The Things Unwritten and Unsaid

People criticize moms who write about their kids. We over share, they say. We exploit, they cry. We’re narcissistic navel-gazers, spewing treacly, precious cliches all over the interwebz.

Perhaps. Sometimes. Maybe.

But I write about my experiences, parenting and otherwise, in an effort to connect. There were so many days early in my motherhood when I sat on the floor in my underwear and cried right along with my colicky, unhappy first baby, leaking from every orifice and wondering what the hell I had gotten myself into by having a baby. I felt completely alone, because my friends were not really having babies yet, and I was completely blindsided by the reality of motherhood. I likened it to being hit by a bus: the Bus of Motherhood. I could not have written anything precious or treacly about those first few months. They were brutal, not poetic. What got me through that first year was connecting to other mothers — in support groups and playgroups, online, and through words. Words spoken and written carried me when I could not walk.

I could probably write a book listing the many, many hard moments of parenting, like those first days, that I never saw coming. While I find being a mother infinitely awesome, I also find it infinitely difficult. Being someone’s mother is hard, yo. It’s hard for all the reasons we talk about: the Groundhog Day-type frustrations of trying to feed, clothe, and nurture volatile little people every day who would really rather we leave them to their all-beige, carb-heavy diets, infinite amounts of screen time, and the ability to beat each other, Hunger Games-style.

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I’ll be honest and say that yes, the sleep deprivation that came with my newborns was devastating. Nursing a baby was worth it, but left me worn and touched out by the ends of my days. I have shed bitter, frustrated tears more than once over a meal I made that was instantly rejected. I have asked myself when I might have a day that doesn’t include cleaning up someone else’s body fluids. I have cried over my children growing up, cried after losing my temper with my kids, and cried because I am just so tired and this is just so grindingly hard sometimes.

But the hardest things about parenthood, I have found, are things I actually can’t and won’t share — precisely because I do want to protect my children’s privacy. They are the things that go unwritten, the moments that go untold. They are the days that I feel like I have messed up so much or I am not sure what to do, when I feel paralyzed and frozen and like I just want to go be anonymous in a coffee shop somewhere for a few hours and not be anyone’s mother for a while. I want to hide, not because I don’t love my children, but because I don’t know how to be a mother to them in that moment. I don’t know what they need. I don’t know what I need to be for them to make things okay. They can’t be fixed with band-aids or diaper changes or a snack full of protein or an earlier bedtime.

There is a quote widely attributed to Plato but argued to have originated with Ian MacLaren that goes, “Be kind, for everyone you meet is fighting a hard battle.” That could never be more true than when it applies to parents. From my experiences and from what I know of my friends’ experiences, we really only see the tips of the icebergs when we encounter other parents at school pick-up, on the sidelines of athletic events, and in the aisles of Target. We might see other parents tussling with a tantruming toddler or clutching the hand of a new Kindergartner or tending to a child who had the wind knocked out of her when she collided on a soccer field. But we don’t often witness the kinds of moments that knock the wind out of the parents and bring them to their knees — the hesitant steps into the child psychiatrist’s office, the millionth confusing parent-teacher conference, the discouraging test results, or when a child tells his mother, “My brain doesn’t work the way other people’s brains work.” We don’t see the mother who wraps herself around her child when she is putting him to bed, tears falling into his hair beneath her face, because she’s not sure how to make the world work for him. We don’t see the dad pausing outside the door and taking a deep breath because it’s hard to leave for a day of work knowing his child is struggling.

I write about parenthood, but sometimes, the very stories that rip my heart apart are the ones I can’t write. My darkest days are the ones I have to keep to myself, precisely because they are not about the 800th wet bed I just changed or the epic meltdown the toddler had in the Gap or the failed playdate. They are so much bigger: they are yawning chasms with tiny, swinging rope bridges that I am attempting to cross every day without allowing myself — or more importantly to me, my children — to fall. Sometimes, I have to remind myself that there are tiny, swinging rope bridges surrounding me, stretching across those same chasms and ones I cannot see, and other mothers and fathers are stumbling across them, knuckles white, teeth gritted, while they lead their children on their own paths. They are all fighting their own battles, and all of them are hard. Hard, and worth it. But the battles you don’t see are far bloodier than the ones you do.

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I learned in those first dark months with my first baby that motherhood would make me cry. That promise has held true, in both good moments and bad. I had no way of knowing then that the things that crushed me then — the never-ending cluster feeds, the inexplicable public crying jags, the long nights of shushing and swaying — would not even compare to the things that crush me now. That terrifying feeling of not knowing what to do, of looking around for the real grown-up to swoop in and save us all, has never gone away. It just grew.

So I want to tell you out there — you, the one fighting your own hard battle today that no one around you can see and you feel you cannot and must not reveal to protect your child — that I know. I know what it feels like to fill out the forms, to receive the emails from the teachers, to wait in the doctors’ offices, to walk out of a child’s bedroom and want to crumble to the ground with the weight of the not-knowing-what-to-do. I might not see your battles, but I know they are there, and I am battling too.

Even if I don’t tell you about it.

Related post: Dear Daughters, Why I Blog… 

About the writer


Allison is a writer and a mother of four children. Her writing can be found at her own blog, Allison Slater Tate, on Facebook, and Twitter.


Kathy 11 months ago

YES, YES, YES. One thousand times yes. You are writing about my life with teens with anxiety & depression. No one knows the daily struggles we have…it’s a microscopic line my husband and I walk every day. Are we pushing or encouraging? Are we enabling or understanding? Have we irreparably damaged our children? No one else sees the struggle because we are all so good at hiding it.

Heather 11 months ago

Thank you for this piece. Perfectly captures what I have gone through as well as many parents I know.

Amy 11 months ago

Allison, this is such a beautiful and inspiring article.. It feels so good reading all the things i feel and know in my head but cant put down in writing.. its also good to know that i am not alone in this..
Keep up the good work :) and thanks for sharing.. it brought tears to my eyes xx

old grandmother 11 months ago

AND it will still be hard when you are over 70 and your children are in their 40’s and 50’s. And, you will still be filled with tears and doubts and worries and wishes for that magic wand. Part of the deal of parenting.
The rewards will also still be there too.
Hugs and cheers!

Mary 2 years ago

I love and appreciate and identify with this so much. But I couldn’t help but wonder as I read it if my poor little grandmother, who was born in 1889, married at age 16, had 12 children over the next 22 years (!), and lived in poverty, had time for such angst as we have had the “luxury” of experiencing. How did she get up every day and feed and clothe everyone and milk the cow and tend the garden – even through the deaths of two of her children! When she died we went through her cedar chest and found she had kept one outfit of clothing from each of those dead boys, one a baby, the other 12 years old. Other relatives marveled that she had kept such things, I guess because they had no idea she carried such pain.

Interestingly, she had 4 daughters and among them they only had 3 children – two of them had none. I wonder why!

Chris Carter 2 years ago

I ABSOLUTELY love this. Your heart, your words, your message is framed perfectly in this post. I am with you in every single thing you shared… Thank you for your genuine and beautiful honesty!!! Sharing!!!

Denise 2 years ago

Whether it’s happenstance, Karma, God…. I truly believe we find what we need at the exact times when we need them. I could plagiarize your words, as they describe every aspect of motherhood that I experience/feel. In fact, I may need to print and frame this, so it can always be attributed to you! (rather than Plato) 😉

Grimalkinmao Angie Walter 2 years ago

You are beautiful inside and out, I Love you and am so happy you are in my life!

Alexa Lord 2 years ago

Wow! That was so amazingly true. Your article reason antes in my heart. I feel as if I have a big chunk of my consciousness that is always thinking and worrying about my 2 sons. I am a family therapist, so the other chunk is doing the same with my children from work. But… I still would not change a thing about my life. I am rich with love and commitment to all of my kids.

Cassandra Hennigan Filippone 2 years ago

Allison, I love reading your words – you have a truly magical way of voicing what I (and it must be so many of us) feel. The image of those tiny rope bridges will stay with me as I continue to struggle across mine. Thank you for sharing your thoughts and by doing so tying us all together on this journey.

Coleen Boggs 2 years ago

Thank you.

Kelli 2 years ago

So beautifully written. It’s like you said everything I feel, but so much more elegantly. I always love your posts!

Wendy 2 years ago

This was so beautifully written and brought me to tears. So timely as my youngest starts his first day of middle school tomorrow. He struggles in school, and I think I’m giving myself an ulcer, hiding my terror. Two out of three of my kids have had a hard time. My oldest is now 20. I’m always reminding people not to judge (those I can remind). You never know the whole story, and no one knows others strugggles. Thanks so much for the reminder there are so many others out there feeling the same way, no matter the reason.

Tanya 2 years ago

Thank you for writing this. I also found that I write in order to connect, to not feel alone, and to spell out some of those hard experiences for myself, and because I simply “can’t not write” (I actually wrote these exact words on my blog when I started, and now I see them on yours :) ) There really isn’t enough openness in this society about the reality of parenting, which is why I believe people want to blog about their experiences.

Mercenary Researcher 2 years ago

“We don’t see the mother who wraps herself around her child when she is putting him to bed, tears falling into his hair beneath her face, because she’s not sure how to make the world work for him. ”

I am that mother – thank you for writing this.

    Allison Slater Tate 2 years ago

    Me too. :)

Laurie Runs Life 2 years ago

This is so beautiful and so true. I thought when my boys were little how hard it all was (and even as much older boys now – still I have few friends with babies and the internet has always been my go to for mom advice) but every year it gets harder in different ways. It's so hard sending them out into the world, trusting them to be independent, letting go. The first years were physically hard, the middle years seems to be much more emotionally hard, for me anyway.

    Allison Slater Tate 2 years ago

    Laurie, yes, I feel the same way. Hard, but worth it. :)

L.A. Say 2 years ago

This is very true when it comes to parenting. Many people pre-judge and that’s not right. You have no clue what’s going on at home.

    Allison Slater Tate 2 years ago

    Thanks, L.A.

Jacqueline 2 years ago

Thank you for sharing and making us all feel less alone.

    Allison Slater Tate 2 years ago

    Thank you, Jacqueline.

Debbie 2 years ago

Sometimes all we can do is love them, be there when they fall and pray a lot.

You always have to look on the happy side of being a parent, so you don’t spend all your time crying and asking yourself, “Why did I do this to myself.”

Life is full of hard battles to fight whether you have kids or don’t. In the end I would rather grow that family. Teach the kids how to laugh, have fun and love as much as you can. When we concentrate on the love we can find the positive side and we grow with every tear that falls.

    Allison Slater Tate 2 years ago

    Well, I don’t ALWAYS look on the happy side of parenting, but I try to keep a balance between recognizing both the wonderful and the not so wonderful aspects of the journey. I still cry, but I don’t spend all my time crying. And I always concentrate on the love — whether crying or not. :) Thanks, Debbie.

Kathy D’Alelio 2 years ago

This article is very timely for me, very well-written, and very true. Thank you. I just had a tear-filled conversation with my 13-year-old daughter in which I confessed to her that I did not know what I was doing as a mother, and that parenthood is THE hardest job ever!

    Allison Slater Tate 2 years ago

    I know that conversation! Sometimes I think it’s could to be honest about our uncertainty. Thank you, Kathy!

Christa 2 years ago

Awesome and so true. Thank you.

    Allison Slater Tate 2 years ago

    Thanks, Christa.

Lindsey Mead 2 years ago

I love this, Allison. I know exactly what you mean; and I'm often criticized, as I imagine you are, for sharing "everything" when the truth is there is a lot I keep to myself. And you're right: those are the hardest things, and often the ones where I most need to know I'm not alone. I'll whisper in your ear, okay?

    Allison Slater Tate 2 years ago

    Thank you, friend. I will whisper back. xo

Karen Erickson Glover 2 years ago

Bless you. Keep talking. It is SUCH a relief to hear others saying what I dare not say.

    Allison Slater Tate 2 years ago

    Thank you, Karen.

Jody Edwards Keeling 2 years ago

This was everything I have ever thought but didn't know how to say! Thank You!

    Allison Slater Tate 2 years ago

    Thank you, Jody!

Amanda 2 years ago

So, so true. I’d forgotten the part about leaking, you nail it here.

This also dusts off the reminder that there are many triumphs we never acknowledge, moments we really did it right and our kids imprint those.

Beautifully done, Allison.

    Allison Slater Tate 2 years ago

    You forgot about the leaking? Still fresh for me here. I do acknowledge the triumphs — but those I often write about. LOL. Thanks, friend.

Adrienne 2 years ago

Lately, there are so many things I wish I could write about, but they are the things “unwritten and unsaid”. It’s so hard to decide what’s OK to share and what isn’t. I think I’m more careful than I used to be.

    Allison Slater Tate 2 years ago

    I have had to become much more careful — with a wider audience, with older children, with harder things. It’s a tightrope.

Shanan 2 years ago

Yes, this does ring true. The cluster feeds, the wet beds ( x 3 kids) , the child psychologist visits, and everything in between. We try so hard to be good parents but sometimes we would love to just once have someone tell us what to do or how to fix it. I often wished that someone objective could give me a grade , but do I want to really know? Do I pass the test? I guess the only answer is loving our children and seeking out any help we can give them, no matter what the cost to our ego. Bravo for sharing.

    Allison Slater Tate 2 years ago

    Thank you, Shanan. And no, I don’t want to know my grade for once!!

mspimama 2 years ago

Amen! There are days when sheer exhaustion leaves me feeling like I’ve been running a marathon with the flu. I’ve lost track of what month or day it is. There are just 2 types of days in my calendar, good ones and extremely trying tiring ones. And everyday, I put my head down and plough through…don’t get me wrong, there is also lots of happiness. Parenting is beautiful and terrifying at the same time. And sometimes, am so f’ing clueless and lost. But, I always somehow find my way back home, mommy radar gets me there…

    Allison Slater Tate 2 years ago

    That’s exactly it. Running a marathon with the flu but loving and needing it. You get me.

Deb @ Urban Moo Cow 2 years ago

Beautiful, as always.

    Allison Slater Tate 2 years ago

    Thank you, Deb.

Sandy 2 years ago

People tell me to start a blog about my parenting experiences, but I can’t make myself do it. Why? Because one of my kids has sensitive medical issues, and it seems to me that if i have to sign papers just to have another doctor privy to her diagnosis, I shouldn’t share it with the universe (especially when the universe eventually will be vetting her for a job). So yes, I often have great stories, but they’re only partly my story to tell, and the other part is subject to HIPAA.

I love this blog and enjoy reading parenting stories, and I’m glad my problem is rare enough that most bloggers don’t even have to think about it.

    Allison Slater Tate 2 years ago

    I totally get it, Sandy. You might think about writing anonymously — it might be helpful to get it out and helpful to other sin your shoes. But I understand your hesitancy.

tracy@sellabitmum 2 years ago

Amazing writing, my friend. We are not alone. xoxo

    Allison Slater Tate 2 years ago

    Thanks, Tracy!

Nina 2 years ago

SO beautifully said, Allison. Yes . . . even we bloggers do not share everything. You are so right about those moments that go unwritten.

    Allison Slater Tate 2 years ago

    I know you get it, Nina!

Theresa RodinaCaraway 2 years ago

This was awesome..and it has healed ME in such a huge way..that I can't share on fb due to the people my comment could hurt..(who actually Id really love to see it..uggh) But at 30 years old married for a year to an up and coming Ceo, we were blessed with a two day old baby girl through adoption, 2 years later a 2 day old baby boy also adoption…(today my daughter is 23yr old and son 21yrs old, My husb then (Now former husband of 13 years) jet setted all over the country…I experienced everything..and more and on top of that, job reloacations, demands for an anxiety survivor of an onset of horrendous panic attacks..bc of my fear of flying…but by Gawd..I should be excited bc its free. I then decided to self medicate which..LOL..led to addiction problems..Oh my goodness..Need I say more..but hey its all good…Love it.I needed this..haha..TY!

    Allison Slater Tate 2 years ago

    Thank you, Theresa. Hang in there.

Kristen Mae at Abandoning Pretense 2 years ago

WOW, Allison. Another poignant post.

I see it all the time… someone’s kid throwing an insane tantrum in the grocery store… people standing around with their eyebrows shooting up into their hairline. I always say, “Oh I’ve been there before! That poor mama is having a rough day!” And watch the eyebrows sink back down.

    Allison Slater Tate 2 years ago

    Thank you, Kristen Mae! I meant to (and will!) comment (at length!) on your most recent post too (close to my heart). Maybe with less parentheses. See you there.

Christi 2 years ago

Some mothers would love to have those battles with their children again. To stay up all night, to calm a tantrum, to have a chance to help your depressed teen, to wait in the doctors office not knowing…..some mothers would just like to see their child or hear their voice just one more time….but they are no longer on earth. Enjoy every moment no matter how bad because some of us never have that chance.

    Allison Slater Tate 2 years ago

    Yes, of course. And I hope that came through — that the reason this is all so hard is because I love my kids so much and just want to do right by them. Believe me, I spend a lot of time every day thinking about my blessings and how lucky I am. It sounds like the battle you fight is the one we all fear most of all. I am so sorry for your loss.

Kat 2 years ago

Wow… You have put into words exactly how I feel. It’s so nice to hear it from someone else. I do forget that I’m not the only one with these struggles. I find comfort in that. Thank you so much.

    Allison Slater Tate 2 years ago

    Thank you, Kat!

Jen 2 years ago

What a beautiful post. Thank you. My family is really struggling right now, & I so needed this. We just relocated our family of 8 800 miles away from where we lived. My husband just found a job. In the meantime, we’re living with a very generous friend until we find a place to live. It’s been hard, especially as my 2 yr old has been telling me all day for almost a week that “I want go home!” My 8 year old with severe Autism is having major struggles as well. I won’t even go into the other struggles, & even just the day-to-day ones. *sigh*
So thank you for this post. Thank you for reminding me that I am not alone.

    Allison Slater Tate 2 years ago

    Whew, Jen. Hang in there. This will pass. In the meantime, you are not alone.

Tricia 2 years ago

Wow. So powerful. And definitely something i needed to read today. It is true, we never do know what others are wading through day by day. It’s easy to assume that you are alone, or that no one has it as hard as you. But in reality, everyone has their own daily battles. They may not be the same as yours, but the impact of them reverberates through a person all the same.

    Allison Slater Tate 2 years ago

    Everyone does have battles, and not just of the parenting kind. I forget this all the time, though. And it’s easy to discount ourselves because someone might have it “worse.” Thanks for commenting, Tricia!

Aramelle {One Wheeler’s World} 2 years ago

Thank you for helping me to feel less alone with this beautifully written post.

    Allison Slater Tate 2 years ago

    You’re definitely not alone. Thanks, Aramelle.

Bridgette 2 years ago

Thank you for writing this…as parents we have so many ups and downs. Blogging and writing is a great way to connect. Sharing this post as I think many need to read…and know :)

    Allison Slater Tate 2 years ago

    Thank you, Bridgette.

Connie Eberly-Bartoo 2 years ago

I wish I had found this website when I had my first child. My DH was travelling A LOT for his job, and my child was at first colicky and then very strong-willed. Many, many times this blog has echoed the things I would think but dared not say. After all, don't all those famous people pontificate on and on about how blessed every moment of parenthood is on the cover of magazines? Thank you for helping all of us realize we are not alone and providing a laugh or two during our week.

    Allison Slater Tate 2 years ago

    Thank you, Connie!

Lisa Brown 2 years ago

thank you ♥.

    Allison Slater Tate 2 years ago

    Thank YOU.

Kristin VanderHey Shaw 2 years ago

One of the Mean Girls from high school once said, about me, "People who have kids still in diapers don't have any business writing about parenthood." I disagree. We all want to talk to each other at each stage, and know that we're not alone. Thank you for sharing, Allison, always.

    Allison Slater Tate 2 years ago

    I have one in middle school and in diapers. What would she think of me?

    (Do nighttime diapers count?)

    Thanks, Kristin. :)

Elaine A. 2 years ago

This is piece is SO easy for me to relate to. I was nodding my head pretty much the entire time. And I agree that the best way to get through the hard and crazy days is to surround yourself with those who know what you are going through, which is pretty much every mother on (and some dads too) on the planet.

Beautiful essay on the struggles we all face, even the ones we do not share…

    Allison Slater Tate 2 years ago

    Thanks so much, Elaine, for this and your kind words on Twitter. I’m glad you are in this with me!

Jessica 2 years ago

Just read this to my husband. Voice quivering, eyes welling up; the struggle is there more often than not. This post was like a hand reaching out to hold mine.
Thank you

    Allison Slater Tate 2 years ago

    Oh, Jessica. Thank you. I’m so glad your hand was there to take.

Gina Moore 2 years ago

This touched me so much. I can so relate. Thank you for sharing!

    Allison Slater Tate 2 years ago

    Thank you, Gina!

Nancy Pollard 2 years ago

This is such a beautifully written and moving post. My heart caught in my throat along with you. Thank you, Scary Mommy, for featuring one of my favorite bloggers!

    Allison Slater Tate 2 years ago

    Thank you, one of my favorite (and original) readers! xoxo

Leslie Marin – The Pioneer Mom 2 years ago

That’s the exact reason why I started blogging: to connect. It is very therapeutic to be able to tell the world what’s going inside my head. I can also filter out what’s necessary for privacy and add humor to an otherwise crappy situation. Luckily, this site provides me a safe environment to scream and yell and receive support for all the totally shitty days. I might write it anonymously, but I can get it out in the open and not hold it in. Yep, motherhood sure is a bitch! Wonderful post, Allison!

    Allison Slater Tate 2 years ago

    When I wrote anonymously, it was super liberating. I don’t write with that same freedom anymore, but it’s okay. Just different. Thanks for the thoughtful comment, Leslie.

Carin Clark @Mrscpkc 2 years ago

What a beautiful reminder to us all…that while we may not hear (read) about every single battle that each mother is fighting, they are dealing with the same motherhood mania that we all are. No matter who you are or what your situation, if you are a mom then you know the deal. The real deal. Thanks for sharing!

    Allison Slater Tate 2 years ago

    Thank you, Carin. Yes, writing is just a snapshot of a whole life.

Britt 2 years ago

This is my all-time favorite article from this site. You’ve made me cry at work, & it’s totally worth it.
Thank you for sharing! It’s everything I will, have, & do feel x

    Allison Slater Tate 2 years ago

    That’s a huge compliment and one I don’t take lightly! Thank you, Britt!

Tara Levin Mack 2 years ago

you made me cry AGAIN!

    Allison Slater Tate 2 years ago

    Sorry. :) Thanks, Tara!

Tracy Hohler 2 years ago

I've been a single mother since my daughter was born (her father and I were married but he wasn't present emotionally)…he left when she was 4 months for good….I have shed more tears than I care to share. Motherhood IS the most difficult job ever. Thanks for sharing :)

    Allison Slater Tate 2 years ago

    Thank you Tracy. Hang in there. You’re doing it!

Sherry Moran 2 years ago

I shared this website with my daughter who has three and is also home schooling. She has periodic meltdowns too. Even though mine are long grown, this article spoke to me because I recall those days of cholic filled days and nights, the fears, the tears, and yes, the later years of recalling everything I did wrong over and over. Mother's guilt is a lifelong affliction but so is mother's love.

    Allison Slater Tate 2 years ago

    It’s the truth! You are a good mom. Thanks, Sherry.

Amanda 2 years ago

Tears in my eyes.

    Allison Slater Tate 2 years ago

    Thanks, Amanda.

Lauren (Don’t Lick the Trash Can) 2 years ago

This was beautiful. Thanks for sharing. I always appreciate other parents honesty. It is nice to know we can support each other. And I always try and remember that I am not always seeing the whole picture…

    Allison Slater Tate 2 years ago

    Thank you, Lauren. P.S. — Your blog name is awesome.

Suzanne Huber Price 2 years ago

Amazing. Brought me to tears and I can't share it quick enough.

    Allison Slater Tate 2 years ago

    Thank you, Suzanne!

Falon 2 years ago

This is great! My husband and I just had the conversation in the car today about how fricking hard parenting is… it’s crazy hard. The best and worst job I have ever had. But by far the most important one. And hopefully, by the little battles we fight each day, we’re changing the world – one human being at a time.

    Allison Slater Tate 2 years ago

    Yes, that’s the goal — one human being at a time. No pressure. 😉 Thank you, Falon!

Shell 2 years ago

It’s a hard balance- deciding what to write about and what not to.

I know when others share their rough parenting moments, it makes me feel less alone.

But I do know there’s always so much more going on than what we see online.

    Allison Slater Tate 2 years ago

    It’s really hard to convey in a post that what you are revealing is just a corner of the whole picture of a life — just a snapshot — right?

    Thanks, Shell.

    mary 11 months ago

    That’s exactly WHY I don’t have any kids! I KNOW damn better! NO worries or nothing like that for ME!!!


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