Alpha Mom » Kristen Chase parenting and pregnancy opinions and information Thu, 13 Aug 2015 17:13:27 +0000 en-US hourly 1 3 Simple Tips For Getting Your Summer Parenting Groove Back Thu, 06 Aug 2015 13:38:11 +0000

Summer is supposed to be fun! And awesome! Except I’m a single mom with four kids juggling a full-time job, and well, FOUR KIDS, so the word fun isn’t exactly what I’d use to describe these hot, school-free months.

It’s not like I let the whole thing go to chance or anything, because I live and die by my schedule. But even with a sitter in the morning, day camp here and there for my son, and a sleep-away camp for my oldest, I found myself scrambling, frustrated by only a few hours of actual uninterrupted work time, then feeling claustrophobic surrounded by any number of bickering kids at one time or another.

Add in the screen-time guilt, the heat, the lack of exercise because no-kid time is strictly reserved for bill-paying and not butt-shrinking work and it has not been pretty.

But when things generally go all perfect storm on me, I find that creating rules and boundaries really help, especially since I need to survive another entire month of summer. Here, 3 simple things I did (and learned) that have changed my summer completely.

1. Budget your time wisely

If you’ve only got a limited amount of time sans kids whether it’s because of camp, a babysitter, or a very smartly planned playdate, my advice is take complete advantage of that time. That means only do the things that you ABSOLUTELY cannot do with your kids around during that time. As much as I’d like to sit and catch up on news, flip through Facebook, or do laundry, I know that I can do all of those things either in the evening after they’re in bed, or with them awake and playing around the house.

So, for those few precious hours, I schedule calls, write blog posts and columns, and run any sort of errand that would be incredibly painful with kids. I’ve learned, for example, that I can check email, even do some social media for my job, with the kids around. This might actually take you a little time to figure out, but once you do, trust me, you’ll find you’re getting way more done, and even better, with your sanity in tact.

2. Plan things for the kids to do. And, you too.

As much as I’d love to leave my kids’ activity level to chance, that’s really not great for my sanity because they just aren’t very good at it. And honestly, when they do, it’s usually something that involves gigantic messes that take way too long to clean up. That means, I’ve prepared for the week with a bunch of fun crafts, cool activities, and playground outings, all of which I’ve put on the calendar so that the kids know what to expect and I do too. This includes playdates. Say “yes” to playdates.

This also means building in time for yourself too, whether it’s getting a sitter in the evening so you can go out for some quiet time, scheduling a girl’s night out, don’t forget about yourself.

3. Make screen-time rules

My kids are constantly asking for screen time, and so I decided that instead of telling them “no” or “later” or arguing with them about it, I would just create specific rules so they would know what to expect (and I would know when I’d get a little bit of quiet time). For me, it works well to let them play first thing in the morning because they wake up so darn early, though they do need to complete their chores, eat breakfast, and get dressed before they do. Then, they’re given another time in the late afternoon while I cook dinner. That’s it. Once I established this as the routine, the nagging completely stopped. Well, mostly anyway.

And hey, it’s important to be able to let certain things go too. For me, I’ve pretty much resigned myself to picking up exercise and fitness in the fall when I’ll have more time. Whatever it is, know that you might need to let a few things slide until you’ve got more time back.

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How To Deal With Your Child’s Sadness, Anger, And Other Tough Feelings Mon, 20 Jul 2015 04:35:05 +0000

There are lots of things I never knew about being a parent.

How much I’d struggle to get my kid to sleep, and then stay asleep, at least, without me physically holding them or being within two inches of them. How their eating could take up so much of my daily bandwidth. Seriously, who hates watermelon?

And how hard it is to see them ill, even if it’s just the sniffles from a cold. A sick child is my kryptonite. I think that’s pretty much universal for all parents.

But their feelings, well, I think that’s been the hardest of all.

At some point in their little life, you realize that you’re not parenting robots. It comes earlier for some parents than others, like when you figure out that you just can’t grab an operations manual to figure out why your 3-month old refuses to nap. Or screams through a mommy and me music class looking like they are being held against their will.

They’re humans, not droids, which is ultimately awesome, but terribly challenging when you too are human with your own set of emotions, many of which are directly tied to how your own offsprings’ emotions and yeah, that’s just a whole lot of feelings.

If you’ve lived for any time on this earth, no matter what your experience was with your own parents, you know that feelings are hard, especially the negative ones, like sadness, anger and fear. And if you never learned how to deal with those feelings yourself, well, experiencing them second hand when your kids inevitably have them just makes things extremely complicated.

I was taught to avoid most of the negative feelings because if I had them — the sadness, the anger, the fear — I was punished or yelled at. Nothing really good ever came of them, and so I just avoided them all together, never learned how to properly manage them.

I coped by not allowing myself to experience them. That meant ensuring I was never in a situation where that happened. And if I was, well, I’d just ignore them, or remove myself from them. Not surprisingly, I could fly off the handle in a pretty massive and destructive way.

And when it came to happy feelings, I was scared to let myself have them for fear that they would somehow be ruined.

So now we all have kids and we’re not just still learning to navigate our own feelings (not just me, right?) but we’re learning to navigate our kids’ feelings too, and if having our own level of anger, fear, and sadness is tough, the experience of watching our kids go through it is probably that much harder.

It’s no wonder my own parents and so many of our parents didn’t help us deal with our own. Watching your child feel sadness about losing a game, or allowing them to be angry at you for throwing away their favorite macaroni necklace creation is not easy.

And so we brush it aside and we tell them “Cheer up!” and we punish them for being pissed off because it’s uncomfortable. Sometimes even painful. Especially when they’re angry at you.

But I’m telling you right now that you’re doing your child a great disservice by not allowing them to have those feelings. By not giving them the safe place, a veritable container in which to just have them, you’re telling them that those feelings are not okay.

And you’re not giving them any help in knowing what the heck to do with them because those feelings will happen. They will be sad and angry and disappointed. Sometimes even with you.
So here’s what you can do instead:

1. Acknowledge the feelings. Give them the words that they can’t yet come up with on your own, like:

“That must have been so frustrating to lose that game by just one point!”

“I would be sad about my friend moving away too.”

This applies to if they’re mad at you too. 

“I totally get that you’re mad at me right now. I probably would feel that way too.”


2. If they’re lashing out at you, tell them what’s cool and what’s not. 

“Saying ‘I HATE YOU’ doesn’t help solve the problem. You can be angry at me, but you need to tell me what you’re angry about.”

“I hear that you’re really upset with me. When you’re ready to talk about it with me, come back and we’ll figure it out.”

And if they’re just lashing out in general, same rules apply. 

“I know you’re really angry about having to do homework but throwing your books is not cool. Go take a breather in your room and then come talk to me when you’re ready.”


3. Admit when you’re wrong. And apologize. Model the behavior you want to see if your kids.

“I got really upset with you and I’m sorry.”

“I was having a bad day and I let it get the better of me. I apologize.”

If it was someone else that was wrong, help them process and problem solve. 

“It’s a bummer when someone is mean to you at school. What can you do next time?”

You’ll be amazed at how effective just simply acknowledging the feelings and your own humanity (theirs too) can be, not just in the moment itself and a few minutes (or hours) later. But as they get older and are going to have to deal with these feelings on a regular basis.

The message for our kids needs to be that they will be sad and angry. They’ll be happy too! This wonderful life is full of lots of different feelings. And lucky them. They’ve got parents who are ready and able to listen and provide them with a safe place to experience those feelings. And to show them how to cope.



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I Am Moved Fri, 03 Jul 2015 15:56:12 +0000

I moved this past weekend.

Or really, past couple of weeks. My idea of starting my new lease two weeks before my old one ended was really a brilliant idea pat pat but that also meant two weeks of transporting and cleaning and unpacking and that’s not generally the way I work.

Let’s just say I wrote my Master’s thesis in one extremely long 12-hour day.

But it’s done. Well, mostly anyway, because there are four kids involved in a smaller but way cooler space.

I was pretty emotional leaving my old home, not necessarily because I’d miss the actual house. As outdated as it was, and sort of more like a box to me than a home, it served me well during what was an extremely difficult transition in my life.

And so, saying good-bye to it felt a lot like saying good-bye to a couple of the most challenging years. Challenging, heartwrenching, but yes, still pretty awesome years.

My kids grew up.

Bridget ditched baby bottles and diapers in that house. That is also why I ditched her mattress before I moved.

Margot came into her own, stepping out from behind the shadow of her older siblings and establishing her spot as a big thinker and innovator in her kindergarten class, award and all.

Drew learned how to rollerblade, which led him to one of his favorite things ever: Ice hockey.

And Quinlan masterfully turned what was an extremely difficult 4th grade year into showing her 5th grade year who was boss.

But it wasn’t just the kids that grew up. I did too.

I learned how to survive as a single mom, to ask for help when I need it, to be thankful for every single thing that I have. I learned what it was like to have my heart broken, then to put myself first for once and figure out what it is that I want — in my work and my personal life.

It’s fitting that I’ve moved into a place that feels like me. Like home, even though I just got there a few days ago.

Because I’m finally feeling like me, too.

I’d be lying if I didn’t say that I wish this current me was a few pounds lighter (or like ten) and a few many hundred hours more well rested.

I could do with a lot less stress too.

But I’m in a really good place right now. And for that, I am grateful.

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On Becoming The Yes Mom Tue, 23 Jun 2015 17:49:58 +0000

When certain things in my life felt like they were out of control, my anxiety would generally get the better of me and I’d find myself trying to get it back by at the expense of my kids.

That meant a whole lot of the word “no.”

No eating in the living room.

No, you cannot stay up late.

No glitter. Just no.

It felt good at the time, albeit momentarily, the act of sublimating my desire to say “no” or “stop it” or “cut it the hell out,” which wasn’t really meant for my kids but for other people in my life with whom I felt completely powerless.

But in doing so, in saying “no” to my kids, I didn’t really get any of the control back that I actually wanted.

Things just got more out of control.

And I just ended up feeling like crap.

So I decided to rethink this whole approach to my own feelings and to what was becoming a crappy parenting technique, because the power I so desperately want, the control that I want to gain back, well, that’s just not going to happen, at least when it comes to certain people because they’re people.

And I’m just not the boss of them.

I’m also not really the boss of my kids, either. They’re people too, small people and inexperienced in this world, but people with feelings and emotions nonetheless.

The only thing I’m really the boss of in my life are my own feelings and how I react to and interact with others. That means with other people, but to me, most importantly right now, my children.

I can allow myself to express my frustration — on the treadmill, in the quiet of my room, in my car alone where no one can hear me scream or see me cry — and then use it towards teaching moments with my kids.

“The last time you ate in the living room, you left your food on the coffee table. Will you remember to clean it up this time?”

“When you stayed up late last time, you were really grouchy. I think weekends are better for that.”

I will probably still always say no to glitter. And riding their bike in the middle of the street.

I have not suddenly become a pushover. They’re not eating four extra desserts or running loose in Target. Mostly, anyway.

On the contrary, I’m expressing the need for some sense of control and power in my life in a positive way. Quite frankly, the effort that it takes to say “Yes” or “Maybe, let’s figure this out” and having a meaningful discussion and exchange with my kids is less than it takes to say “No!” and then deal with the fallout. The tantrums. The anger. The apologies. Mine and theirs.

And they learn nothing from having their requests, their own feelings, their needs shut down without acknowledgement or explanation other than not to share them in the first place. Be seen, not heard. 

So I’m doing my best to be a Yes Mom. Because my kids deserve that. And the peace of mind, well, I deserve that too.

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Single Mom Dating: Skipping to the Hard Stuff Thu, 11 Jun 2015 13:31:38 +0000

I used to really love first dates.

There was something so optimistic about that encounter with someone new, the idea of starting fresh with no mistakes in it exciting.

I was good at them too, what I lacked in cleavage I made up for in legs, brain, wit, and charm. It was almost like a game for me. To win them over.

And I did.

But then I didn’t know what to do with the next part, which is why I found myself in a series of pretty crappy relationships that weren’t built on anything but lust and conquest. A couple of those lasted way longer than they should have.

Intimacy and vulnerability are scary things, more so when the only significant relationships you had in your life were lacking them, they’re to be avoided at all costs.

This realization didn’t happen overnight, of course, because if it had, I’m pretty sure it would have saved me a whole lot of heartache. And honestly, a lot of heartache for other people too.

Now that I know what I want, now that I understand what’s involved in making a long term relationship actually work, I’m starting to hate the idea of first dates. When before they were invigorating, now the idea of them sounds dreadful.

On the contrary, I’m looking forward to all the stuff that happens after the connection, the dinners, the coffees. The friendship with someone you love. The love with someone who’s your friend.

The stuff that’s sometimes not so pretty. The stuff I tried so desperately to avoid.

I do realize that in order to get to the next level with someone, I’m probably going to have to go on a first date. Oh the irony. And I know, I know. It can be fun to get snazzed up and go out with people and have dinner and drinks.

But when you know the end result, when you can see it so clearly, it’s just hard to have to do all meeting and flirting and side eye glances. The retelling of my story and how I got to where I am (the marriages, the kids, yes, they’re all mine).

Especially since my time and, let’s be honest here, my energy just isn’t what it used to be.

If anything, knowing now what I want and what I can have has made me pickier.

And hopeful.

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We’ve Got Each Other. And That’s All That Really Matters. Tue, 26 May 2015 13:22:06 +0000

So a few weeks ago, I found out that I am going to have to move. Well, unless I wanted to purchase the home I’m currently living in, which while has served me well and I was hoping would serve me well for a couple more years, isn’t something I want to actually own.

I’m perfectly happy renting a home, mostly anyway, which is something that seems to baffle most people, at least in the suburbs. I realize that real estate agents make no money off of finding someone a rental home, and it’s their job to at least ask if I want to buy a home, but after awhile, the question gets old.

But it’s hard to get the “why don’t you buy a house?” question, coupled with the guilt I’m feeling for having to move my kids, especially that it will involve a new school, even though we’re going literally 2 miles down the road (yes, I counted).

I am single, and I like the idea of just calling someone to fix things. Also, the idea of home ownership scares me, especially after having to pay someone a lot of money to take my home in Atlanta.

And so, renting it is for me right now, and perhaps for a long time, which also means there’s the chance I will have to move.

Hence the position I find myself in.

As you might guess, I tried, desperately, to find an option that kept my kids at their same school, then another option that would keep my oldest at the same school (if I could find a place that fed into the same middle school).

But where I picked to live isn’t much of a rental community, and so, after weeks of losing sleep and probably more hair than I already was (yay hormones!), I found a wonderful place that’s considered more “in-town.” We can walk to shops, restaurants, the library, you get the idea. And the new schools are just a hop, skip, and short bike ride away.

I’m finally excited. I think.

I’ve spent the two years since I moved trying to create a stable environment for my kids in a time that was incredibly unstable, and so, the hardest part of all this is not the inconvenience, the money involved, or any of that, but rather, the shift for my kids who have come to be in a good place in their lives.

I’ve also come to be in a good place too.

And then I’m reminded, by friends, dear sweet friends, that it wasn’t the house that did that. It was the family of five we’ve created, the routines and rituals, the traditions we now share, that brought us to the place we’re in.

I love my life and a day doesn’t go by that I don’t feel thankful for what life has afforded me, so much good — some given, lots earned — that this is really just a small blip in our lives.

It will be hard and there will be bumps, but we’ve got each other. And as cliche’ as that might sound, it is all that really matters.

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Single Mom: Family of Choice Thu, 30 Apr 2015 21:25:24 +0000

I got some tough news last week, which combined with taxes and a lost voice sent me a little bit over the edge.

(We’re all healthy and fine, thanks for asking, and, yes, I know it’s all relative, but it was, well, tough for me).

“I’m fragile right now,” I told my friend. And I was. One little push, heck, nudge even, and I felt like I might break into a bunch of pieces.

I am a worrier by nature, thinking through every possible outcome to most situations, jumping to the worst first, then slowly pedaling backwards. I act first, then think later, which can be as awesome as it is maddening.

To make matters worse, I tackle things alone out of habit, my ability to navigate what I can ask for of my friends (who I consider my family) skewed by a belief that strength comes from independence.

When you’ve never really felt like you’ve had a village, it’s hard to call upon one when you actually do.

But when you do, well, it’s clear why that saying is a saying after all.

I am fortunate, dare I even say blessed, to have people in my life, most of whom I work with on a daily basis, who get me out of my head, who snatch me out of the sky like a balloon floating up to space, and hold onto me when I can’t hold onto myself.

They’re the ones who think everything through before they act, which in some cases, like this, is more awesome than maddening.

They can tell you cliche’ things like “Maybe this is the universe guiding you in a different direction,” and you will listen to them. Mostly. At least after you say “Did you really just say that to me?”

They remind you, by texting “Everything okay?” at just the right time, by taking your kids when you need a little break from the high-pitched “MOMMY LOOK AT THIS!,” by telling you in an eery yet reassuring Godfather style that they will not let anything happen to you, that everything will be alright.

And you believe them. Your village. My village.

So much of what my life is right now is not at all how I imagined it. I coped with my sadness by creating a fantasy world, where alcoholic fathers apologized for what they had done to you before they died, and detached mothers suddenly scooped you up and saved you like you always wished they had.

Where husbands… well, you get the idea.

And so, instead of embracing my reality, my village, I just did it all on my own.

The truth is that my dad is dead. My mom is too busy saving herself to worry about saving me. And I’m not married anymore for a reason.

But I have an amazing family with whom I am not related to by blood. We’re related to each other by love and acceptance. By the ability to say what you feel and know you’re not going to get your head bitten off. To ask for help when you need it and know that they will do whatever they can to make it happen.

I understand now that these people are more than my friends.

They are my family. They are my family. They are my family.

And I will say it over and over and over again until it sets in.

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Finding Your Voice Tue, 14 Apr 2015 13:38:28 +0000

I have no voice.

Like I literally have no voice.

This happens to me about once a year, sometimes twice, usually in tandem with a bad cold, and for a few days I’m left sounding like cross between Bonnie Raitt and a seal.

It’s just as awful as it sounds. (The seal part, not Bonnie Raitt. When it’s just Bonnie Raitt I get asked to create peoples’ voice mail messages for them).

Losing your voice is pretty inconvenient for anyone, but wrangling four kids on semi-permanent silent mode? Well, that’s just downright cruel.

At least I thought it was until I realized that there’s really nothing I can do, and when you realize that you can only gesture, write things (haha, that’s hilarious, especially with two kids who can’t read), or what I’m doing, speak very minimally and quietly (though not whispering, promise), well, you find your life becomes a whole lot calmer, not to mention, quieter.

I can have my yelling moments, like any parent I suppose, so being forced to walk to your kids to speak with them, or requiring them to come to you — with a whistle or a snap — has been, well, eye-opening. As you might guess, having to do this has slowed me down significantly. There’s no yelling for someone upstairs, while running down the stairs to tend to someone else because no one can hear me. It’s been a lot of one-on-one conversations, a lot of face-to-face interactions, and well, I really like it.

Of course on the flip side, I’m really hard to understand on a work call, which is only made worse when it’s a conference call with ten people. I loathe those anyway so to not be able to do anything but squawk, and then have to repeat myself because only about three people could hear me at such a low decibel gets pretty frustrating.

And I have a completely silent laugh that almost hurts when it happens. Without laughter and the joking and the singing at the top of my lungs, I’m just, well, not myself.

These blips of time when I’m rendered silent don’t last very long. And I try not to be the one to read into every situation, every happening like it’s completely full of life meaning. Sometimes you just lose your phone for the entire day or you burn your finger or you just lose your voice because you have a cold-slash-allergies-slash-tax-week.

But I’m also one to take notice when stuff like this happens, at what’s going on around me, in my life, in the life of my kids, and I do take a step back to ponder and meditate, not because I believe that something needs to be resolved, per se’, in order for me to get my voice back. But considering how I tend to see physical symptoms of what’s going on with me emotionally, it’s probably a smart move to slow down and figure out what all this quiet really means in my life right now.




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Dear Former Self, Welcome Back. Tue, 24 Mar 2015 21:23:48 +0000

With my kids with their dad this past weekend, I spent some time with my single-no-kids friend and did all sorts of single-no-kids things.

Remember those?

We wandered aimlessly around New York City, then finally stopped for brunch around 2:30pm.

Yes, my first meal of the day was at 2:30pm.

We sat and ate and talked and ate some more. Absolutely no agenda. No plan. No list or responsibilities or obligations.

I still remember feeling so lost when I had my first child, mourning the loss of my former self, wishing and hoping there would be a time when she would be able to make an appearance again.

It’s not something people talk about because there’s a cute baby in the picture and you’re a parent now and well, you just have to suck up the mesh underwear and the lack of sleep and the cling-on attached to your boob.

I liked my work-filled days, 15-17 hours of them sometimes, my microwaved dinners, and impromptu trips to Paris or Japan. I didn’t like rocking a baby to sleep for 3-hours or wearing her on my body non-stop so I could just get a little peace and quiet.

I didn’t necessarily have some sort of “THIS IS GOING TO BE AWESOME!” expectation when I got pregnant, but I didn’t realize how much I would feel like a stranger in my own body and head.

I was a shell of my former self.

But she –me– has made a comeback, of sorts, with my kids no longer in diapers, all of them able to sleep (mostly), my hands the only body part involved in feeding them. I can crack jokes and poke fun and belt show tunes in my Ethel Merman voice, now for an underage audience who sometimes requires butt-wiping assistance.

I am feeling like Kristen, that Kristen, just now with four kids.

Yes, some of this is a product of divorce and having weekends where I don’t have my children with me so I can. But I think a lot of it is just my kids getting older, their needs changing and thus, my role changing.

Or maybe it’s me finally giving myself permission to be a little selfish.

I don’t know what it was that made me think that gaining a child meant losing myself, but I know that I’m not alone in that line of thought. I envy the women, as criticized as they often are, who keep some semblance of themselves after they have children.

If I could whisper in my own ear ten years ago:

Keep working. Get a babysitter. Find a hobby. Go on date nights. Ask for help. 

And be as much of yourself as you can muster. 

As wonderful as it might seem for you to be the mom you think you should be, your kids need the you that you actually are.

You might not be able to work 15-17 hour days, or take impromptu trips to far-off destinations. But that passion. That spontaneity. 

That’s what makes you their mother. Let them see that person. 

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Thoughts on the Underscheduled Child Wed, 18 Mar 2015 15:06:54 +0000

I’m not sure how I’ve avoided the siren call of extracurricular activities for so long.

Perhaps it’s that my ears have been plugged with memories of my own overscheduled past. Karate, drama, violin, ballet, tennis. Every week day schlepped, albeit happily, to something else.

Or the fear of my plate overflowing, as I’m just barely managing my son’s once weekly hockey practices and games.

And art therapy.

Though, I’m not sure I would count therapy as an activity because then it would be a whole helluva lot cheaper. But hey, there is art involved.

Whatever the cause, the result is that my kids come home from school, do their homework and then play or read or create gigantic messes with glue and cut paper. They hover over gadgets and watch television too. Sometimes at the same time.

I don’t think about it much until the change of seasons, when kids in the neighborhood pack up early for playdates of soccer or softball, ballet lessons or gymnastics and mine are left, again, to their own devices.

Literally and figuratively.

There’s certainly never a dull moment in my home, with Lego castles in constant construction mode and Beanie Boo cardboard communes taking over half the playroom. My oldest is an amazing artist and writer, who’s always creating something, whether it’s a Manga book or kid’s wine out of red food coloring and water.

But now with my younger girls getting older, I think it’s fair they be offered the opportunity to try something beyond chalk drawing on the driveway and scooter races.

It’s not for lack of trying, mind you. I’ve signed them up for ballet and gymnastics. There were violin and piano lessons. Baseball and soccer. They all did plenty of camps last summer. Just ask my bank account.

But nothing ever seemed to grab and hold their interest.

And honestly, I was sick of the managing and scheduling and driving, even in small doses.

When I look back at my own experience as a kid, I realize now that the activities game me a good life, a better life than I had at home. They were my savior from what was a sad, difficult childhood. They gave me the reassurance, the praise, the support, the outlet that I was missing from my family.

I actually think it was healthier for me to be dancing for 8 hours a day or playing in an orchestra all weekend long than being at home with my parents.

But my kids, well, they’re content. Happy.

I’ll always continue to offer them the chance to try something new. I might even give them a little nudge in a one direction or another if I think they might thrive in it. And I’m more than happy to encourage them in whatever it is they might choose.

But maybe for now, at least, they’re getting what they need inside their home.


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