Tuesday, August 11, 2015

The Pediatrician's Office


I have been in my pediatrician's office three times in the last two weeks for back-to-school physicals. I try to avoid that place like the plague-because it seems that usually someone comes home carrying the plague!

This last appointment I had a chance to talk to my pediatrician more than the usual in-and out visit.  I admire him-he is near retirement age, has three children of his own, and has spent a long long time in pediatrics (frankly I think pediatricians are underpaid and overworked and almost always dedicated and passionate about what they do.)

I asked him if he thought he had seen any changes or issues in parenting in the last four decades he has been working.  He looked at me and said, "I can't even begin to tell you how different things are." He looked and sounded so frustrated and honestly, sad.  He said the number one concern he has right now is social media.  He says he sees so many kids with anxiety and depression and he sees it is linked to the overuse of technology and social media-too much screen time, not enough face to face interaction with parents and peers. He told me he hates it all, and it's ruining our children.  "They need to get out from behind the screens and go outside and play. They need to learn social skills and how to talk to people in person."  And he said in the end parenting is the key factor. Parents being in charge, being the ones that take it away and set limits, and admitted at the same time he doesn't envy us for having this complicated and time-consuming duty on our plate, because I sure know it is.

He also said, "And don't even get me started on the school system."  So I didn't, but boy would I love to hear more about that.

Earlier in the waiting room I had picked up a popular parenting magazine (one I used to read when my older children were little).  I paged through it and then realized I was disheartened or strongly disagreed with about half the content and put it down in disgust.  From $500 strollers and other must-haves, to celebrity interviews and their replies (bold print intended),, to the wishy-washy articles on parenting with terrible advice from "experts". "Guilt-free, whatever feels good and makes YOU happy sort of parenting" leaves out an important subject-the actual baby, child and teen.. There is always a study from some psychologist or psychiatrist to back it up. The truth is sometimes those crucial developmental needs (that play a huge part in growing whole, healthy, happy children who turn into whole, healthy, happy adults) don't match up at all with our lifestyle-but leave it to a magazine (that I recognize is designed to appeal to everyone always) to find creative ways around ever just supporting the fact that the core of effective loving parenting is about sacrifice, duty, obligation, unselfishness, and plain old common sense, wrapped in love shown with time, attention and strong discipleship from parents.  Apparently that message doesn't sell well on the market.

I would like more interviews that speak to a pediatrician (like mine) who has practiced for forty years, or the kind, gentle retired teacher that taught at my children's school for just as long.  I've had conversations with them and other seasoned professionals-professionals who have spent long days with children and their parents-the real experts-and learned more in two minutes about what kids need and want and are and are not getting today-why they know we are seeing more than ever before many struggling children diagnosed with disorders, difficulties or are just troubled.  Again, I don't think it's a message that sells well either.

I feel that sometimes children are thrown under the bus so parents can be let off the hook-behavior that should be abnormal is now deemed normal, unavoidable and no fault of our own. "They are just born that way", or "kids will be kids."  Yes, every child has his or her own personality, struggles and strengths, and will for a lifetime, but when these are recognized by an attached parent, and nurtured and shaped in a loving family environment, and an infant and toddler's crucial developmental needs are met this way (which takes the hard things I mentioned earlier) we give our children the best chance to reach their full potential as adults whatever that might be.  For sure it's a long road, and has it ups and downs, and when the teen years come in to play there are so many circumstances beyond our control. The best we can give them are grown-up parents who are present, a close family life, strong faith, and that ever so important strong foundation in the early years, and that will help our children find their way in life, amidst life's obstacles that will occur.

I know that at times this role as mother is draining, and time-consuming and sometimes bewildering, and truthfully downright scary in this culture. It requires so much giving of one's self and one's time. Trust me I'm raising all different ages and stages and every single one has its challenges, its worries, its frustrations-but I've learned there is no quick-fix technique, no parental substitute, there is nothing that can be purchased, and no permission rightly granted to take the easy way out, that will ever come close to equaling the hard work that is required by us.

46 comments :

  1. My husband and I were visiting a family friend, who taught elementary school from 1988-2008 (and has 6 grown kids). When we asked her what differences she noticed between her first and last years of teaching, she immediately responded that when she started, she had only a couple of students from broken homes. When she retired, over half her students came from single-parent homes. It's obvious to me that the breakdown of the traditional family is having a bigger impact on society than the world would have us believe. Great post.

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    1. All these broken homes just can't be good for kids - why does society now normalize it? All my children's emergency contact forms have TWO different spaces for parents to put their addresses and phone numbers.

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  2. Thank you for this!!! Just exactly what I needed!

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  3. Refreshing. It's sad to see how over scheduled kids can be also...some Elementary aged kids have worse schedules than I did as a full-time college student/full time working student...i can't comprehend how that would be.

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  4. Such great thoughts. I am so grateful that you are writing on here again. Your words always encourage me as a mother. And it's true--there is no quick, magical fix--mothering and parenting is hard work. And the very best things come from hard work!! We have four young, energetic and wonderful children, one who is autistic. My days are long and challenging, I sometimes wish for that quick-fix ;), but I would never trade away my role as mother and the time I get to spend with them and all of my worrying about them.

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  5. There isn't a single part of this post that I don't just love. So much so, I'm not even sure that sentence I just typed makes sense. :) Just YES! How insightful for you to ask your pediatrician that question. We should all take note.
    Gosh-I hope I can be always be a "throw-back" mom (especially when it isn't cool!) and create that loving, safe environment in my home.....

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  6. I freelance for a few parenting magazines and am on board with you. I will take extra effort in my next piece to include 'expert' opinions from well-established and log-serving professionals, because you're right- they have the advantage of seeing how trends have played out. Thank you!

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  7. True, true, true! Those "seasoned" doctors and nurses are invaluable! I'm afraid their training received today follows along the with the magazine articles you mentioned.
    A friend of my sister's who is an occupational therapist says she is seeing more and more children with tactile sensitivities. She believes it is due to "screen" time too young. An example she gave was seeing young children with a phone in their hand in grocery carts. In the "old" days they would have been grabbing/holding the cold, round frozen juice can or the box of cereal with corners. Simple actions no longer happening causing resulting issues.
    PS: I emailed you when your Janey was born on my grandmother's 100th birthday. We are getting ready to celebrate her 103!!

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  8. Thank you for your voice of reason! I need more people like you in my life!

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  9. You hit the nail on the head with this one Sara. My sister is a nursery school teacher in a very affluent town in NY. I was talking to her last night and the things she was telling me horrified me. It wasn't the children she was complaining about either, it was the mothers. Everyone there has a nanny for ONE child. The mothers need their "me time" (I am not making that up), complain to her that their husbands come home from work at 7:30pm and expect dinner on the table. These mothers (with ONE child and a nanny) whine to her how could they possibly cook dinner? Their children who some of them are clearly too young to be separated (22 months!!!! Not even 2 years old!) cry all day long at the nursery school because they are not ready to be separated. It's too much, and it is a cultural thing. It starts with the parents. There is something wrong with these 30 somethings who cannot deal with one child, or two, need a nanny for their me time and cannot fathom cooking dinner for their families. Someone raised these 30 somethings, and they did a very poor job and everyone from the children, to the people who are raising them (teachers/doctors, etc) are ALL suffering for it.

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    1. That breaks my heart Cathy. Those days are too long for little ones-they just want their mommies and their homes. Where is the compassion and the attachment? It has had to be severed at some point-and it seems like it's steeped in selfishness and the inability to be tender and empathetic to their very own sweet babies who have no one else to advocate for them. What is more important in life?

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  10. I have been reading your blog for years now and often just read and not comment. I have worked and stayed at home with my children. I agree with you on Pediatricians both on the plaque and being underpaid, unfortunately we have been there a lot this Summer. I too see there is to much emphasis on things, activities and "me time" and that families and children are being misdirected. Sometimes my children can't find anyone in the neighborhood home to play with!

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  11. Great insight. I was just saying yesterday that I was so disappointed this summer when I saw a friends daughter who is in my daughters class. She talked to my daughter, myself and two other moms like she was not only our equal but she knew more than all the adults. She was such a snot. The moms just looked at one another and did the raised eyebrow and moved on. What can you do? I was thinking if that had been me and I had done that at that age, before I even got home my mother would have had two calls from a few of the moms ad I would have been writing apology letters and going to their house in person to show I meant it. When did parents stop parenting? When did kids start being treated as our equals? I think I'm known as the meanest mom b/c I discipline and yell. Yes, I yell. The other moms probably talk about me. I don't even care any more b/c I will have failed if my kids leave this home one day and are complete rude adults that feel they are deserving of everything.

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  12. Thanks for your post, Sarah. I have been following your blog for a long time, and I really appreciate that you have started posting more often again. I'm sure it's hard for you to fit the writing in, but I really enjoy reading what you write. Where I live it is a countercultural choice to focus more on family life than career (almost everyone works) so your posts are a real source of support. Just wanted you to know that I appreciate it!

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  13. I have read your blog for at least 5 years now. Yours is the one blog I read regardless. This post has me so wishing I had found you when my oldest was a baby (he's 13 now.) Everything you have to say resonates with me but today for some reason more than usual. Thank you for your words! I am so glad you are still writing; you are a blessing to us mamas!

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  14. Amen! I keep seeing things like "50 best apps for toddlers" and it makes me shudder. There is no app that can help them feel loved, safe, or teach them impulse control or the joy of helping others.

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  15. Sarah, I am also parenting a large family with a large age range (19, 15, 13, 7 and one more on the way). It's been difficult parenting the older ones lately JUST because some of their friends come from broken homes and some of their friends come from wealthy families who give their children EVERYTHING! Some of these parents entertain their kids from the moment they wake up until the moment their heads hit the pillow at night. It's exhausting to watch. Some of the other parents are so involved with their own lives that they let their older teens run wild. Doing things I wouldn't do in my twenties. Some of the "good" mothers are trying to be best friends with their kids instead of mothers. It's been so hard finding a balance lately. It makes me feel guilty that I've had a quiet summer at home with them (construction on the house and being 8 months pregnant has taken up my summer). My kids are constantly feeling like they're missing out on something because they have this "normal, old school" life. I think eventually all of this family goodness will pay off but if society is changing so much so quickly there doesn't seem like there's a guarantee anymore. It's sad to see that the old school American families are fading away. We need more families like yours and more articles in the mainstream (instead of the Kardashians) to help the younger generations wake up. Thank you for writing this today! Happy to know that I'm not the only mother trying desperately to hold on to this old fashion way of parenting.

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  16. I'm a long time reader of your blog, but I don't know if I've ever commented. Thank you so much for this post (and so many others!). I often feel overwhelmed as a mother to our one daughter---not due her her by any means, but due to the opinions of others. I feel like my parenting style is horse and wagon compared to everyone else's Ferrari. Our family will continue on this trail, but it is hard.

    I so appreciate your motherly advice and opinions. Thank you!

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  17. Well done; well said. As a mother to 4, grandmother to 9, I think you hit it out of the park.

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  18. PS The parents now have been mostly raised by daycare/babysitters. You can call it a Nanny if it makes you feel better, but it's a babysitter. They have not seen parenting skills modeled in their own homes. Maybe a few had neighbors or relatives to see, but mostly they've seen parenting via babysitters. "Hanging out with the family" is a lost skill in America.

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  19. AMEN! My kids' pediatrician has probably been in practice for about thirty years so he is considered "old-fashioned" by today's standards. But that's exactly why I chose him. He has five children and his wife stayed home with them, and he applauds me and encourages me every time I'm in the office; he tells me that I'm doing the best thing for my children. His oldest child is about my age (early thirties) and he is very open about the struggles that today's parents are facing; primarily the pressure to work outside the home and be away from children. I tell him that I constantly question my decision to stay home since so many people in my life criticize me for my decision, and he tells me to stand strong and hold onto my babies. It really is a daily struggle, and I love that he's so in tune with everything that's going on. I don't know what I'll do when he retires.

    Thank you for your openness and honesty, Sarah. :)

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  20. Thank you for this post. You continue to inspire me.

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  21. Such pearls of wisdom written here! I have 2 comments to make:
    I take my kids to a family practitioner, she's not a pediatrician. The reason I chose her is because her values align with mine and I love the story of how she got started. Years ago she was a young mom of 5 who didn't like what she was seeing at the dr office: kids being medicated all too frequently, etc. so she went to medical school! She is a wonderful doctor and is now a grandmother with loads of grandkids. She is able to give medical advice AND mother/worrier/grandma/life advice. Talk about becoming the change you'd like to see!
    Another observation: My kids have summer birthdays and I'm debating whether to send then to kindergarten the week after they turn 5 or keep them home a year and send them at 6. Almost every mother I talk to in my situation can't wait to get their little ones out of their hair and into school! I feel like I'm the lone mother who loves having her kids home and spending my days with them. Some of these mothers send their kids to school in the summer just to have "me" time. My little ones are going to grow so darn fast I just want them to enjoy the easy days at home before they have to start "life". None of them seem to see it that way, though.

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    1. I had to make the same decision with my now 8 year old. We decided to wait and let him start kindergarten at 6. His birthday is in the middle of July and he would have been one of the youngest in the class. Part of my reasoning was because kindergarten is all day here and I thought that was too long for a 5 year old. Part of my reasoning was that we would have one more year with him before sending him off to college. It was the best decision we could have made for him. He thrived in school, made friends, rarely got in trouble (I can't say never...he pulled a classmate's pigtails last year while standing in line behind her). He even tested into the gifted classroom last year. Our now 5 year old turns 6 in mid September so the decision was made for us, but we would have waited for him too and will probably do the same when our late June birthday reaches kindergarten age. homeecathome.com

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    2. Keep them home with you! Give them an extra year of childhood, they'll have the rest of their lives to be an adult!

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    3. Yes, keep your twins at home if that is what your gut is telling you to do, particularly if Kindergarten is all day. My three children go back to school in a week, and I'm mourning them being gone already. Both my husband & I never understood why other parents were gleeful when school resumed. Why would you have kids if you didn't want to be with them? My lovely, but sadly deceased, Father-In-Law would say that the secret to rearing children is to "fool with them." That's West Virginian speak for be a present parent. Days can be long but oh those years pass so quickly. Enjoy 'em while ya got 'em. Good luck!

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    4. I have not sent any of my summer birthday kids the year they turn 5. You don't specify if you have sons or daughters, but boys in particular seem to really need that extra year of maturity. My daughter who has a May birthday will be my youngest kindergartener.

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  22. I just want to say that I may not always agree with you on certain things, but I thoroughly enjoy reading and thinking about your point of view about things. I try to remember to enjoy the simple things in life with my kids but I have to admit that I get more involved in things today that take away from our quality time as a family. I especially enjoy reading about your family values.

    I am very dedicated to making sure that we all sit together and have dinner as a family together at the table. As a matter of fact, I have a very small story to share with you. On my oldest daughter's first day of drama class, about 6 or 7 years ago, the teacher had them sit in a circle on stage and learn about each other. One of the questions that she asked is how many of you have dinner as a family at the table. Can you believe that out of the 28 kids in that class, my daughter was the only one ! And what is worst is the teacher later told me that out of her 5 classes a day, there were only 6 kids that eat dinner at the table with their families. That just makes me sad.

    Thank you for always reminding me about what is really important in life. Sometimes I find myself getting carried away by technology and life and then you post something that brings me back to what is important and I remember to simplify my life and stop and enjoy it. Your words are inspiring.

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  23. i just....wow. your words here. i am screaming in my head YES. you are my inspiration and virtual mentor on all things kids. your thoughts, your pediatricians thoughts. YES.

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  24. Thank you for sharing your thoughts and insights here. Your beautiful heart and writing talent are a benefit to many. If I may, please allow me to raise a note of concern. More and more as I come here to read, I leave feeling discouraged- a relatively new development. Your disappointment and anger at our current culture come out so often. I understand the severity of changes that have happened in our society but it's not as though the time period when you were young was perfect nor is our current state without hope. There is good happening still.

    I ended my employment to stay home with our two young sons after their births, we limit screens, we are involved at church, we pray, and try our best and we are a part of this culture. Let's not keep shaking heads and wringing hands. I pray you can channel your considerable gifts into inspiring us who are working hard in this current state of affairs to keep on fighting a good fight.

    gratefully,
    Amber

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    1. Hi Amber-I'm so sorry you feel that way. I know there is so much negativity and "knocking on parenthood" in the media and the news and other outlets and I DO NOT want my blog to be like that at all. I see so many good parents also-doing the hard work and raising lovely children. I do feel that our culture makes it much more difficult to raise children than when I was young-my parents agree and it helps ME to know that it has changed dramatically, and I'm not crazy to think that this, that or the other is making my job more difficult instead of supporting me. Sometimes acknowledging the things that are wrong, bring a feeling of togetherness and camaraderie and support (which are all encouraging) to those that are trying to do the hard things (which many are). Amber I don't know how old your children are, but maybe some of my reflections are also a result of raising children into the teen/college years also.
      But you are right-there is so much good. As I said in a post earlier in the summer one of my favorite bible verses is "...whatever is true, whatever is noble, whatever is right, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is admirable--if anything is excellent or praiseworthy--think about such things."
      Thank you for the reminder!

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  25. I can't begin to say what an encouragement this post was. Sometimes I'm really tempted with three young children to think, "Why am I working my tail end off when there are easier routes?!" And then I read a piece like this and I'm reminded....I'm doing this for them. So that they're healthy, balanced, young men of strong character. That doesn't happen by putting them in front of a screen or taking the easy way out. It does take much energy, and prayer, wisdom, and common sense. I'm often reminded of the laws of sowing and reaping as I'm training my children ...1. You always reap what you sow, 2. You reap more than you sow, 3. You reap after you sow. Right now I'm in the sowing more than reaping category and I want to not be weary in this process.....the reaping years are yet ahead. Thank you, thank you, thank you for this piece. I don't ever tire of hearing from other mothers who are recognizing the cultural dangers and making deliberate decisions to ensure a different outcome than our culture is experiencing.

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  26. Sarah, your posts are a breath of fresh air. Thank you for taking the time to write them!

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  27. If anything in life is worth sacrificing for, it is our children, our marriages, and our homes. Moms have more control over these things than I think we sometimes realize. It starts with us--we CAN set the pace for the family. ...shutting off my own screen now! Gonna find some kids and play "go fish" : ) THANK YOU Sarah!

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  28. I love your posts! I'm a young mother of one [a very high spirited 3 year old son!] and I've shunned popular parenting culture. I don't buy parenting magazines, the ones my mum used to love. I laugh and say they're too trendy [I'm only 31!] yet I think it's all too 'me me me'. Everything for show, or to make parents lives easiest, regardless of the effect on the child. Sometimes the best, most fulfilling route is not the easiest or quickest. Thanks for another awesome post!

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  29. I can't tell you how much your blog posts have meant to me over the years. Truly, they have helped form some of my more substantial parenting ideals. I had a fabulous mother, but I've never had conversations like this with her where she shares her opinions on things like this. Please don't ever stop blogging. :) I know it's hard to maintain, but yours is one of the rare voices out there that proclaim messages like this. And amidst all the voices out there, I'm clinging to ones like yours.

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  30. And this, Sarah, is why I love your blog! Maybe you could do an interview with your paediatrician for the blog so we can all gain his wisdom??

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  31. Love this and so true! So glad my children are 20 and 23. Nintendo DS was the big thing when they were young and lots of kids did NOT have them, They borrowed from each other. My boys constantly talk about the things they did outside, from fishing to "playing war" with big groups of friends. Eloquent and kind, I believe it shaped their lives. I feel bad that so many children and teens today dont make eye contact when they speak to you. My boys were 4 years old and shaking hands when they met adults, Makes me slightly worried for what the world like be like for their children in years to come.
    Parenting is not easy, nor is it supposed to be. All really important things are hard but worth it.

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    1. Shellie, I feel the same way. My boys are 18 and 20 and I think it would be so much harder these days when everyone has something electronic and there's such an emphasis placed on them.

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    2. Sarah, I love your blog and am so glad you're writing again. My boys are the same age as Isaac and Abby and I wish there were blogs back then so I could have had your insight back when they were small. You have so much wisdom and are such an inspiration to us moms :)

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  32. Hi Sarah, I am an early years teacher and am in my 28th year on the job and I discuss the very same issues among my colleagues. I truly wish we could spread this message to today's parents about the damage social media is doing to our kids and to politicians about the pressure the current curriculum is putting on our kids in Australia, whereby they fail in Prep and Year One. I am so glad my own children grew up before these issues became such a problem.

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  33. Dear Sarah,
    I want to thank you for writing again too. I am a mom of three kids, as well as a teacher, and in the years I have been teaching (25) I am feeling increasingly disheartened by the way children, as well as their parents have changed. Many say it is a sign of our times and to get use to it and go with it but I am concerned about technology in general and the effect it is having on our children-they are required to be so "plugged in" throughout most of their school day and then they go home and "plug in" some more with social media. I often comment on the fact that 10 to 20 years from now we are going to see the negative effects all of this has had on our children-effects we are already seeing, but which will be magnified more so by then. And don't get me started about the pressure we are putting on our children to constantly be going and doing, and participating, instead of just "being". I just want life in general to just "slow down".This summer we lost three amazing young people to tragic deaths-two the result of suicide and my heart just hurts for kids-really,really hurts for our kids. Thank you for sharing you wisdom and experience with us all. We need your words during these times..

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  34. Love this post!! Will be sharing. Please consider doing more!

    I am have the beautiful pleasure of being close to my aunt. She's in her late 70s... and a retired school teacher.

    She is such a wealth of information and a support as I navigate parenting. (I am sure she'd agree to be interviewed/answer questions!)

    Thanks for being an inspiration to me... I've followed you and learned so much from you.

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