TIME Parenting

Unplug! Your Children’s Future Depends On It

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Jennifer Moses is a writer and painter.

Our First World reliance on devices means kids aren't experiencing the day-to-day challenge of merely being conscious

My 21-year-old daughter was just home for the weekend, which was wonderful for all the obvious reasons. But her visit reminded me–as if I needed reminding–that I am so out-of-touch with the zeitgeist that I may as well be a preserved relic from Victorian times. By nature I’m so deeply Victorian that not only is my favorite architectural style all turrets and wraparound porches, but my distaste for what most people call “progress” could rival conservative British politician Benjamin Disraeili’s. And though I work on a computer–I’m not, after all, a masochist–and rely on both email and Google, the rest of it leaves me, at best, bored, and at worst, positively alarmed.

I couldn’t care less about and, in fact, don’t actually know what the following terms refer to: apps, Snapchat, Pinterest, Twitter and Instagram. And I have to admit that I had to Google most of these (see above). I don’t text, and I certainly don’t sext. Sexting for me is standing naked in front of my husband and saying, “Do you think it’s time for a tummy tuck?” I read the kind of books that you have to lug around with you and stack on your nightstand. I never got rid of my records (music recorded on vinyl), and I don’t own an iPod because when I’m walking the dogs or working in the garden, I prefer to listen to the sound of the falling leaves than Lorde singing “Royals” or Usher singing “She Came to Give It To You,” or God forbid anything, ever, by the talent-free Lady Gaga (had to Google this stuff, too, under “most popular singers 2014″). I don’t know the difference between a latte and a cappuccino and a Frappuccino and a frappé. I know what you’re saying: “Oh, Jennifer, you think you’re just so superior, don’t you? You think you’re just so retro-pure-intellectual dog-walking all-natural undyed-gray-haired awesome?”

Yes. Or at least a little bit. Because I’m in my fifties and have read a lot of books, I know without having to do a scientific study that all this reliance on our techno-toys is bad news–for grownups, for children, even for dogs, who would rather canoodle with their human-friend than be stuck on the sidelines. As for small children, don’t even get me started, because if I see one more mommy/daddy pushing her/his child in the stroller while being plugged into her/his iPod or cell phone, I’m going to puke. That doesn’t compare to the armies of small children who spend vast amounts of their free time pushing various buttons on their various electronic devices. And I know, boy do I know, children, when bored, are unpleasant to be around. They whine. They make you wish you’d never had them. I myself had whiny children, and was once one myself. I was such a whiny whiner that I turned whining into high art. And in part because I tended to depression and anxiety, I loved nothing more than TV, which took me away from myself, at least for as long as the tube was still on. I could sit in front of the TV for hours, numbing out on all the greats: The Flintstones, The Beverly Hillbillies, I Dream of Jeannie, The Munsters, My Favorite Martian. But my mother, having been raised at a time when parents said no often and without guilt, wouldn’t let me do that, except when I was sick. Instead, when I whined or complained of boredom, she said that I had two choices: I could go outside and play or I could read. End of story, full stop.

The thing that’s just so awful and sad and terrible and stupid-making about our entire First World reliance on and love of our devices isn’t just that kids with totally straightforward neurology become, by default, unable to concentrate or take in information or synthesize or analyze or so much as string a few coherent sentences together, but that their very souls, and ours, get sucked straight out of our bodies and dispersed among the pixels and bottom-lines of the smart people who are making money by providing us with the addictive technology that we can’t get enough of. (As good a definition of addiction of any is: enough is never enough—just ask an alcoholic.) And why do we reach for our devices? For our Facebook feeds and mobile apps and appallingly loud and vulgar music and endless varieties of crappy TV shows? Because it’s easier to numb out than to face our fears, anxieties, hopes and dreams, impulses, devils, demons, defeats, pasts, futures, and, most of all, present, our here-and-now when things might not completely conform to the Hollywood version of what our lives are supposed to be.

Yes, folks, being human is difficult, at worst awful, at best wonderful, and most of the time, mixed. Remember, for example, the Bible? Whether you believe in its sanctity or not, the Bible is a remarkable document not for its account of wonders and miracles but rather its telling of the day-to-day challenge of merely being conscious, merely being human in a vast and unknowable universe where a fellow still has to get up every morning and bring home the curds-and-whey, water the camels and raise quarrelsome children.

Speaking of Jacob and Essau, do you want to raise grounded, reasonable, civilized children without getting a PhD? Here’s how: turn off the TV. Don’t let your children have their own devices of any kind whatsoever until high school. Make them go to bed at a reasonable hour. Don’t help them with their homework. Never hit or shame them, but go ahead and punish them when their behavior is bad. Don’t for one moment try to be their friend. And when they’re little, don’t even think about “the family bed,” unless you want to both kill your marriage and raise terrifying little monsters who will never manage to mature past adolescence. Finally, when they’re bored, give them a choice between playing outside and reading a book. In between, throw them a couple of peanut-butter-and-jelly sandwiches and an apple or two.

Yes, that’s it.

Ever since our second date, my husband has accused me of being a flat-worlder, a Luddite, an all-around fuddy-duddy. But I’m not. Not even a little. I just know, from my own lifelong experience of living inside my own messy head, that the more I use my machines to escape myself, the more my true self shrivels up and dies a slow and unremarkable death.

Jennifer Moses is a writer and painter.

TIME Ideas hosts the world's leading voices, providing commentary and expertise on the most compelling events in news, society, and culture. We welcome outside contributions. To submit a piece, email ideas@time.com.

MONEY First-Time Dad

How to Cook a Real Dinner for Your Family…and Finish Before 9 p.m.

Luke Tepper

First-time dad Taylor Tepper asks parents and cooking experts for advice on feeding a family while maintaining your sanity. What he learns: Focus on formats.

Last week, I stood in the first aisle of my local grocery store for a few minutes blinking at a bin of scallions.

I had a cart in one hand, a shopping list in the other, and a podcast playing in my ear. I needed to grab a bunch of groceries, get home and make dinner.

But at some point in the produce section, I fell victim to a momentary lapse of cognitive function, as if I was a computer that had overheated. For a moment, I wished I had simply ordered in Chinese.

A parent’s day is long. Ours starts at 5:30 a.m. with a groggy baby and two sleep-deprived parents, and I don’t return home with dinner’s ingredients in tow until 7 p.m.

To be clear, I genuinely relish the responsibility of providing my family with sustenance. Plus I know there are real benefits to eating real food prepared at home: We can eat more healthfully and save a few bucks in the process.

But my problem is that I’m terrible at planning. I’ll look up a recipe before I head home from work, buy everything on the ingredient list (often forgetting that I have a quarter of the stuff at home), walk home and make the meal. On that day last week when I paused in front of the scallions, for instance, I ended up preparing a baked chicken dish with Kalamata olives, dates, tomatoes with an herb jus and mashed potatoes.

Delicious. Only, my wife and I finished eating close to 9 p.m.—at which point I devolved into a coma.

I know I’m wasting time and money. I need help. I need a plan.

So I turned to a few experts: KJ Dell’Antonia, who as the lead writer at the New York Times Motherlode blog has written on her successes and failures of cooking for a family, my friend Cara Eisenpress whose cookbook and blog BigGirlsSmallKitchen.com document dinner prep in a diminutive Brooklyn apartment, and Phyllis Grant, a former pastry chef whose blog DashandBella.com chronicles meals made with her kids.

The Game Plan

“Obviously I’m a big fan of planning,” says Dell’Antonia. “There’s nothing like realizing that it’s 4 pm and you’ll have to make dinner again tonight—but not only do you know what it is already, but you’ve got all the ingredients and maybe some prep work done. Saves my life every time.”

But what type of plan is best for a busy working parent like me?

Cara told me to forget about specific recipes and think more broadly.

“When planning, think in terms of formats,” she says. “Pasta, hearty soups, stir fries, roasted cut-up chicken, and eggs are all classes of weeknight dinner that are so simple to vary.”

In other words, rather than shopping for a pasta dish on Monday (like Lemon Fettuccine with Bacon and Chives) and then returning to the store on Tuesday in search of ingredients for for another (say Orecchiette Carbonara with Scallions and Sun-dried Tomatoes), plan on whipping up two pasta dishes and a chicken entrée over the next few days and then map out recipes from there. That way you’ll buy overlapping ingredients.

At the same time, though, be mindful of planning too far ahead, says Cara.

“Don’t shop for the seven nights’ worth of formats—you’ll waste food and money if something comes up,” she advised. “Better to plan out fewer and then grab a few miscellaneous staples that could turn into dinner as needed, like extra onions (caramelized onion grilled cheese), a box of spinach (lentil soup with spinach), or some bacon (breakfast for dinner).”

Grant even suggests preparing more than one night’s worth of a neutral protein like chicken, which she notes “can be a life saver, You won’t get sick of it because you can dress it up with some many different flavors and techniques.”

Most importantly, Cara said, make sure you have a stocked pantry—including olive oil, vinegar, mustard, salt, rice, pasta and cheddar, among others—to augment whatever recipes you’ve chosen.

The Defense Formation

After you’ve figured out the formats and recipes you’re interested in for the next couple of days, it’s time to actually buy the food.

But the grocery store is like a casino: The thing is designed to have you spend more time shuffling along the aisles so that you look at more food. They even mess with the music (see #19 here).

If you’re not careful, you’ll arrive home with a beautiful jar of jam that will sit in your fridge for the next six months. (Guilty!)

That’s why Dell’Antonia recommends shopping with a list, “and not buying anything that’s not on it,” says. “Ridiculously, I save money by sending my babysitter to the grocery store when I can. Her time costs me less than I’d spend in ‘Oh, look! Halloween Oreos!'”

Also, look for items that will make your cooking life easier, says Cara. “Don’t shy away from shortcut ingredients. Find brands of tomato sauce, salsa, stock, pre-washed spinach, ravioli, etc. that you like: each of those gets you a third of the way to dinner. There are some vegetables I think of as shortcuts too because they require so little prep: a potato you can rinse and then bake, and my go-to, fennel, where you just remove the outer skin, quarter what’s left, and roast to get a super simple serving of vegetables.”

Kickoff!

Time to practice my new strategy.

I replenished up my pantry—I was a little low on olive oil and pepper—and decided to prepare Chicken with Figs and Grapes from Grant’s blog. I even bought a little extra chicken and stock for some soup later in the week (guess I was in a chicken format mood.)

Her recipe calls for about a dozen different ingredients, but since my pantry is already full, I only need to pick up the chicken, anchovies, figs and grapes.

I’m in and out of my local grocery store in five minutes (without jam!) and before long my kitchen is humming right along.

The dish is relatively easy to prepare and after a little less than 30 minutes in the oven, my wife and I have a meal for tonight and tomorrow. I arrived home by 7:15pm and we finished eating around an hour later, about 45 minutes quicker than normal and nearly a Tepper weekday record.

Our stomachs were full, the kitchen relatively clean and my brain didn’t wither like a raisin during the process.

A sense of peace had been restored in my life.

Adulthood can be difficult—after a long day of work, it often just feels easier to order a delicious Korean BBQ kimchi burrito than expending the time and effort to put together a meal. So sometimes the Teppers do just that.

But as Cara says, “Cooking at home is one of the best parts of being a grown-up. You get to eat exactly what you want when you want it. So, if you like to eat, you like not spending all your money, and you like putting relatively healthful food in your body, you should probably learn to cook.”

And if you’re going to do it, plan ahead.

Taylor Tepper is a reporter at Money. His column on being a new dad, a millennial, and (pretty) broke appears weekly. More First-Time Dad:

TIME Parenting

The Parent Trap: Are Flexible Work Policies Hurting Moms And Dads?

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Flexible work policies have been hailed as a way to promote work-life balance; the reality is that they may hamper career progress for both men and women. But there's a silver lining

The Daddy Bonus. The Mommy Penalty. We’ve seen a lot of news recently about how the pay gap between men and women is sometimes tied to parenthood. Research shows that mothers, in particular, are greeted with a new baby’s smiles along with a cut to their income, while new fathers can expect a bonus and pat on the back.

And yet a recent study has challenged this body of work, and complicated our understanding of parenthood’s effects on one’s career. The study found that an employee’s parental status—not gender or whether the worker is a mother versus a father—can trigger negative treatment from an employer. It’s an odd silver lining, to be sure. But this research wrinkle — along with other new findings — could help move our conversation about flexibility and family-friendly polices further from the realm of “women’s issues” and over to “everyone issues.” And when managers finally understand that workplace flexibility issues affect everyone, they may finally start to act on them.

Like a kid procrastinating on his homework, it’s not that managers don’t know they should probably be implementing better policies already. In fact, a new Working Mother survey sponsored by Ernst & Young shows that eight out of ten managers acknowledge that employees should have access to flexible work options, even though 39 percent admit to wishing they didn’t have to tackle such a tough management task.

But it may not be as tough as they think — because there are plenty of other models out there that they can mimic. And that, as I wrote recently, is often how change happens inside big companies, anyway — for example, SAS, The Gap, Deloitte, and Ernst & Young.

There’s also plenty of desire for these changes among both men and women. This is where the findings really get interesting. Men say, in the Working Mother survey, for example, that both parents should equally share child care (88 percent) and chores (83 percent), and they report allocating the time saved by working-from-home to caregiving and household responsibilities. About eight in ten of 1000 men surveyed have flexible work schedules and feel comfortable using flextime and telecommuting. Three-quarters believe “a parent should be home with children after school.” But that parent does not have to be the mom: 80 percent of the men are comfortable with mom as primary breadwinner; 39 percent would prefer to be stay-at-home dads.

What about the men who don’t have those flexible schedules? They’re less satisfied with their career prospects, skill development opportunities and compensation. They even feel like they get less support from a spouse or partner to accomplish work tasks.

But the flexibility pendulum can swing too far. The men in the study who reported being the most stressed — even more so than men not using flex-time or telecommuting — were the fathers who worked from home full-time. Most said they felt isolated and unable to escape work, while also sensing that because they worked from home, their job commitment was being questioned by others. That’s the same experience that women have been reporting for years.

Indeed, the stay-at-home workers may be wise to be wary. The academic study found that managers often interpret a person’s use of flex-work options as a signal of high or low job commitment. Specifically, the research found that if a boss attributes an employee’s need for flex to personal-life reasons like child care, as opposed to job performance enhancement reasons like acquiring new skills, the boss tends to assess the employee as less committed and less deserving of career rewards such as raises and promotions. In fact, the manager may even recommend what the authors call a career penalty: reduced responsibility or outright demotion or firing.

The irony: Flexible work policies likely designed to ease parents’ work-family tensions may, in practice, sometimes hamper career progress for parents. But now that mothers and fathers are in this together, perhaps they can teach their bosses that this parent trap is a risk to their bottom line.

Nanette Fondas, co-author of The Custom-Fit Workplace, writes about business, economics, and family. Her work has been published in The Atlantic, Harvard Business Review, Psychology Today, Slate, Ms., Quartz, as well as academic journals. This piece was originally published in New America’s digital magazine, The Weekly Wonk. Sign up to get it delivered to your inbox each Thursday here, and follow @New America on Twitter.

TIME Ideas hosts the world's leading voices, providing commentary and expertise on the most compelling events in news, society, and culture. We welcome outside contributions. To submit a piece, email ideas@time.com.

TIME Television

Transparent Creator Jill Soloway on Making the World Safer for Trans People

Comedian and TV Writer Jill Soloway attends LGBTQ TV on October 11, 2014 in New York City.
Comedian and TV Writer Jill Soloway attends LGBTQ TV on October 11, 2014 in New York City. Anna Webber—Getty Images for The New Yorker

The 'Six Feet Under' and 'United States of Tara' vet explains how her Amazon instant hit was inspired by her family

This post originally appeared on Rolling Stone.

One day three years ago, writer-director Jill Soloway got a phone call with some life-changing news: Her father was coming out as a transgender woman. “It was a total surprise,” she says. But as the elder Soloway, now a retired psychiatrist in her late 70s, explained the transition over the phone, “I reacted like a parent myself,” says Jill. “I tried to make sure that the person knows that they’re safe and unconditionally loved.” (To avoid confusion, Jill uses gender-neutral terms like “parent” and “they.”)

The experience became the basis for Transparent, an Amazon Instant series and one of the fall’s best new TV shows. It tells the story of the Pfeffermans, whose patriarch (Jeffrey Tambor) goes from Papa Mort to “Moppa” Maura. The cast also features Gaby Hoffman as Maura’s daughter Ali, Amy Landecker as daughter Sarah, Jay Duplass as son Josh and Judith Light as ex-wife Shelly. Portlandia’s Carrie Brownstein plays Ali’s friend, Syd, and The Office’s Melora Hardin is almost unrecognizable as Sarah’s lover, Tammy. Ultimately, it’s a family drama with a singular purpose: “I wanted to make something that would make the world safer for my parent,” says Soloway.

The prolific Soloway – who has producer credits on Grey’s Anatomy and United States of Tara and won a directing award at Sundance last year for her film Afternoon Delight – had wanted to make a “family show” since her two-year stint writing for Six Feet Under ended nine years ago. “Pretty shortly after they came out,” she says, referring to her parent, “I was thinking, ‘I’ve got a TV show now.’ It just immediately hit me as this is the show I’ve been waiting my whole life to write.”

The show’s first season premiered in its entirety on Soloway’s birthday and, even though critics were buzzing favorably about the show, she recalls being in a fugue state. As she tells Rolling Stone about all the ways making Transparent had been positive for her and her family, it seems as though the feeling of being stunned has transformed into happiness. “It’s exciting to know that it resonates so much with people,” she says. “But it’s definitely a new feeling.”

How long have you had the idea for the show?
Ever since I was working on Six Feet Under, I had an idea of doing a family show. And then the trans aspect made itself clear to me when my own parent came out as trans.

My sister worked on the show — she wrote the seventh episode ["The Symbolic Exemplar"]. She’s kind of, like, my other half. But when I imagined this show, there was always a brother. I actually think Ali and Josh are more like my sister and I are. In some ways my sister and I are like Sarah and Ali, and in some ways we’re like Josh and Ally. But in imagining the family, there were always three kids.

MORE: Jeffrey Tambor on His ‘Transparent’ Transformation

Who are you most like in the family?
I feel like I’m a lot like Josh. I really relate to the feeling of falling in love 10 times a day and wishing I could never stop falling in love. And then there are parts of me in Ali and parts of my sister in Ali. Faith is the person who would be living on her Price Is Right money for a few years, and I’m more of a Silver Lake mom, so in some ways I’m more like Sarah. And my sister Faith is gay, so in some ways she’s more like Sarah. So I think autobiographical stuff is all thrown in a blender and mixed around and evenly distributed amongst all three kids.

How much of the show is autobiographical?
I would say it’s almost 98 percent fictionalized. The Pfeffermans are just very real people. The reason I wanted to cast Jeffrey is because he’s always reminded me of my parent. They really have a very similar sense of humor and that was just immediate. Other than that, it’s not really autobiographical.

My mom had a husband who had frontal temporal dementia, who couldn’t speak, similar to the story of Shelly and Ed. He passed away a few years ago, the same summer that my parent was coming out. So I’d say that stuff is all informed by what was going on in my life at the time. A lot of things that I was experiencing and saying to myself, this feels like a TV show and thinking, “Good thing I have a TV show that I’m writing so that I can process all this stuff.”

Something to help you work through it.
I was really working through it. I felt kind of lucky actually.

What I like about Ali is she seems like a character you could do almost anything with. Is that why you chose Gaby Hoffman?
I saw her in an episode of Louie, and I just loved the way she was talking the whole time and he’s trying to get a word in edgewise and he lets her break up with him. I just loved the way words rolled off her tongue and nothing seemed written. I loved how free she was. I was just like who is this really cool, Jewish lady? And she’s not even Jewish.

MORE: The Best TV of 2014 So Far

You might say the opposite of Judith Light.
With her, I knew that even though America knew her as the Who’s the Boss blonde person and even as the character that I remembered her from on One Life to Live. She’s been playing these Jewish moms on Broadway and that she, herself, was Jewish. When I started to imagine her without blonde hair, I was able to see Shelly in her.

When I was casting her, [actor-filmmaker] Josh Radnor called me to say, “I just hope you realize she’s a magical being. She has spiritual power and can understand people’s emotional lives in an instant.” I was down for that. On one of the early days of the shoot, a bee stung on the top of my head when we were in the park – filming the push-up scene – and then later that afternoon I was shooting a scene with Judith, and she was doing Reiki healing on me and fixed the pain. That and the Vicodin fixed it.

How did you connect with Carrie Brownstein?
Originally, when we were trying to cast Tammy, her name came up. But I always felt Tammy was really tan and blonde, like Lady Diana or someone who spent some time in her childhood on a ranch. And Carrie just seemed too Jewy to play Tammy, but I really, really wanted to work with her, so in the writers’ room we created this character of Syd for her.

You’ve said you really wanted the show to be five people who were equally lovable as well as unlikable. Is that a hard balance to strike?
I’m always going for truth and honesty. I’m a fan of Louis C.K., I’m a fan of Lena Dunham. I love shows about people that other people would consider unlikable, or like the work of Woody Allen and Albert Brooks. I love a kind of shambling outsider protagonist who always feels like they’re “other.” And so the challenge was to make five of those people in the family instead of just one. I’ve written scripts before about a single odd outsider and someone who’s trying to make sense of the world. I like that idea that all five of these people would be connected over their common legacy of feeling different, feeling on the outside.

MORE: In Pics: 8 TV Shows You Should Be Watching Right Now

What does your parent think of the show?
They love it. All four of us in our family – my sister, my mother and my, I guess you could use the word “moppa” – were all just kind of standing back and watching this thing that feels a bit like a tribute to our family but mostly like something else entirely, something so much bigger than us. We’re just all watching it together and checking in with each other every day. “How are you doing? And what do you think?”

There’s this zeitgeisty moment in the trans community, and this show happened to land in the right place, by accident really. It’s probably a show that couldn’t have been made five years ago, and five years from now [it] wouldn’t have that same feeling of “Holy shit, we’ve never seen this before.” It’s kind of fun actually to be all experiencing this together.

How much work did you need to do with Jeffrey to create Maura?
I keep saying this weird feeling that Maura Pfefferman existed out in the universe, this whole family did. She was waiting for me to notice her and waiting for me to go get Jeffrey so she could appear through him. Somebody said in an email I was sent that Maura felt spiritual to them. I was feeling that a lot when I was talking to our hair and wardrobe people about her costumes and her hair — that she should be a California hippie, kind of a Wiccan, two spirits, high priestess. It all felt so organic.

Early Maura was a little bit more awkward, who hadn’t felt her sense of style…that had one sort of feeling. And I think in the fourth episode when Davina helps her use her own hair on top and use her silver extensions underneath, she really transforms into somebody else. Even the hair and makeup people said that Jeffrey was a certain level of comfort.

I never felt like I was working with Jeffrey to “do” her, I just felt like I was trying to stand back and let her come through.

Do you have ideas for Season Two?
A little bit. I’m starting to see the beginnings of what the characters would do in a second season. But I love the writers’ room process so much. I think more of what I’m going to be doing is trying to stop coming up with too much of it so we can all do it together when we all get back together.

Your parent must be very proud of you.
Yeah, they are. They came to the set on Jeffrey’s 70th birthday actually. It was a really special day. We gave Jeffrey a big cake. And they came to the premiere as well. It was really cool.

MORE: 10 Great TV Shows You’ve Never Heard Of

TIME Humor

31 Days of Baby Halloween Costumes

This mom is dressing her child in a new costume each day until Halloween

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This article originally appeared on Lost at E Minor.

New York-based writer and mom Jessica Chavkin just can’t wait for Halloween. In fact to show her excitement, she’s counting down the days by dressing up her baby, Noah, in a different costume every day. “Since Halloween is my favorite holiday, and Noah is my favorite thing ever, we are celebrating by counting down with a new costume every day until the big day,” she says. “I hope that you are amused. I know we will be.”

As of writing, she’s already on Day 18 of the adorable series. So far she’s dressed up Noah into Tarzan, Charlie Brown, Waldo and even the Monopoly Man. You can check out updates from Jessica and Noah on their Instagram page.

(Via My Modern Met)

TIME faith

The Christian Way to Deal With Your Kid Coming Out

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My experience with my own daughter taught me a valuable lesson

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This article originally appeared on Patheos.

Four years ago our daughter came out to us. She was 20. Here’s one of my first thoughts: we’ll never be the same in the church.

No kidding.

My daughter is telling me something very intimate and scary, several thoughts are going through my head, and I am a little surprised to realize that one is about how the church relationship would never be the same. Not just our then-church but the evangelical tradition we’d been in for 20+ years. They don’t accept gays, and no way are we going to squeeze our daughter into some box so we could fit a church. No. Way.

Frankly, the fact that our relationship to the church was a concern in my mind in that moment indicates a very serious problem with the non-affirming evangelical church tradition. Every time Jesus interacted with people in need, he was a safe and welcoming place. Done.

We are supposed to be that for each other.

Yet, in this moment of need, I knew the church was not a safe place for me to bring this conversation. Just the conversation was not safe to have with my closest friends there. That is a serious distortion of what the church was supposed to look like.

Our daughter asked if we would accept her. I said yes. She said are you sure? I said of course. Absolutely. My husband said the same – no doubt about it.

As I look back on the conversation now, I get chills. But in the moment, I didn’t grasp the gravity of her question. Of course we would accept her. No other possibility crossed our minds. But she told us this is not always the case. She told us that some of her friends lost their families when they came out. They were kicked out. What?!? How could that possibly makes sense?

My experience since then shows me this rejection is all too common. One young woman’s psychotic mother threw her down the stairs. A young man’s mother fell on the floor and wailed, “Where did we go wrong?” and his father answered, “When we had him.” This response is a serious breakdown. (Ya think?)

And it reveals something horrifying.

It reveals a lack of understanding of sexual orientation. A lack of understanding that it is who somebody is, not what they do, and not a choice. And nowhere, nowhere, does God or the Bible or common sense condone throwing out your child because they’re gay. By no measurement does that make sense. Unjustifiable. Period.

It reveals a completely wrong understanding of God’s unconditional love and acceptance. It is a wrong and dangerous teaching that puts behavior first, that makes worthiness up for grabs, something that can be withdrawn on a moment’s notice. It completely undermines Jesus’ presence on earth and in our lives today.

That my daughter could think, after all these years, that we could cut off or in any way limit our relationship with her is a chilling indictment of much of the church and its teaching.

Imagine someone who’s already been through the struggle of discovering that they are gay, and coming out to themselves. It took immeasurable strength and courage to come out to their Christian parents. And then those parents, and the church throw them out? Shun them? Reject them? Tell them they are going to hell? That makes no sense! ZERO SENSE. And it is the complete opposite of the message of God’s love.

But the church is changing. Because I AM the church. And I know many, many, many parents just like me. The church is shifting.

I’m beyond grateful that God is ushering in a new day and age. Legalism, fundamentalism, literalism – all of it – is on its way out. The next generation will not tolerate it. God is refreshing the truth of unconditional love to all people.

As it should be.

Susan Cottrell is the author of Mom, I’m Gay: Loving Your LGBTQ Child Without Sacrificing Your Faith.

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TIME Ideas hosts the world's leading voices, providing commentary and expertise on the most compelling events in news, society, and culture. We welcome outside contributions. To submit a piece, email ideas@time.com.

TIME Parenting

I Am a Helicopter Parent—And I Don’t Apologize

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Elisabeth Fairfield Stokes teaches and writes in Maine.

I care about protecting all of our children, not just mine.

I know there are teachers and administrators and people in my community who consider me one of the helicoptering, overprotective parents who seem to be our society’s latest favorite punching bag. My husband jokes about a betting pool in the teachers’ lounge based on when I will make my first indignant appearance each year. But I’m no tiger mother. I don’t see parenting as a battle. I just insist on competency and civility from the world my children are in for now in the face of what seems like utter madness in the world at large.

A couple of years ago a friend of mine and I talked about the way we parent versus the way we grew up in the 70s, on opposite sides of the country, about the way our parenting is influenced by our own childhood experiences. We were both deeply affected by early exposure to violence in films and on television, in the news and in the communities we grew up in, and by disparities among the haves and the have-nots. We were both bullied as children and we both worried about nuclear war. We both also accepted all of this, at the time, as “part of growing up.” But neither of us sees any benefit in cultural trauma being a part of our children’s growing up.

I wonder if many of my fellow Gen-X parents experience adulthood as a recovery from childhood, and if our parenting choices reflect our desire to not have the harshness of the era our children are growing up in visited upon them. But we often hear that our approach is doing our kids, and society, untold harm and that we will be directly responsible for a generation of spineless, helpless wimps.

I’m surprised to find myself in the category of “overprotective,” because as a college professor, I’ve had the unpleasant experience of teaching some of the children of “helicopter parents”: students who can’t think for themselves or who balk at the demands of a college education. Even before my husband and I had children, I was determined that we would do whatever it took to raise them to be independent, capable people. I still am. Equipping them for self-sufficiency does not, in my mind, require exposure therapy to all that is wrong with the world. That will come soon enough.

Our instincts, when our children were ready for school, were to let them go, both literally and figuratively. We couldn’t afford the tuition at the local Montessori School, but I kept telling myself that I would send my children to public school even if we could have sent them to Montessori, because I believe in public education and I wanted our girls to be gently immersed in a gradual understanding of socio-economic differences.

Except for the reality that a large percentage of the children in our community do not get their basic needs met—a fact I tried to blunt by helping some of the neediest kids myself— all seemed relatively well. Until our eldest daughter started third grade. She and her teacher did not seem to be a good fit, but my husband and I, sensitive already to accusations that our generation coddles its children, didn’t intervene when it appeared that her teacher was being hard on her, singling her out. When she came home saying “My teacher doesn’t like me,” we tried to address it from her end, asking her to consider if the choices she was making were helpful or not. We learned from the teacher that our daughter protested when the posted classroom schedule was not followed; the teacher said that she needed to “roll with things” and “respect the teacher’s authority.” We didn’t entirely disagree, believing that learning to work with difficult people is a useful skill.

However, thinking we were being good parents by not rushing in and protecting our child so that she could learn some social survival skills, we overlooked the damage that was being done. In hindsight, I recalled that the teacher seemed nervous whenever I would come in to volunteer in the classroom; she would often ask me to photocopy material in the teachers’ lounge instead of letting me work directly with the children. I learned later that she told the principal that she thought I was “spying” on her. Our daughter was in fact being regularly, and badly, mistreated; the end result was that she came home one day, at eight years old, saying that she hated herself, that she was stupid. She said, sitting on the kitchen floor in tears, “I want to kill myself.” The teacher had made her tell the class that she got a C- on a math test. We pulled her out of the classroom (it was April by now) and put her into therapy, chastising ourselves for not intervening sooner, for ignoring the clear warning signs.

In fourth grade, she had an excellent teacher, but was physically assaulted three times by a child whose parents seemed to not just ignore, but value, his apparently sociopathic tendencies. The school did not have the resources to keep her safe and told us so. The next year, we homeschooled. “Homeschooled” is a code word for “helicoptered,” I know. But it was our only option.

The year she started middle school (we sent her back to public school as soon as she wanted to go), I didn’t waste time worrying about what anyone would think about me and my helicoptering tendencies. She came home upset about a movie on climate change that had graphics making the apocalypse seem real, and I fired off an email asking the teachers to better contextualize their material. She saw the Zapruder film of the Kennedy assassination because unsupervised students found it online and played it in the classroom, and I was on the phone asking why there wasn’t better classroom management. She was bullied by a classmate, and I was in the principal’s office at the end of the school day. While we are bombarded with accusations that we want to wrap our children in bubble wrap and tie them to mattresses, we are also bombarded with stories about children jumping to their deaths at cement factories and hanging themselves from stairwells, or being gunned down in their own classrooms.

So I hover over my children. I still remind my kids, now 10 and 12, to be careful when we get out of the car in a parking lot. I don’t let them stay up late and I don’t let them watch television at night, because of the violence in the network ads for other shows. I’ve just recently started letting them walk up our (safe, generally quiet, dead-end) road alone. But I don’t do their homework for them and I do insist on them picking up after themselves; I make them do extracurricular activities but I don’t overschedule them. I don’t let them eat much sugar, but I let them experience what it feels like so they know for themselves. I don’t tolerate as much fighting as I probably should because that is part of understanding unconditional love, and I let them see me drinking wine or even a martini at the end of the day.

My outrage over inappropriate material in the classrooms and bullying behavior from teachers and students isn’t just about the effects those things have on my children, but on all of those around them, especially those who don’t have actively involved parents. I care about my children being seen for who they are, and I care about other children being seen, period, especially the children who are left behind, in the wake of hyper-achieving, helicoptered children. I care about protecting all of our children, not just mine.

Helicopter parents may seem, at the outset, to be supremely selfish, a projection of ourselves on our children, directing rather than guiding. But consider the possibility that some of the parents being condemned for obnoxious hyper-parenting grew up too fast in a world that seemed terrifying. Perhaps we are determined to do what we can to change it for the better, not just for our children but for everyone’s. Whatever went wrong with our growing up, whatever scars or trauma we bear, something went right enough that we still believe we can make a difference. Teaching our children that they, too, have the ability to impact their surroundings, that they are not condemned to passivity because the world is hard—this may be the legacy of the helicopter parent after all.

Elisabeth Fairfield Stokes teaches and writes in Maine.

TIME Ideas hosts the world's leading voices, providing commentary and expertise on the most compelling events in news, society, and culture. We welcome outside contributions. To submit a piece, email ideas@time.com.

TIME Parenting

This Is How to Stalk Your Teenage Children Online

MEN, WOMEN, AND CHILDREN
Jennifer Garner plays an intenet snooping mother in Paramount's Men, Women & Children Dale Robinette—Paramount Pictures.

One mother comes clean

I knew I had to be very careful when choosing a fake online identity with which to stalk my kids. It needed to be somebody that my children would want to be friends with, but not close friends, somebody who might plausibly notice them, but they might not notice being noticed by.

That’s how I ended up becoming Clara Lemlich. She was a leader of a massive strike of female shirtwaist workers in New York City more than a century ago. Logically, a modern Clara would be interested in clothes and young women, exactly what both my teenagers are interested in.

It’s well-known that only loser teenagers befriend people who don’t already have friends so I rounded out Clara’s profile by prefriending a whole bunch of people I knew my kids (a 13 year old girl and 16 year old boy) would find cool. That noted labor organizer, Channing Tatum, for example.

Given Ms. Lemlich’s areas of expertise, it’s not weird or creepy or anything that my children might crop up on her radar. Well, perhaps it’s a little creepy. I mean, if I were their mother and I saw some random adult pretending to be a dead union activist looking at their photos on Instagram, I’d be alarmed. But I am their mother, so …..anyway, I digress.

My ruse made just enough sense that when Clara Lemlich started following my kids, she seemed both acceptable and ignorable; they took the bait. Online friends are after all, more desirable for their quantity than their quality. The only person my children do not want to add to their list of followers is me.

Surely, you’re saying, there’s some more upfront, reasonable, less sneaky way to do this. Experts recommend, for example, that you have all your children’s passwords and make sure that you have full access to all their social media sites. To which I say: bwahahahahaha. Good luck. You will never get ahead of your teenagers on nefarious uses of technology. I’ll wager young Rory Gates has already figured out at least one way to digitally outsmart his dad, Bill.

In the new movie Men, Women & Children, Jennifer Garner plays a mom trying to do exactly what those parenting gurus recommend. She has all her daughter’s passwords. She tracks her daughter on her iPhone. Her computer records every website the girl has visited, every text her phone receives and every person who texts her, just to make sure there are no predators. (Her daughter goes along with all of this, because her daughter is a completely fictional construct.)

I’m not worried about predators. I pity any poor perv who tries to get my kids off the couch. But like Garner’s character Patricia, I do worry that what the kids are posting might blow back on them later. As Patricia says: “our children will be the first generation whose lives have a searchable database.”

That’s why I felt I needed Clara Lemlich. The Internet is too vast and labyrinthine to be mapped. Parents can’t give their offspring a guidebook or a list of dangerous neighborhoods, even if they knew them. They can’t warn them ahead of time to avoid doing something that might later seem terrible. But this public vast world is also holdable in one hand; It’s as if their bus pass could allow them to time travel. And strip when they get there.

But once I had successfully Trojan horsed my way into my kids’s online lives, I found their cities somewhat lacking in drama. There were no fights to join. Their activities mostly consist of friends being excessively complimentary of each other and excessively unpleasant about strangers. It’s narcissistic but not dangerous. The biggest infraction my daughter seems to be guilty of is copyright infringement: she’s posting photos I took. Without attribution.

So I’m outing Clara Lemlich. Hi kids, it’s me. Isn’t this Instagram thing fun? Of course, they don’t follow me on social media, so they’ll never know.

TIME Etiquette

The One Thing Everyone Should Do After an Apology

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Dr. Josh Misner is a mindfulness researcher and communication educator.

Taking the extra step to ask for forgiveness achieves reconciliation and resolution

After listening to a TEDx talk given by my former dissertation committee chair, Dr. Shann Ray Ferch, I realized that it had caused a seismic but subtle shift in my life. Speaking on art, love and forgiveness, Dr. Ferch shared the story of meeting his future father-in-law, where he was told:

I would give you 50 rules, but you wouldn’t remember all of them. I’ll give you two. One of them is that Jennifer knows her limitations. Don’t take her beyond those. And the second one is that I don’t ever want you to have to come to me and say you’re sorry.

Dr. Ferch continued, describing the first time he observed asking for forgiveness in action, again recalling his father-in-law:

He had made a sharp comment at the dinner table to his wife. I didn’t even pick up on it. In my family, on a 100-point scale of verbal violence, his comment was a minus eight. After dinner, he came over to me and said, “I’d like to ask your forgiveness for the way I treated my wife at the dinner table.” I didn’t know what to do. I said, “Ah, you don’t have to ask me.” And he said, “No, I don’t ask just for you. In our family, we ask forgiveness of the person whom we harmed, and also everybody who was there, in order to restore the dignity of the one who was harmed.”

This incident struck me for its profound difference between merely apologizing and taking it a step further to seek forgiveness.

When I say “I’m sorry,” I admit wrongdoing by taking responsibility for my actions. It is something I have long taught my children. As a result, my kids are now pros at saying sorry, and in retrospect, I’ll admit that it can easily get old after hearing it for every little transgression. For a while, I could not understand why my kids saying sorry so frequently started bugging me, but after hearing Shann’s story, it all clicked.

The lesson this parable tries to teach is to think critically about one’s actions beforehand, so that an apology is not necessary. But, as humans, we are imperfect creatures, and we need to restore the dignity of others whom we have wronged.

Dr. Ferch’s story reminded me that asking for forgiveness is a necessary addition to an apology. If saying sorry is akin to admitting fault, then doing so is not enough to restore a relationship. Taking the extra step to ask for forgiveness involves a dramatic shift in power, which requires humility on the part of the asker and subsequently places power into the hands of the person wronged. By gifting this power to the person whose dignity was robbed, it effectively restores and heals the proverbial wound.

I was anxious and able to test this theory when, one weekend, my kids’ sibling infighting was incendiary and constant, ratcheting my anger up several notches until an argument over who had to let the dogs in pushed me over the edge.

At that point, I blew it.

My yelling started with low-level voice-raising, but was soon followed by the slightly louder and more insistent classic, “It would be really nice if you two would just do what I said without fighting about it for once!” As I threw my dad tantrum and stomped around, I avoided making eye contact. But as soon as I stopped my fit, I turned and locked eyes with them. Their once-bright eyes, normally dark with curiosity and wonder, were red and brimming with tears, as their cheeks sagged under the weight of their shame and remorse. My son turned and ran to his room, while my daughter stifled a quiet sob as she, too, walked away.

At that point, I swallowed my anger and the sting of regret quickly set in. Recalling Dr. Ferch’s talk, I called both kids back into the room.

“Kids,” I said gently, “I’m sorry. I was wrong to take my anger out on both of you like I did, and the way I yelled at you was embarrassing. Will you forgive me?” My heart sank, my voice trembled, and I could feel a familiar stinging in my eyes, knowing tears were soon on the way.

As if by instinct, both children leapt up simultaneously, wrapping their arms around me and supplementing their embrace with a slightly muffled yet reciprocal response together: “We forgive you. We’re sorry too, daddy. Will you forgive us?”

In similar circumstances in the not-so-distant past, our apologies had a very different feel. They were almost like verbal punctuation on the end of an argument, but with a touch of “To be continued,” almost as if acknowledging that the conflict might resurface at a later date.

This time there was reconciliation. This time there was resolution. It was as though, in seeking forgiveness from my children, I was delicately holding their hearts in my hands, carefully mending the parts I had damaged.

The difference between an apology and seeking forgiveness is profound and not to be taken for granted. Teaching our children to take responsibility for their actions is important, and we should remind them to apologize when they have wronged someone. But we also need to demonstrate to them the power inherent in restoring relationships using four simple words: Will you forgive me?

Dr. Josh Misner is a mindfulness researcher, communication educator and father of four. You can follow him on Facebook and at Mindful Dad.

TIME Ideas hosts the world's leading voices, providing commentary and expertise on the most compelling events in news, society, and culture. We welcome outside contributions. To submit a piece, email ideas@time.com.

TIME Parenting

I Delivered One Healthy Baby and One Deceased Fetus

Infant feet and adult hands
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The doctor held up a beautiful 10-pound boy. Minutes later, doctors showed us the remains of our fetus

xojane

This story originally appeared on xoJane.com.

My husband and I spent several months debating the merits of adding one more chick to our crowded, muddy, Lego-filled nest.

We were already the (rapidly aging) parents of three boys, and our lives were chaotic and busy and full. But when I looked at my dining room table, there was an empty chair; a perfect, baby-sized space.

So, before we hung up the going-out-of-business sign, we decided to *ahem* try vigorously for exactly one month, trusting the universe to make the magic happen… or not. If it wasn’t meant to be, we would fast-track the vasectomy and put the crib on Craigslist. We shook on it.

Determined to make this month count, I stocked up on prenatal vitamins, exercised, tried to get some extra rest, and started each morning with a kefir, chia seed, and bee pollen smoothie. Weird? No. At least not compared to the salt crystals and wooden spoons and moon charts scattered about our bedroom. People may dismiss those tactics as old wives’ tales. I say, EXACTLY. When it comes to pregnancy and childbirth, ancient feminine wisdom is everything.

Voilà. Two weeks later, two pink lines. Two really dark pink lines, that appeared several days before my period was due. A blood test confirmed it, and three weeks later we had the first ultrasound. We did not see a fetus. We saw fetuses. Twins. In an instant, we gained entrée into the wild world of multiples; a place where people say things like, “But a minivan isn’t big enough,” and mean it.

It didn’t take long for the twins to become known collectively as Cuatro Cinco. After the initial shock, we rolled with it… as most parents learn to do. The universe (and probably those mystical Mayan chia seeds) had indeed provided. So, we researched double strollers and creative ways for me to consume the recommended 100 grams of protein I would need to choke down each day, queasy or not. I began to love having a “they” in my belly and pictured them curled together like a Yin-Yang symbol.

I’m not sure the term ballooning does justice to what was happening to my abdomen. By 14 weeks, I looked seven months pregnant. The twins were growing like those capsules you put in water and five minutes later — dinosaur sponges! The genetic testing had indicated all baby-systems were go. It also revealed the presence of a Y-chromosome, so we knew we were about to welcome a little brother, and possibly two.

During my 15-week ultrasound we saw one fetal exhibitionist, sprawled on his back, arms and legs flexing (Ultrasound tech: “Well, I know it’s early, but there’s your Y chromosome”) and one calm fetus, breech with both legs tucked under itself like a yogi, peacefully resting off to my left side. I felt like I knew them both already.

And then I started shrinking.

Suddenly, I could wear pre-pregnancy clothes again. I chalked it up to being in the second trimester and having less bloating. But by 18 weeks, I looked just like I had in previous pregnancies. I called my obstetrician’s office and shared my concerns. They had me come in and a nurse listened for fetal heart tones. She was sure she heard two distinct heartbeats, and I was comforted enough by that to hold off on an ultrasound for another two weeks. She was wrong, but it didn’t matter. What was done had happened weeks ago.

At 20 weeks, we had our Level II ultrasound. It was finally time to examine all the pieces and parts times two — and hopefully learn the sex of modest Baby B. Instead we learned that there would be no Baby B.

The monitor on the wall showed only stillness. No blood flow, no heartbeat. Just a tiny fetus already being dwarfed by its robust and thriving brother. I say “it” in absence of a gender-specific pronoun; we never learned the sex of Baby B. The fetus was already being compressed and flattened when the loss was discovered. The medical term for this is fetus papyraceous — meaning “like parchment.” Measurements showed a femur length of 15 weeks, 1 day. I watched the rest of the ultrasound in a daze, palm to sweaty palm with my husband, regretting each “I can’t handle twins” thought I had allowed to creep in my brain.

Later that afternoon, we tried to be stoic; pragmatic. We shared the news with family and friends, presented in medically accurate terms and wrapped in the appropriate platitudes. Better to know now. Nature is wise. Everything happens for a reason.

The following day was July 4th. I never felt less like celebrating in my life, but we still had three rambunctious boys who understood little of the loss, and who were ready to barbecue, swim, and watch fireworks in the park. Life needed to go on.

Still, I remember stepping outside to pull a few weeds and slowly collapsing to my knees in the grass, sobbing into handfuls of dandelion. I’m sorry… I’m sorry… I’m sorry. I’m so sorry, Baby. Was it that vigorous bike ride? That cough that wouldn’t quit? How had I failed this little one who was still inside my body but who I would never hold? That day was the worst — drowning in reality and permanence.

My wonderful, long-time obstetrician assured me that nothing I had done caused this. He said often a later loss like ours indicated an issue with the umbilical cord, maybe even something as simple as a knot. I know that was meant to make me feel better. All I could think was, “A fucking knot?” This fetus did one too many somersaults and that was it? I would have preferred to hear something about inevitability, or incompatibility with life, rather than the suggestion of simple bad luck.

Days passed. Kind friends brought food and blooming plants, gestures of love when finding the right words proved difficult. Several times I was told to look at the bright side: “At least you still have one.” This truism always seemed to suck the air from my lungs, unintentionally minimizing my grief and leaving me feeling both guilty and ungrateful.

The tears eventually decreased, but my anxiety about the health of my surviving twin remained. I bought a portable fetal Doppler. Several times a day I would drop everything and listen for my baby’s steady heartbeat and his subtle movements, screeching at full-volume through my headphones like a needle dragged across a record.

The remainder of my pregnancy was difficult. I was hospitalized for a week in August due to a mystery virus that left me feverish and fatigued. Shortly afterward, I was diagnosed with the painful pressure of polyhydramnios (excess amniotic fluid) and two weeks later, gestational diabetes. Thankfully, none of this seemed to faze our son. He was and is a champion.

My final pregnancy ended via Cesarean. The doctor held up a beautiful 10-pound boy who immediately hollered and peed on everyone before nuzzling into my neck between electrodes. Minutes later, per previous discussion, doctors showed us the remains of our fetus. My eyes were blurry from anesthesia, but I remember seeing something shaped like a 3-inch long, flattened kidney bean attached to a gingko leaf… our Baby B and her/his placenta. A photograph was taken with our consent for scientific and educational purposes, but I have never seen it.

It’s hard to believe how quickly time has passed. My son is now 11 months old and he is a cheerful, inquisitive baby. He has adopted the tranquil nature we first observed in his twin; in a crowded room it can be easy to forget he’s there, smiling and quietly surveying the scene. My main concern now is to provide him with a life so rich and fulfilling he will not have time to dwell on any sense of loss lingering in his heart.

I have read the blogs and been to the online support groups for twinless-twins. Many members, even those who lost a twin at birth or in utero, report feeling an incompleteness or melancholy later in life, in some cases guessing the existence of a co-multiple sibling before they were ever told. So, there will be no secrets. I just want to make sure we address any concerns the right way and at the right time, avoiding the unintended consequence of creating guilt or sadness that may never have existed otherwise.

For now, I will do nothing but appreciate each baby-squeal of discovery and each joyful “Mama!” directed my way. Although the tiny hole in my heart will likely remain, I believe I am mothering the four children who were meant to give my life purpose. They teach me humility, bring me to happy tears, remind me why I don’t need to spend money on nice things, and allow me to swell with pride at their impressive use of sarcasm.

Platitude or not, nature IS wise. Everything does happen for a reason… if only to make us aware of our own strength, endurance and capacity for love.

SB Falkner is a blogger and new mother.

TIME Ideas hosts the world's leading voices, providing commentary and expertise on the most compelling events in news, society, and culture. We welcome outside contributions. To submit a piece, email ideas@time.com.

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