt on and don't look back!

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    2. Can you share the title of that book. We adopted a 7 yr old from Ethiopia. . been home 2 years. .. and it has been hard.

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    3. Happy to. The title is, Parenting the Hurt Child and it is by Gregory Keck and Regina Kupecky. I will be praying for you and your family, Su. Much love, peace, and blessings to your home and family.

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  21. Thank you. I need this. every day. Some days on a loop!

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  22. This is the kind of friend I hope to always be..... A true friend bears our burdens. There's nothing quite like the gifts of commiseration and solidarity in the midst of a struggle. But ultimately, a true friend makes us want to do better, to be better - a better wife, a better mom, a person who calibrates herself not according to the humans around her, but who boils life down to its simplest syrup

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  23. "All I need is to feel safe and feel loved. All they need is to feel safe and feel loved."

    There is so much hope wrapped up in these simple words. I stand right beside you as one who's been there, who continues to be there, and who is likely shaped more by my child than he is by me:) And that's probably a good thing.

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    1. Love your words, I feel the same, "likely shaped more by my child than he is by me". And like you, for me, I have recognized its probably a good thing. :). Isn't it cool, I don't have the foggiest idea who or where you are, yet we have the same thoughts, social media isn't always bad :)

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  24. Have you read "Grace Based Parenting" by Dr. Tim Kimmel? It is awesome!

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  25. You always bless me with just what I need friend. Please bring that boy anytime to visit mine on the farm. You and I can wear our hearing protection and grin over our mugs while they play. I bet that our girls are pretty similar too!
    Xo
    Leslie@farm fresh fun

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  26. First time commenter here. The best day in my parenting was when a sweet woman stopped me to say not everyone has a "wild one" and that my sweet second-born was created with gusto. I breathed some sweet relief. There are so few of these wild ones that we are made to feel that they're broken an we're doing something wrong. The only thing I'm doing wrong is trying to quench the fire in my wild one rather than embrace him. My "Silas" (real name Ambrose) is the best thing to ever happen to me. He's brought me to my knees so many times and the foot of Jesus is one of the best places to be.

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  27. feeling safe and loved. oh, how we all need this!

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  28. I dropped mine off this morning with a friend, who is mom to three boys. She has walked the path of the four year old twice, and said, essentially, "he's normal." Is he wild? Rambunctious? Energetic? Not quite sure of the boundaries of "good" behavior? Yes! But, he is respectful, and sweet, and obedient, and loving. Her words were so encouraging after a week of why felt like constant discipline and disappointment in myself. It is such a God thing when those friends looks us in the eye and let themselves speak what the Holy Spirit puts there, yes?

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  29. I have 4 kids and every single one is a wild one!!!!! I think I'm going to follow the gal's advice above who bought the earplugs- and maybe a blindfold too!!! ;))

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  30. Oh, Shannan, I know for a fact you have three "littles" with sweet manners and precious smiles! You and Cory are doing a great job even if some days you're getting a workout. Our younger daughter was the difficult child to parent. When she was 3, I was certain one of us wouldn't live to see her 4th birthday! Somehow, we both did. She''ll turn 30 this week and has two little ones of her own. (The almost 2-year-old is beginning to show some of his Mommy's "gusto" ... and this Nonna is smiling – and praying hard!) Praying for you, too!

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  31. You're so right. Keep on keeping on. My "wild one" is now 23, and he can always be counted on for our baked goods at holidays and other times. Who knew he would grow up to make a perfect pie crust, cheese cake, all kinds of bread, etc? God made everyone special and everyone different. I know your wild one blesses you now, but just wait... He'll no doubt surprise you in the future in many more wild and wonderful ways!

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    1. Dear God: PLEASE let Silas inherit the gift of cheese cake!!

      :)

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  32. My middle son has really severe ADHD (not just silly little boy antics, lol) and I love this. I think he's sweet and wonderful, and I get baffled when everybody else fails to see him that way. I know he can be difficult. Really, really difficult. Every time someone wants to speak to me about him I cringe up and start with "No, but he's really a sweet and funny boy, he just has troubles with..." But every so often I got someone who would tell me that it's ok, and those people and comments always meant to so much to me.

    Anyway all of this to tell you that this "She knows she wasn't seeing the half of it, but she saw enough to recognize a sweet little boy, so full of life and curiosity that it leaked out in inconvenient ways." is always how I have thought of my own son (who we've referred to as our wildest thing of all since he was about two, lol) and it was so heartwarming to see someone else with the same thoughts as us.

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  33. This post and the comments have me in tears. Tears because so many of you have written my thoughts and feelings and tears because others have written my hope. Thank you Shannan for your honesty as always.

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  34. Thank You and every commentor for your inspiring words.

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  35. My wild one is now 34. He is still capable of being totally out of control when he comes home and slips into the family and all of the siblings are here. Our house is just rocking when he is here. But, he is a great Daddy of three children and loving husband, a deacon in his church, is very good at his engineering job for Honda and just an all around great person. I find that it helps him to be calmer if I diffuse some calming essential oils when he comes to visit.

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  36. Wild ones....they teach us a lot! :-)

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  37. This is a beautiful and heart-warming post.
    I, too, have a wild one. He was unpredictable and impulsive and volatile (0 to 60 in 10 seconds). His sister and I used to joke that he was a boy and a half (some days a boy and seven-eighths). Once you realized that you were dealing with more than one boy, it was a bit easier. He also was (and is) sweet and kind and the most forgiving person I'd ever met.
    But, oh do I remember wincing when I saw or heard others' responses to him, feeling like I had to apologize. I knew that he would grow up to be a good person, but I still was so worried and embarrassed. I realized one day that no matter what others thought of him, I had to stay focused on my confidence that he would be a good man. And I had to preserve that kind heart.
    I taught him to watch what well-behaved friends did when he was uncertain about what to do. (I didn't call them well-behaved; just said, do what he does). I talked and talked about alternate choices, I promised him that if he could stay controlled in school, I allow him to be less controlled at home. We used journaling to great effect to allow him to get things off his chest (I took dictation when he couldn't yet write for himself). And I prayed and prayed and read and asked questions and prayed some more. I told him that his motto was, "Less is more."
    He is now 15 and he *is* a good man -- hard-working, creative, personable, talented, godly. He is the most forgiving person I know. No longer wild. Sometimes impulsive, but able to think first. Music has been an extraordinary outlet for him, as has prayer.
    Thanks for allowing me to reflect.

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    1. So much awesomeness in this comment. Thank you!
      I know that feeling of embarrassment all too well. Enough!!! Right?
      Enough is enough.
      Feel Safe and Loved tonight, friend!

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  38. My husband and I were just talking about the big challenge in parenting being our trying to "cracked the code" of each child. It would be so much easier if the second was the same as the first. I think what makes it hardest is that figuring out how to parent your kids is more about changing/adjusting as a parent then making changes in the kids. Of course they need guidance and shaping, but usually that also involves getting guidance for us and shaping how we approach our kids.

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  39. Could you sell this art saying, as well? Love.

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  40. I need to re-read this every week, I think.
    Thanks for your honesty & encouragement to those of us with wild ones.

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  42. I have a love-hate relationship with this post. (Not with you, though, Shannan- all love for you!) On one hand, I love that it reminds me to see the best parts of my son; to see strengths and blessing and beauty in everything that makes him HIM. I need that reminder, and judging from the combox, so do a lot of other mamas of wild ones! On the other hand, I have had many interchanges with friends similar to the one you described that left me feeling misunderstood and oh so alone. Not because their hearts weren't absolutely in the right place, but because their reassurance seemed to negate my reality. I love the camaraderie I see here in the comments, the solidarity for the exasperated mamas of wild things. But I want to throw this in the mix too- that some of us mamas with little ones who suffer (especially with emotional or behavioral special needs) can feel hurt by others telling us that our experience is not abnormal. Sometimes it just flat out IS! The child is not any less precious, but the mama might benefit more from a listening ear and assurance that she is doing well at something that is really hard.

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    1. I so hear your heart here, and so glad you shared.
      For me, my friend's words to me were revolutionary because I felt like, up to that point, the only message I ever got about my little dude is, "What's wrong with him?" or "What's wrong with YOU?" I felt so judged, like I was somehow failing as a parent. He didn't fit into a clear box. Was his behavior abnormal? So we set out on a wild goose chase to figure him out.
      And we never, ever did.
      It was freeing to have someone I love and respect so dearly look me in the eye and say, "It's okay. He's awesome."
      But there were other times I sat where you're sitting, where people made me feel CRAZY, or when they'd say stupid stuff like, "He's a boy!" "He's a toddler!" etc... I knew what was happening was not "normal". I wanted to be seen and heard. But I also wanted him (and me) to be fiercely loved.
      Praying for you today. Whatever you're going through, feel loved and love that child. Love yourself. Give yourself the same grace you give him/her/them.
      Much love.

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    2. Thanks for the gracious response! XOXO

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