Forgiveness:  When Mom Fails

Forgiveness Photo

“I shouldn’t have yelled at her.”

“I was impatient…selfish.”

“Why couldn’t she just listen and get to bed on time?”

“I should go upstairs and apologize.”

“She might already be asleep.  Maybe I shouldn’t go.”

I put down the dish rag, sighed at yet another #momfail and slowly climbed the stairs.  I couldn’t relax or get on with my two hours of free time (aka “catch up on the laundry” time) until I apologized for my behavior.

The boys had finally gone to bed, but Josey likes to stall at bedtime…more so than the boys.  She lingered around, searching for a school library book.  If there’s an excuse out there, our kids will grab it and go with it around 8:30 p.m:  “I forgot to have you sign my folder…I need my red shirt to be washed…I’m sooooo hungry!”

I’m still debating which time of day is the worst for me:  morning or nighttime.  In the morning I’m tired, still trying to wake up from my slumber, and there are some mornings where the coffee just isn’t working.  Inevitably there is one out of three children who woke up on the wrong side of bed, so crankypants is hard to deal with…and then there are school lunches, mismatching socks, and lost van keys to contend with more often than I’d like to admit.  Nighttime is similar, only I’ve put a full day in, and I’m running on empty.  It can be a real struggle.  The finish line is in sight but with one little, “Mom, I didn’t take my medicine” or “I forgot to study for my test tomorrow!” I tend to erupt.

That’s what happened one night recently.  Josey wasn’t in bed, and I needed to prepare for a class I was teaching the next day.  I was exhausted, stressed, and angry, and so I yelled.  She didn’t deserve the words that came out of my mouth.  The wrath of mom was in full effect, and I regretted it so much once she trudged up the stairs, looking sad and defeated.

I wish that I could say that this occurrence was rare, but it isn’t rare.  It’s more common than I’d like to admit.  And so, I’m convicted.  I wrestle with my poor behavior and modeling.  I beat myself up, but then I typically go back to one word:

Forgiveness

That night I crept into my daughter’s room and  lied down beside her in the bed.  She’s almost as big as I am at nine-years-old, but I cannot forget that she is still a child.  I leaned down and saw that she was not yet asleep.

“Josey, I’m so sorry for blowing up at you before bedtime.  You didn’t deserve that.  I should have been more patient, exercised more self-control.  Will you forgive me?”

We complicate forgiveness sometimes.  We over analyze the when, where, why, and how, but it is really quite simple.  It’s acknowledging that we did wrong, asking for forgiveness, and moving on.  Hopefully that interaction can repair a broken heart.  Most of the time I have to ask forgiveness from the people I love the most, those I hold so dear, care for fiercely.

It’s humbling.  It’s letting your guard down and airing out your weaknesses.  It’s admitting imperfection and failure.  And who likes to do that?  Ugh.

Moms make mistakes.

But we can also make amends.

That night Josey smiled and turned toward me.  I think she was surprised that I had climbed those stairs again (for what felt like the hundredth time that night).  She accepted my apology, followed by a hug and kiss.

She will have to do the same with her child someday.  It is because she saw me acknowledge my failures and ask for forgiveness that it won’t be an unusual or uncomfortable interaction.  

It’s a part of life.  We all need to ask for forgiveness and accept forgiveness.  It truly is a band-aid that can heal even the deepest cut.

 Be kind and compassionate to one another, forgiving each other,
just as in Christ God forgave you.
Ephesians 4:32

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The One Statement I’ll Never Make Again

“I don’t know how you do it,” I said to a homeschooling mom friend of mine.  This moment occurred last summer as she was discussing the perils of homeschooling and how there are some things she missed about having her children attend school outside the home.

That statement stopped me.  It completely rerouted my thoughts as I stared out at the pool where our children were laughing and splashing and diving.  Because you know what?

I DON’T KNOW HOW SHE DOES IT.

And I never will.

Because I’m not her, and she isn’t me.

I don’t know how she goes out of town without kids all the time.  I don’t know how she has time to volunteer so much.  I don’t know how she balances working full-time with raising a family. I don’t know how she home schools…cooks gourmet meals, makes Pinterest-worthy crafts, affords Disney several times a year, and the list could go on and on.

“I don’t know how you do it.”

This one statement tends to be on replay in my head, and in my weakest and most unbelievable moments it comes out of my mouth and is directed toward another woman.  While I’m trying to be empathetic to the other woman, there is a hint of jealousy, perhaps even some sarcasm behind it.

It comes back to one word:  pride

Sometimes in those moments where I see other moms at conferences with friends or volunteering at the school or heading to meetings for work or packing for a quick extended weekend vacation or lesson planning for their homeschool days or WHATEVER I can’t do or won’t do, my pride tears at me.

My pride tells me one of two things:  I’m good OR I’m not good enough.

I’m good comes out like this:  I’m engaged and involved at the school.  I’m heading to Target to pick up fall-themed plates for the fall party.  I was chosen for the coveted chaperone role for my daughter’s field trip.  I have time at home to clean and straighten up my house without the kids there to mess up things behind me.  I can even take a nap or catch up on my recorded shows during the day (which never happens, by the way!).

I’m not good enough comes out like this:  I’m never going to be able to get back into the career game.  We’ll never have enough money to visit Mickey Mouse.  I don’t have the patience to do homework with my child, let alone ever homeschool my offspring.

It’s a vicious cycle, and it can puff you up or tear you down, depending on how you view it.

What we often forget is something simple:  we are individuals with families.  No two women are exactly alike, and no family is a carbon copy of another.  In a world full of beautiful people and places on social media, we have no idea what that person’s “behind-the-scenes” looks like.

Last week after my son’s last flag football game, his teammates and their families gathered for trophies and cupcakes.  I’ll never forget, however, what his coach said that morning and how it can be applied to my life:  “Just do your job.  Don’t worry about what anybody else is doing.  Do your job.”  Now that’s good advice for not only my ten-year-old, but also me!

So when the world causes me to stumble and look to my left or right and feel good or not good enough, I’m going to pause and consider what it means to do my job…as a child of God, as a wife, as a mother.

And the next time I start to blurt out, “I don’t know how you do it,” I’m going to put on my brakes and acknowledge that, “I know how I do it.”

And that works for me and for my family.  That is what matters.

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A Tale of Transitioning

 

I knew that moving to a new place would have its ups and downs.  Although I don’t do it often (thank goodness!), I figured that there would be big transitions and learning curves in our new city.  As a family, we pretty much dove right into life, stuck the kids in activities, and learned the lay of the land.  Everything was going pretty well until a couple weeks ago when I realized something, and it hit me hard.

The honeymoon period is over.

This phrase isn’t usually used when talking about being newbies in a new state and town, but this is the best analogy I can think of to describe what I went through a couple weeks ago.  For two months I drove through life at approximately 70 mph.  There was excitement in learning how to maneuver through a new neighborhood, meeting up with new friends, and making our house into a home.  We fell into a routine, and while there was still a learning curve going on, it was getting smaller.

A couple weeks ago, however, something happened to me.  I can’t really pinpoint when this moment occurred, but I progressively fell into a deep dark hole that seemed scary and hard to claw my way out of quickly.  I was pretty sad and down most of the time.  I had been so busy making sure that everybody else in my family was transitioning well that I forgot about myself.  I went through a period of grief.

Yes, grief.

This is yet another word that I wouldn’t normally associate with moving, but gosh, I grieved a couple weeks ago.  The dictionary defines grief as follows:  “deep sorrow, especially that caused by someone’s death.”  But it wasn’t someone’s death I was grieving.  It was the end of a life I had known for 12 years.  It was the strangest sadness, but I do believe that you can grieve a place and a life and routine you lived for so long.  I was sad at the loss of familiarity, comfort, people such as our neighbors and physicians, places such as our church and even our school and zoo, and opportunities such as I had with the Mom’s Blog and even the University.  Everything just seemed easier.  But of course it was.  Our roots were deeply planted in Knoxville.  While life wasn’t perfect, it certainly worked and flowed.

Once we moved, it meant starting over.  Honestly, it excited me this summer, as we looked forward to this next chapter.  I was excited for new opportunities in our new town.  I had high expectations, and a couple weeks ago, it hit me that none of those expectations had been met.  Several things I had planned on jumping into and doing were dead ends.  Things I used to do in my former town looked quite different in our new town.  This took me on a bit of an emotional roller coaster, and I sat in self pity for a couple weeks.  My entire family could sense my sadness and stress and search for purpose.  I hit a wall where I didn’t even want to be happy that my husband was finally in his dream job or that my children were succeeding in school and had made more close friends in two months than they had in half a year in our former town.  My frown just wouldn’t turn upside down.  There was a lot of “being alone with my bad self,” as my dear friend once mentioned to me years ago when I went through a similar transition out of graduate school.  The mind can create cobwebs, and just like a spider’s meal, my thoughts got stuck.  Starting over can be a lonely place.

So much of life is choosing joy.

It really is.  Before I even got out of bed for a couple weeks I decided that the day was going to be a disappointment and that I would just wallow in my sadness.  This is a terrible outlook on life, but it was mine.  I remember back a couple weeks ago when I had attempted something that I had prepared for and was excited about, but it didn’t go the way it was supposed to that morning.  All I could do was ugly cry and crawl back into bed.  I felt like a child again who had no coping skills or self control.  I finally wiped my tears away and got out of bed and decided that I was going to try.  You’ve heard that saying, “If at first you don’t succeed, try again.”  I did, and the result the next time around was great!

Perhaps that was the turning point for me…that morning.  I didn’t like the feeling of being so sad and feeling defeated.  I’m not a quitter.  I’m a fighter.  From then on, I made a decision to choose to be happy and to look at life differently.  Perhaps I didn’t know my purpose and place in a new city right there in the moment, but I could trust in the one who does…Jesus.

I couldn’t let my circumstances determine my attitude on life.  Sure, we get sad sometimes.  Jesus did too.  We were made in His image, so it’s natural for us to cry and to feel down from time to time.  We can’t dwell in that pit, though.  There are times when those pits are too deep, and that is when professional help is needed.  Please don’t have any shame in going that route, if that’s you out there.  Fortunately for me this time around, I was able to pick myself up, dust myself off, and move forward.

Moving is a process, one that I’m still very much navigating.  Sure, we have friends.  Sure, we know our way around better and use our “Map App” less when driving around town.  Sure, we jumped into all the things:  work, school, etc.  There is a lot to get used to, though.  Most of all, I need to lower my expectations and grant myself (and my family) grace.  And I need to choose joy, despite the valleys because life is pretty darn good, all things considered.

“For I know the plans I have for you,” declares the Lord, “plans to prosper you and not to harm you, plans to give you hope and a future.” (Jeremiah 29:11)

“Why, my soul, are you downcast? Why so disturbed within me? Put your hope in God, for I will yet praise him, my Savior and my God.” (Psalm 42:5)

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Fall in Florida

Well, here I am.  It’s my first fall in Florida, and it is funny.  If you don’t love autumn, don’t move to Florida because you aren’t getting ANY changes in the season.  Granted, I’ve not lived here for too long, but I’ve talked to my new Floridian friends, and they have all prepared me for what fall is like here in the Sunshine State:  an extended summer.

Now as I’ve shared before, I’m an Ohioan, in that I was born and raised there, so I know what a true season change is like, and I love it!  This new fall is going to take some getting used to in my new place of residence.  There are no leaves changing colors.  Actually, there aren’t really any leaves falling at all, except when hurricane-like winds come through, which was the case several weeks ago.  And cooler temps?  Forget about it!

Although this fall is different, there are a couple things I refuse to let go of, and I’ll sweat it out anyway!

  1.  Pumpkin Spice Lattes
    Um…this has fall written all over it, and I cannot let it go.  If you live in the deep south, I recommend drinking it cold OR drinking it in an ice-cold restaurant, which all of them are because we are in Florida.  In fact, you might bring along a cardigan if consuming it in a local coffee shop because you can close your eyes and it feels like an actual fall for a second.
  2. Hayrides
    I might be wearing a tank and Daisy Dukes (j/k!), but I refuse to not go on a hayride this autumn.  I might even have to travel north a bit to find one in Georgia, but I’ll do it.  A bumpy journey on some Georgia clay behind a tractor screams harvest time, and I’m determined to make it happen for me and for my family.
  3. Fall Decorating
    Just because it’s hotter than blazes doesn’t mean I can’t decorate the heck out of my porch.  In fact, I’ve found the more decorations, the more you can trick yourself into believing that it isn’t actually 95 degrees.  I’m just going to make sure that those felt pad eyes stuck to my styrofoam ghost heads are secured tightly, so as to not let the humidity slide them right off.

All kidding aside, we’re continuing to explore our new town and transition into a new place.  I’m sure that we’ll be happy to be in Florida around January when we are experiencing spring-like conditions while the rest of the country is standing in snow for days.  Much like anything, we’ll adjust and adapt to our new environment.  Our neighbors said that they swam in their pool last Christmas…WOW!

Happy October!

 

 

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Unwavering: Standing Firm When Controversy Hits the Classroom

Every once in awhile I get fired up about something.  I’m not one to stir the pot or dive into confrontation, and so I stay at a distance and let the water boil, so to speak.  One second I want to talk to Fox News (which actually was an option for those on either side of the issue) and the next I don’t.  I’ve found that it’s best if I let my anger or frustration fizzle out a little bit before firing off an e-mail or a Facebook status update or comment.

So that’s what I did this week.

But for some reason, I just can’t let this go.  It’s a subject that I’ve remained extremely quiet about.  This blog is one of bravery and courage because goodness, it’s taken me awhile to speak up about this issue.

I recently joined a mom’s Facebook group when I moved to my new city on the recommendation of a friend of mine.  Some days I regret joining.  One day this week I hopped on to find that a parent shared a teacher’s letter.  This particular teacher teaches in the same county that my children attend school in in our new city.  My children don’t go to that school, but it really got me thinking about what I would do in the situation.  In a nutshell, the teacher wrote to parents explaining that she would like to cultivate a classroom where students used “gender-neutral” pronouns (i.e. “they, them, and their”) to address one another.  In fact, the teacher even wants to be addressed as a Mx. (pronounced mix).  In her letter she says, “I know it takes some practice for it to feel natural, but in my experience students catch on pretty quickly.”

THERE IS NOTHING NATURAL ABOUT THIS.

I just sat and stared at the letter and reread it and let it mull over in my mind until I was just mad.  I also thanked God that my students did not a) Go to that school and b) Have that teacher.

I’m a Christian, and this obviously plays a huge part in how I live my day-to-day life.  I believe that the Bible is true, and I believe that God created “man and woman” (Genesis 2:7, 2:22).  There shouldn’t be confusion over this, but this confusion shouldn’t come as a surprise because this world is full of sinful people, just like me.  Let me be clear in that while I’m a Christian and try to live my life according to the Bible, I still mess up.  Nobody is perfect (Romans 3:32).  I’ll never forget the week when a Christian woman with a huge following that I looked up to a lot spoke out about her feelings on some subjects that made me scratch my head and frown.  Her turning from truth is something she’ll need to wrestle out with God.  It’s dangerous to tweak the truth just to survive in this culture we live in today.

I want to add that I’m aware that I cannot live my mom life or parent in a bubble.  I wish I could, but I cannot.  My children will be subjected to these issues, just as much I will be confronted with them.  And that’s why I wish that my children could live my childhood. It was simple.  I felt like I stayed innocent a lot longer than my children might.  I know alternative lifestyles existed then, but thanks to media today, it’s loud and proud and smeared all over the place.  The issues I read about and see out there today scare the crap out of me.

One might say that yes, I lived in a conservative homogeneous little town.  One might say that I grew up in a Southern Baptist church.  One might say that I lived in a conservative Christian home.  “Yes” to all of the above.  I’m thankful that I grew up in that town and was raised by two amazing parents.  I have lived a lot of life since then.  I went away to college, got married, earned my master’s degree, moved south, and then I moved south of south.  My parents raised me to be kind, loving, and considerate of ALL people, BUT they also taught me Biblical truth.  It has stayed with me.  My faith has become my own and not just my parent’s faith that was projected onto me.  It leads me to this:

I cannot turn a blind eye to sin.

I cannot take from the Bible what I like and forget what I don’t like.

I cannot twist the truth to make me feel better.

I cannot be silent about the gospel.

I cannot allow my foundation to be built on sand and not the “rock that is higher than I.”

It is because of the above, that I stand by the fact that if one of my children was in the classroom of the teacher who sent that letter home, I would ask if my child could be placed in another classroom.  If not, I would probably pull my child out of that school…or even out of public school in general.

As a parent I have a responsibility to share and model Biblical truth to my children.  When I launch them off at age 18, it is my prayer that they will remember everything their father and I taught them.  I am not stupid.  I know that they’ll make mistakes.  They will make decisions that might disappoint me.  This will be a phase of my life where I will have to let go and truly let God grab the steering wheel.

If you are a parent that would applaud this teacher’s letter and blow trumpets in the name of inclusiveness and diversity and tolerance and different lifestyles, I still love you.  I disagree with you, but I will not disrespect you.  I would love to sit peacefully over a cup of coffee and chat about it (even the Mx. in this controversy).  I’m all about learning different viewpoints, but I will stand firm in my faith.

I know that this post will be controversial for some.  I almost didn’t hit the “publish” button, but I felt like these words were too important for me not to do so.  I don’t want to let fear rule me, and so I became brave today.  If you think differently than me, that’s fine.  I love people, and I love Jesus.  I also love the Bible, which is the inerrant Word of God.

A lot of people, even some Christians, like to think of Jesus as a big cuddly teddy bear who is completely love.  He is love (1 John 4:8) and yes, he ate with sinners, but what a lot of people deny or forget is that he is a just God (Isaiah 5:16) who abhors sin (Psalm 5:4, Proverbs 6:16-19). Thankfully, He sent his son to pay our debt on the cross.  I am a new creation in Him because of this.  Therefore, I  have to allow this scripture to permeate who I am, especially in this climate and in this culture:  “Do not be conformed to this world, but be transformed by the renewal of your mind, that by testing you may discern what is the will of God, what is good and acceptable and perfect.”

 

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Restless

Hello again.  I haven’t written in awhile.  We’ve been busy.  Oh, let’s see.  We moved into our new home in Tallahassee on August 8, had a child at urgent care the first weekend, went out of town for the Florida State University season opener the following weekend, hosted my inlaws, hosted my mother, had a two-night hospital stay for our youngest, and prepared for and survived a major hurricane.  Whew!  We live such a boring life.  This is a great segue into this actual post.

I don’t know what boring looks like.

That’s my problem.  

This morning I dropped off my children at school, came home and sent out a couple e-mails, and went for a run.  The “dust has settled,” so to speak.  I should feel an ease, even a breath of relief that life is back to some normalcy after the crazy we’ve been through in the past couple weeks.  The entire morning, however, I have felt so unsettled.  Perhaps it stems from yesterday.  I met another mom for a meeting, hoping for a new adventure.  I was excited, and my expectations were high.  I left the meeting like a deflated balloon.  I didn’t get the answers I wanted, and it left me confused and frustrated.

So here I am this morning contemplating my life…call it yet another occupational hazard of a stay-at-home mom:

Should I write?

Should I teach?

Should I teach Jazzercise or should I teach preschool?

Should I find a job?

Should I work part-time or full-time?

OR SHOULD I JUST BE STILL?

I really don’t think it is in my nature to be still.  My life is full of turns and twists and dead ends and detours.  Sometimes when I have a dull moment, I can hardly stand it. That’s really sad.  It’s easy to get stuck in that mindset of, “I should be doing something for crying out loud!”  All I need to do is check social media to start the tangled web of noise in my head:

She is creating.

She is organizing.

She is cleaning.

She is volunteering.

She is working.

She is making money.

It’s a trap.  It’s a comparison trap.  I’ve written about it before.  It’s impossible to sit still to even hear the voice of God when your mind is racing with questions and self-condemnation.

So how do I get to the point where I’m simply sitting still?  I’m so bad at it.  I have whittled it down to a couple points, though.  I’m preaching to myself here:

  1. Literally sit down.  Away from distractions.  No phone, no computer, no television, no food, no nothing.  Stripping everything away will pave the path for a conversation with God Almighty.  Maybe that even means getting on your knees in a posture of worship.  Lay it all down at His feet.  He can take it.  He is our helper.
  2. Listen.  This is a hard one since the Lord is invisible.  Oh, how I’d love to sit at Starbucks with Jesus and get some bullet points of what I’m supposed to be doing with my life right now.  That’s not how it works.  I do think that listening, however, is not rushing and acting out because of our feelings.  Afterall, faith is not a feeling.  Listening requires being silent.  Have you ever been in a conversation where you dominated and left little time for your friend to speak?  That happened to me just last week when I chatted the entire length of time my friend and I had together on the phone.  She couldn’t get a word in edgewise.  It’s the same in our prayer life.  If I am asking God for help, I need to be silent and lean in toward Him.  Maybe that means looking up scripture, doodling, or writing out something.  Maybe it’s listening to praise and worship music and just “being.”
  3. Reflect.  Speaking of writing, get out an old-fashioned pen/pencil and piece of paper.  Write out pros and cons for a possible opportunity you have.  Perhaps even do a SWOT analysis (strengths, weaknesses, opportunities, threats).  Journal what you are feeling.  Where is the Lord leading you?
  4. Yield.  Finally, yield to the Holy Spirit.  The fruits of the spirit are “love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, self-control” (Gal. 5:22-23).  The two I struggle with the most hands down are patience and self-control.  With that being said, I need to have patience in this matter of figuring out my purpose because God’s timing is never mine.  Also, that whole self-control thing is linked to patience.  I want God to go ahead of me in any adventure and not the other way around.   

So now I’m going to do just that.  I’m going to sit down, listen, reflect, and yield.  I may not walk away with an immediate answer, but it is a step in the right direction.  Finally, no matter what the Lord has called upon me to do in our new city and place, I’m going to hide this word in my heart:  Whatever you do, work at it with all your heart, as working for the Lord, not for human masters, since you know that you will receive an inheritance from the Lord as a reward.  It is the Lord Christ you are serving.” Colossians 3:23-24

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Too Much Mommin’


Full disclosure:  I DO TOO MUCH FOR MY KIDS

I do.  Call it an occupational hazard of a stay-at-home-mom…who still struggles with perfectionism.  

I fix their breakfast, pack their lunches, check and double check their homework, put hair up into ponytails, fill water bottles, search and rescue socks and shoes, put socks and shoes on my youngest, pick up toys, fix their snacks, and hold their hands.  “Have you brushed your teeth, gone to the bathroom, and washed your hands?”

Yes, some of this is just part of the position description for “mom.”  My children, however, are not babies anymore.  I have a 10-year-old, a soon-to-be nine-year-old, and a five-year-old.  Also in my position description:  prepare littles for life.  

With that being said, I need to LET GO more and allow them to fail.

“You were hungry at school?”

Maybe you should have a) eaten what I fixed you OR b) fixed yourself something else

“You forgot to do a homework page and got points taken away?”

Maybe you should have paid attention at school when your teacher went over homework expectations for the next day.

“I can’t wear tennis shoes without socks!”

Maybe you should have listened to me when I told you to grab some socks before walking out the door.

Actions have consequences.  This is real life.

This is tough love, but I’m going to get better at it.  I’m sending these kids out into the world in the very near future, and it would be a huge disservice to them if they flew out of my nest so unprepared.  

I can’t even dive into the whole chore thing.  I keep seeing these articles about how children who do chores are more successful in life, and I keep picturing my children living in our basement and me in fetal position in my walk-in closet upstairs.  I need to assign chores to each of my littles and keep them accountable for completing them.  I’m not good with charts and stickers, but something has to stick.  I refuse to hand off my ill-equipped son to a wife someday.  Leave and cleave, but good luck getting your husband to notice that the trash needs to be taken out!  Nope, not on my watch.

You see, watching kids grow up is also a nice little reminder in letting go.  As a mom, I have to project responsibility on them before it’s too late.  I can’t always be there for them, so they need to be self-aware as well as aware of their surroundings.  I need to be okay with failure because honestly that’s where the learning so often takes place.  There is no room for perfectionism in parenting.  It’s okay if the towels aren’t folded just so and the dishes aren’t loaded correctly.  At least the towels are folded and the dishes are loaded.

Right before writing this, I had reminded my son to fill up a water bottle for his flag football practice…multiple times.  I watched him walk out the door without one, and I had to bite my tongue and glue my feet to the floor.  

I bet he comes back from practice thirsty.

And that’s okay.

Tough (but important) love matters.  Pick and choose your battles wisely and lovingly.  This parenting job is no joke.

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