children

The Strong-Willed Child

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My sweet little Claire is wonderful. Claire is kind, loving, intelligent, and as stubborn as a mule. At three years old, Claire is showing that she is her own person and will do what she wants, when she wants. This would be fine if Claire was 25 years old and living in her own place. However, at 3 years old and in my house, this isn’t going to fly.

It is quite amazing to see how strong-willed this little girl is. No matter if it’s what clothes she wants to wear, when she wants to eat, or whether playtime is over, Claire lets you know her desires without any hesitation. I find myself, at moments, wondering where the line should be drawn between letting her be this strong-willed, little person and needing to “break her in”.

I’ve been reading about strong-willed kids and the positive side is that, while early on they can be tough, they will grow to become great teenagers, capable of holding on to their integrity and not easily peer-pressured. This comes as great news to this father.

Here are a few things I’ve discovered so far about parenting a strong-willed child:

  1. Choices are essential: Early on I learned that asking Claire what she wanted was the wrong question to ask. Strong-willed kids want to be in charge of their choices, so if you ask them what they want, they will tell you without hesitation. The problem comes when their response isn’t an option you are willing to accept. I now word my questions like so: “Claire, which of these three outfits do you want to wear?” I have preselected the three outfits so I can live with whatever choice she makes. It is a win-win for both of us. This has been huge in dealing with food, clothes, and activities.
  2. “I wanna do it myself!”: This comes out of my daughter’s mouth anytime there is anything to be learned, experienced, or explored. Claire is not okay with mom or dad telling her that getting too close to the fireplace could burn her. Claire wants to feel the heat on her skin and see why she shouldn’t get that close. I’ve realized that Claire learns better when she can experience what we are talking about. I guess this can be applied to most people; however, there is a clear need for Claire to understand things by “doing it her self.” As long as there is a safe way for this to happen, it is worth doing.
  3. Raising my voice is pointless: This is really hard for me. My personality is pessimistic by nature, so when my daughter does something I disapprove of, it shows. I naturally raise my voice to confront Claire when she is doing something wrong and this causes her to become defensive. My wife constantly reminds me that a calm, cool voice will go a long way when disciplining. When I am able to listen to my wife’s wisdom, Claire is willing to listen as well.
  4. Strong, yet gentle leadership: We hear from counselors, psychologists, and all kinds of experts that children need discipline and guidance. Yet, the strong-willed child wants to be the master of his or her own destiny. As parents, we need to have just the right balance of strength and gentleness when leading these kids. I wrote a post a while ago about the strength of men. I think this post explains that balance well.
  5. Expect it to be challenging: Parenting in general is hard. When my daughter asserts her strong will it shouldn’t come as a surprise. I know that my daughter is going to want to do it her way. I know my daughter will want to question or challenge what I say. Therefore, I’ve learned we must be preemptive with strong-willed children. Think about what your child might do or say when you tell them it’s time to eat, or take a bath, or put toys away. When I expect my daughter to do it “my way” and it doesn’t work out I have myself to blame.

So, there you go. This is just some of what I have observed/learned so far. Nothing terribly complicated, but it’s so much easier said than done. Maybe our next kid will be willing to accept a simple, “because I said so.”

Categories: children, dads, daughters, fatherhood, Parenting, Strong-willed kids, Uncategorized | Tags: , , , | Leave a comment

S-p-e-l-l-I-t-O-u-t

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Me: “Hey hun, do you want some i-c-e-c-r-e-a-m after Claire goes down?”

Wife: “Sure. Do we have v-a-n-i-l-l-a or c-h-o-c-o-l-a-t-e?”

This has become the way we communicate in our household when we are referring to certain sensitive subjects that could cause our 3 year old to scream, fight taking a bath, or not go to bed. Sensitive subjects can be things such as, but not limited to: food, going outside, visiting grandparents, pizza, all forms of candy or what is perceived as candy, television, and Dora the Explorer.

By the way, I never realized how terrible of a speller I am.

I have experienced parents spelling words out in front of their kids before. I thought it was weird, but now I truly see how essential it is to home dynamics. For example: I can’t say the word, ‘grandma’ without Claire going nuts because she things were going to see one of them. “No sweetie, I just said her name. Grandma isn’t coming today.” This statement is usually followed by puzzled looks, an incoherent, frustrated sounding sentence and finally; capped off with angry screaming because I “took grandma away.” Needless to say the ‘G’ word is spelled out in our home.

I’m not sure what my daughter is thinking when she hears us spelling things out in front of her. Claire is a pretty smart kid and I think she is catching on. When I spell words out you can see her face look a bit more focused, almost as if she were visualizing the letters in her head and putting them in order. Since Claire has her mother’s brain I’m sure we only have another 4 months before spelling things out wont work anymore.

Say a prayer for us.

Categories: Catholic, children, fatherhood, fathers, home and family, language, Uncategorized | Tags: , , , , , | Leave a comment

The Gorilla and the Boy

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Social media has been blowing up about what happened this past week in the Cincinnati Zoo. If you haven’t heard, a 3-year old boy fell into the silverback gorilla enclosure and was greeted by a 450lbs male named Harambe, The gorilla dragged the little boy several times across the water filled part of the enclosure. After several intense minutes the zoos special team for these types of situation shot and killed Harambe. Here is a link to the video footage that shows what happened.

Before I watched the video I heard of the incident and my natural reaction was to think that killing the gorilla to save the child was a no brainer. News and social media continued to cover this incident. I kept asking myself, why are people still talking about this? Finally after the constant media coverage I began to read what some folks were saying and I am sad to say that my hope for humanity keeps taking detrimental blows.

Human life is sacred

The line above was once a “no brainer”. No one would question the sanctity of human life, but unfortunately that isn’t the case anymore. I find that as a people we are forgetting that we are sacred. Maybe it is easy to forget this sacredness because we are so good at desecrating it with our numerous questionable behaviors and choices (aka sin). However, no matter how much we mess up and fall into sin there is an inherit goodness to you and I that cannot be destroyed. We can smear it up pretty good, but you and I will always be sacred. Always. That sacredness is given to us by being made in the image and likeness of God. Whether you are religious or not we can all rationally see that humans are different, set apart even. That difference is what helps us to recognize that a 3-year-old boy is worth saving over an endangered silverback gorilla.

It’s a slow fade

I was talking to a friend about this whole thing and he said, “Are you really surprised that people are valuing the gorilla’s life over the boy?” Unfortunately, the answer was ‘no’. There is a line in a song by the band Casting Crowns that says, “It’s a slow fade, when you give yourself away.” The song suggests that we don’t simply one day out of nowhere choose to do something bad, immoral, etc. We make smaller choices that are not necessarily immoral, but nonetheless carry moral weight that will affect future choices. Hence when the time comes and there is a situation that requires a moral response, that “slow fade” has deteriorated our ability to choose the good.

I think the lyrics above apply to our societies “slow fade” in recognizing what is good, sacred and beautiful. This “slow fade” didn’t just occur over night, it has been slowly eroding our understanding of sacredness. Whether it is drugs, alcohol, porn, abortion, affairs, questioning “sexual identity” etc. all of it has and continues to eat away at the soul of or culture. As a people we have forgotten our dignity, and when you forget that human beings have dignity, well…we can start to question whether one boys life is worth losing an endangered species over.

My thoughts as a father

As a father it pains me to see that people have gone as far as to say that letting the boy die would have been “acceptable” to preserve the endangered animal. This is crazy. Maybe these people are not parents. That could be it. Whether it was the boy’s fault, his parent’s fault—that doesn’t matter. The boy’s life is, was, and will always be more valuable than the gorilla—even if this was the last silverback on the planet. Thankfully the zoo recognized that killing the gorilla was the right thing to do. The news has quoted zoo officials saying over and over again that they made the right call, and would do it again. That is a bold statement coming from the people who have dedicated their lives to the care and preservation of these animals. Maybe these zoo officials get it. Maybe their time with these majestic gorillas has helped them to distinguish that although they are incredibly beautiful, a 3-year-old boy is inherently more wonderful, more majestic and more valuable because he is human.

Thank God some people still recognize this.

Categories: Catholic, children, dignity, fatherhood, human dignity, sacred, sacredness of human life, Uncategorized | Tags: , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

The TV Conundrum

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I usually get home around 6pm after picking up my daughter from preschool or the babysitters. Claire and I usually arrive home ravenous. Well…I am mostly ravenous. Claire gets a snack right before I pick her up. Lucky.

As soon as we walk into the house Claire clearly wants to chill out after being stimulated all day at school. I want to chill as well but I need to feed the dog, stupid cat and get dinner going before my beautiful bride gets home. In the craziness of this getting-home-transition I find that sitting Claire in front of the TV for an episode or two of Dora, Wonder Pets, or Caillou is absolutely essential to my sanity.

I really struggle with this.

Long before Claire came around I read that TV exposure at a young age wasn’t a good idea. “Make sure your child is older than 2” I heard from different sources as the “allowable” TV viewing age. Although Claire is 3 years old I still feel guilty for popping her in front of the TV for 30-45 minutes of uninterrupted time. The worst part is watching Claire as she sits glued to the TV screen. Claire goes into this sort of coma/stupor that can only be broken by pausing the show, or standing directly in front of her. Its really creepy how sucked in she gets.

My wife and I have tried getting her to read, or go to her room and play with toys, but that usually last for 5 minutes and then she wants us to play with her or take her outside. I have tried getting her to help me with making dinner, which works for about 5 minutes, and then she complains that she wants to do something else. The only thing that I have found to keep her focus for at least 30 minutes is TV. I feel pretty selfish doing this but honestly I need that window of time to make those essential things like eating dinner a reality.

Claire watching TV has now become a daily routine and I don’t like it at all. Anyone have any suggestions that could get me those 30 – 45 minutes needed for dinner, etc? This dad could use all the help he can get.

Categories: children, dads, fatherhood, healthy living, home and family, kids and television, television, Uncategorized | Tags: , , , , , , , | 4 Comments

Pretty Flowers

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This year the outdoor project our family wanted to tackle was rebuilding the flowerbeds we inherited when we bought the house 3 years ago. These flowerbeds were pretty terrible. Weeds reigned without consequences. The landscape beams that were supposed to contain the flowers were rotted out. Needless to say, the flowerbeds were an eyesore.

A few weeks ago I was able to rebuild the flowerbeds and weed the one up against the front of the house. I planted some new flowers to spruce up the curb appeal. Since doing this I have been able to better distinguish between weeds and other flowers. Some weeds have pretty flowers on them, which is probably confusing for most people. It is for me.

I have told my daughter that there are some pretty yellow and orange flowers that will be coming soon. Claire is very excited for pretty flowers to come. As Claire and I walk by the flowerbeds when we leave the house I look to see how the flowers are doing. Claire will excitedly look as well to see if her pretty flowers are ready. “Are they ready Papi?” Claire asks excitedly. “No baby, not yet.”

On one particular occasion I noticed a few dandelions. I must have made some irritated gestures and sounds because Claire could tell I wasn’t pleased. I walked over to the dandelions and ripped them out of the ground and threw them against the fence. Claire was confused and said, “Papi, no! Those are pretty flowers you made for me!” I looked at the dandelions and back at Claire. “No baby, those are weeds, not flowers.” Claire was not pleased with my response and began to lecture me with a stern voice: “You no do that papi, ok! Those are my pretty flowers!” I wanted to laugh out loud, but thought that it would only make her more upset. Claire went towards the fence and picked up the beaten dandelions. As she straightened up my little girls’ sweet and gentle voice returned, “See Papi they are pretty flowers.”

I wish I could see the world the way my daughter does. What a difference it would make.

 

 

 

Categories: children, children's perspective, daughters, fatherhood, fathers, home improvements, landscaping, Parenting, perspective, Uncategorized | Tags: , , , , , , | 1 Comment

Let Them See

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Claire watching me shovel our neighbors house

Snowmaggedon 2016 has come and gone and we have survived. We have shoveled our way out of 20+ inches of snow, which depending where you are in the world may be laughable. Here in the good ole state of Virginia, 5 inches is enough to shut us down for a while; 20+ inches set a new record and may possibly have us stuck in our neighborhoods for a week.

From Friday afternoon to right about at 2:30pm this afternoon we were buried in. Our back deck had snow coming up to the window. Our dog that loves to run in snow wouldn’t go out because he needed to take a running leap to clear the 20+inch wall of snow that had collected against the French doors. Apparently relieving your bowls isn’t really worth all that trouble.

My daughter was super exited to see snow. For whatever reason, she was also excited by the fact that “Papi” was going outside to shovel the snow. I went out to clear the snow off the porch and driveway when my neighbor yelled out, “Good morning. Want some help?” “Yes. Yes I do.” The words came out of my mouth before my neighbor could complete his sentence.

For the next several hours, my neighbor and I cleared each other’s driveways and vehicles, and 3 other neighbors’ driveways. Another neighbor joined us a few hours in. It was one of those great moments where neighbors unite and make life easier on each other.

While all this snow shoveling was going on, my daughter was watching. Claire saw her “Papi” and other neighbors going around helping each other out. At one point, as Claire was playing outside with my wife, they both came over to the neighbor’s house we were helping. These neighbors had a baby recently, so we wanted to make sure their house was extra clear. My wife grabbed a shovel and Claire helped out as well. Claire’s job was to help me put salt on their steps and walkway. Claire was so excited to help.

My pastor recently wrote in his weekly letter about how important it is to let kids see parents writing checks and placing money into the collection. He speaks of this action as necessary for kids to recognize its importance. My pastor, at one point, wrote, “We watched our parents write the check every week.” The witness of seeing this act of writing a check told my then pastor-to-be that it was important. He ended up giving his whole life to the Church by becoming a priest.

Our kids witness so much in this world. A lot of it is good. A lot of it is bad. What kids witness from their parents sticks most. Your influence on your child is greater than any other. If we want our kids to do good, let them see us doing good. If we want our kids to be holy, let them see holiness in us. My neighbors thanked me for helping them today, but letting my kid see my wife and I helping others is something that I thanked them for.

Let’s show our kids all the good that they can do.

Categories: being a good example, children, church, dad and the kids, fatherhood, holiness, home and family, Uncategorized, working together | Tags: , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Food Drama Rant

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Feeding my daughter is possibly one of the worst things ever! Maybe I’m over reacting since a few minutes ago I was “reasoning” with her to eat the plate of food in front of her.

I honestly do not understand why it is so incredibly difficult for her to eat her food. I use to think that maybe what I cooked for her was gross, too spicy, too bland or maybe too green. However, the more I interact with my daughter the more I realize that Bill Cosby was correct: children have brain damage.

Proof one: Daughter begs for a PB+J sandwich. Begs! I lovingly prepare the sandwich. It isn’t just a PB+J; it is a PB+J+L (‘L’ is for the love). I present the sandwich to my daughter. Daughter rejects the sandwich, “I no-wan-it!”

I stare in absolute shock as confusion and rejection seep into my being.

“What do you mean you don’t want it? You just begged for one?!” Claire crosses her arms in front of her and says once again, “I no-wan-it!” I take the sandwich and eat it myself. I hate to waste food. Less than 5 minutes have passed and Claire comes back to the dinning room asking for her sandwich. Asking is too nice. Demanding for her sandwich is more like it. I tell her that I ate it. Claire begins to cry because I ate her “favorite sandwich”.

Scenario two: Claire has a friend over the house for a play date. Claire asks for a PB+J (believe it or not she does eat them). I proceed to make a PB+J with some of that ‘L’. Surprisingly, Claire doesn’t want it anymore. I offer carrots and tomatoes (two of her other favorite snacks). Claire rejects my alternate snack and walks away. I turn to her friend Bennett and ask if he would like a PB+J with carrots and tomatoes. Bennett says, “Yes please”. I gladly begin to hand him the plate when suddenly Claire returns with and inexplicable hunger. She is ravenous and needs a PB+J with carrots and tomatoes. Bennett is willing to share and Claire devours the food—she asks for a second sandwich and eats…all…of…it.

Whenever we take Claire to the babysitters and ask, “Did she eat well?” I hear, “Oh yeah! She ate everything!” It seems that at every other place except her home, my daughter is cooperative and a vacuum cleaner towards food. I honestly don’t get it. It hurts my brain to try and process. What is even more ridiculous is the fact that my wife and I could cook the same thing that a neighbor, friend or hobo would make and 99.9% of the time Claire would chose their meals.

Ok, I’m done. Rant over.

Categories: children, daughters, fatherhood, kids not wanting to eat, picky eaters, Uncategorized | Tags: , , , , , , , | 1 Comment

Don’t Make Eye Contact!

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Every now and then our daughter will do things that we want her to do without having to tell her. I know it’s shocking to me too. Examples of such things range from eating all the food on her plate, to cleaning up after a coloring session, or simply sitting quietly while playing with her toys. Usually I am thrilled to see that Claire will do these things without us having to say anything. I will stare at her as she chomps away at her food. I will smile proudly as she cleans up her messes. I will gaze in wonder as I see my little girl’s imagination at work while she plays.

And that’s usually when it all goes down hill. When we make eye contact.

As I stare at my daughter from across the room she gets the sense that I am looking at her and if our eyes lock it causes her to snap out of her good-behavior-mode. It’s the weirdest thing in the world. Claire will go from well-behaved kid to insane toddler in a matter of seconds. I’m not really sure why my wife or I locking eyes with her can cause Claire to change what she is doing, but we have quickly realized that if we do not want to interrupt her calm, cool and collected moments we cannot make eye contact with her.

I recently read an article that says that the human mind can actually sense when someone is staring at you—it is quite fascinating. There is a “gaze detection system” in our brain that is responsible for recognizing when someone is staring at you. There are clear benefits to this but when it comes to our toddler we have realized that we do not want to be detected by the said system. When Claire’s “gaze detection system” gets her to lock eyes with us she will stop eating, recognize that she was cleaning up instead of making a mess, or realize that she has been quiet for more than a minute and therefore must do a lap around the house while screaming at the top of her lungs.

As with most things toddler, there is a balance with how you deal with them. Apparently locking eyes with them is also something that we need to find a sweet spot for. My wife and I will call each other out during dinner if we stare at Claire for too long. “Don’t make eye contact!” will come out of one of our mouths. Quickly we will stare at our plates hoping the “gaze detection system” was not alerted and Claire will continue to eat.

Never a dull moment with these little ones that is for sure!

Categories: children, daughters, fatherhood, home and family, kids challenging parents, kids wanting things their way, parent child relationship, toddlers, Uncategorized | Tags: , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

More Than Grass

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Having children makes you do weird things; things that you would never, ever do in normal circumstances. Fathers sell their priced muscle cars that they have worked on for half a decade to purchase a minivan with “stow-n-go” for the sake of more room. Mothers leave their careers that took them years to obtain to stay home and be pooped on, yelled at, and bossed around by little dictators. We will leave our beloved city life in order to move to a quieter suburban home because the school districts are better there, but the parties are lamer.

And sometimes we buy grass.

Yes that is an awkward sentence. It is one of the weirdest things I have ever done since having a child. My wife and I were fortunate enough to buy a home early on in our marriage. The house had everything we needed and it was move in ready. When Claire was born the back yard began to be an issue for me. I now saw it with “daddy eyes.” The ground was rocky and uneven. The grass, or to be more precise, the weeds, were not inviting. There was this awkward spot in a corner where we had a ton of pea gravel and glass. It literally looked like someone took a pickup truck full of pea gravel and dumped it there and then smashed bottles over it. Needless to say the yard was not inviting and was more of a hazard than a future playing area for my daughter.

As Claire began to crawl I took more notice of the yard. I finally got a landscape company to come out and tell me how much it would cost to fix the yard. We were given a great quote and so began this crazy process of redoing the yard. We put down some Zoisa grass because my wife’s family had grown up with it and it also requires less maintenance. We couldn’t afford to do the whole yard with Zoisa sod, so we had a big patch of it installed by the playground area and we seeded the rest with common seed. I figured the Zoisa grass should go where Claire would walk on the most. Zoisa is a thick type of grass that spreads. Eventually the Zoisa will take over the whole yard. The landscaper suggested I install the Zoisa in the middle of the yard since that would allow all four sides of it to spread at the same rate. It made sense. However, Claire’s playground was on the left corner of our yard and I wanted it there so that she could play on it. The landscaper said, “You realize that one side of the grass will be against those 6×6 beams enclosing the playground, the other will be against the fence separating your neighbors yard, the third stops at your deck, which leaves you with the right side as the only possible spot for the grass to continue to spread out?” Yes I understand. “Sir, you wont maximize on the Zoisas growth that way!?” I know, I said. The landscaper thought I was nuts and I was, but children make us do weird things like buying grass.

This spring we were able to really see the fruit of our landscaping endeavor. The yard is level. The grass is actually grass and not weeds. The playground now sits on top of the pea gravel and is buried by weed cloth and rubber mulch (another ridiculous expense that I would never, ever have made under normal circumstances). My daughter now runs, jumps and tumbles in the yard. I stand on my deck and watch Claire laugh and chase the dog. Claire falls on the grass as her and the neighbors play together. Endless laughter ensues. I smile and take it all in.

It’s more than just grass.

Categories: children, fatherhood, fathers, grass, home and family, home improvements, landscaping, playground, Uncategorized | Tags: , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

The Little Dictator

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The day begins with breakfast. I have made banana pancakes and they are really good. The little dictator has not had a taste of the pancakes but she yells that this is not what she wants. I try to reason with her but she yells and throws her sippy-cup in protest. I go back to the kitchen and prepare something else. I come back into the dinning room and present my new offering. The little dictator is still not pleased. Apparently she is not in a good mood this morning.

Breakfast ends and we head over to the little dictators toy area. The little dictator wants to play and so do I, but I have to use the bathroom. This is not acceptable to her. The little dictator screams “play!” I tell her that I will be very quick and the little dictator screams some more and demands that we play now. I head to the bathroom in defiance and the little dictator pounds on the door demanding that I stop this disobedience and that I return to the room to play. I leave the bathroom and proceed to fulfill her demands.

Playtime starts off pleasant. The little dictator pulls out her blocks and makes a tower. Not more than a few seconds go by and she demolishes the tower. The little dictator smiles ever so slightly and turns her eyes towards me. I am not sure what she is thinking but I wonder if she is trying to send a message.

The little dictator demands that we now color with her markers. I grant her wish and pull out the drawing pad and markers. The little dictator cannot be limited to such a thing as a drawing pad. Her imagination is much bigger than that. It encompasses the carpet as well. I encourage that she stay on the drawing pad. The little dictator refuses. Markers are taken away and a new rage comes over her. Crying, followed by the usual rant of, “mine! Mine! MINE!”

Suddenly the little dictator realizes that markers are overrated and that she is hungry once again. I sarcastically point out that we have some great pancakes, but the little dictator is not amused. I think sarcasm is beyond her. The little dictator proceeds to the fridge where she awaits for me to open it and grant her whatever she wishes. Ice cream and mangos are at the top of her list. Ice cream is denied, which causes another rage, but quickly she realizes that mangos are just as good. The mangos have just touched the plate and I hear the little dictator calling out, “Sofia! Sofia!” This is the little dictator’s favorite TV show. She is quite obsessed with it. “Sofia! Sofia!” I finally cave and allow her to watch one episode. There is no sound from her for 22 minutes.

Bliss.

The show ends and the little dictator demands that another episode be played. “Sofia! Sofia!” I refuse and a hissy fit ensues. I ignore it and the little dictator proceeds to go play in her room. She calls for me at full force. I go in to see what the little dictator needs and she runs at me full speed and says, “Daddy! Daddy!” She reaches for me and greets me with, “Hi Daddy.” I smile and pick the little dictator up, “hi baby.” I stare into the beautiful bluesih, gray eyes that are before me and smile.

This is my little dictator. My baby girl.

Categories: children, demanding kids, fatherhood, kids wanting things their way, temper tantrums, toddlers, Uncategorized | Tags: , , , , | 1 Comment

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