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Is this good or bad parenting?

Agent 204
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Joined: Nov 19 2003
Some friends of mine have observed that many parents are not only, in their opinion, overprotective, they are exceedingly judgmental of parents who are not highly protective. Here are the examples they cited; in the first I agree entirely, while in the second I’m not so sure.

The first example took place at a playground, where the mother of a two year old girl was sitting on a bench reading as the child climbed on a play structure, while all the other mums were actively helping their children with each step. She says they were glaring at her like she was some sort of horrible parent. Since modern play structures are designed to make it extremely difficult to injure yourself even if you want to, I don’t see any problem in her conduct.

The second example was when the mother of a six year old girl sent her down the street to a corner store. There were no streets to cross, it was less than a block away, and it was 10 AM on a Saturday morning in the summer, so in the unlikely event that a would-be abductor showed up, there would be far too many witnesses to risk such a move. However, the mum’s mother-in-law tore into her like she was some kind of horrible monster. The thing is, fifty years ago nobody would have thought twice about this. Of course, although crime statistics show that per capita crime rates are lower now than in the past, the 24-hour news cycle means that coverage of crime is far more prevalent, so that this behavior looks more dangerous now to someone who watches a lot of TV news.

Of course, the second mum’s behaviour could still be inappropriate; it could be that it was inappropriate 50 years ago, but that parents had the excuse then that we didn’t know about predators and the like, and even with the lower crime rate today it could still be an unacceptable risk, and parents no longer have the excuse of ignorance anymore. Or, it could be inappropriate because even though the risk is minimal, it will alter others’ perceptions of the mum’s parenting ability and cause them to treat her child differently (e.g. teachers who were aware of this might assume that the mum doesn’t care about her child and thus pay less attention to the child’s needs while the squeakier wheels get the grease).

So, what do y’all think?

Comments

Agent 204
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Joined: Nov 19 2003
Sorry about the junk at the top of the post; where the hell is the edit button on the new layout??

Caissa
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Joined: Jun 14 2006

First mother:appropriate

Second mother:inappropriate.


Star Spangled C...
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Joined: Sep 15 2008
I agree. The first mother was letting the kid develop on their own, learn that you can fall down and that you get back up. I think it's actually a good lesson. In the case of the second mother, some of it obviously will depend on jsut what the neighbourhood was like, etc. If I personally had kids, I wouldn't let them do that at that age.

Michelle
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Joined: May 10 2001

Ooooh, you've hit upon one of my playground pet peeves, Agent!  The parents who feel like they have to "help" their children play up until they're in freakin' high school.  "Oh here, here Brittney!  Let me hold you tight while you climb the three-rung ladder!  We wouldn't want little boopikins to fall!  Here, let me climb the ladder with you!"

And then when they get a little older, they have to be right there, helping their child communicate with all the other children in the playground, interpreting each remark from one kid to the next, suggesting ways to play to the kids instead of letting them figure it out for themselves.

Now, of course, I think it's a good idea to pay attention to kids on the playground, and be there if your kid wants advice or wants you to help them.  Or if your kid starts scrapping with some other kid or doing something really inappropriate (like swearing, bullying, etc.).

But if they're happy playing, and they're not hurting any of the other kids, then geez, leave them alone, quit interfering.  They have to learn how to socialize with other kids and learn physical skills and take some "safe risks" without mommy or daddy intervening in every little conversation and every step they take sometime.

As for walking to the store...yes, I walked to the corner store at 6 or 7 too.  In fact, I used to be SENT there by my parents to buy them cigarettes!  :D  Something you wouldn't see so much these days...

It all depends on the neighbourhood, if you ask me.  If there was no street to cross, and the store was on the same block, and you've taken your kid there lots of times before, and you know your kid is able to handle it, then I don't see why you can't let them run off to the store.  Heck, I was walking to school by myself at 6 or 7 years old - and we DID have streets to cross then, albeit with crossing guards and such.

One thing parents can do if they want to give their kids a bit of space like that, but not overwhelm them, is to let them walk to the store by themselves a few times while you secretly watch them to make sure they're okay.  That will let you know whether your kid really can handle it, or if they seem confused or overwhelmed or scared, or whatever. 

Most parents, I think, watch their kids the first few times they walk to school by themselves just to make sure they're okay.  And then it becomes old hat. :)


Timebandit
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Joined: Sep 25 2001

Well, when Ms T was 5 yrs old she wanted to go buy candy at noon hour after her morning kindergarten class and I said no, not now, fed her a sandwich and sent her upstairs to play.  The blond guy and I sat out on the back deck while we discussed some business stuff when the doorbell rang.  There was a scruffy looking man at the door who asked if I had a little girl named Ms T -- who happened to be at the corner and wouldn't come home.

 She'd gone upstairs, dressed up like a princess, taken her own money and trotted off to the corner store, crossing a busy intersection and a parking lot to get there, chosen some candy and paid for it herself.  When the clerk asked her where her mother was, it became clear that Ms T was unsupervised, so she walked her home -- until it dawned on Ms T that when she arrived with candy she was going to be in trouble.  At that point, she balked and the clerk asked a passerby to knock on our door.

I wouldn't send a small child to the store alone, but I also have a lot of faith in the people around here.  Even knowing that in this neighborhood you have people looking out for other peoples' kids, it wouldn't feel right.

 I have been sending Ms B on errands since she was 10.  The grocery store is about 2 blocks away and she manages that fine, but she's also savvy about crossing the street and counting her change there and at the post office.  It gives her a sense of independence and accomplishment and it makes my life easier.  It's a win-win. 

It's hard to decide when they're ready to do something on their own.  I tend to the overprotective and I'll admit that the first time she went, I watched Ms B all the way down the block and checked the window about every 30 seconds until she got back.  When she did, I was considering putting on my shoes and going to look for her.  Still, I also knew she could handle it and that this was part of growing up.

So, long drawn out answer, no, I think 6 is too young.  Nine or 10 makes more sense, depending on the kid -- but most kids walk to school on their own at that age anyway.

 The first mom, however, was fine.  She was there if kidlet fell and was probably keeping an ear out and looking up periodically.  I know the glares from the "involved" parents, since I have been the one with a book while the others hover.  I'm also regarded with a certain coolness by the other music lesson parents in my daughter's group lesson because I show up with a book or laptop and work or read during the less rather than follow every stroke of my wee violinist's bow.  Frankly, after Ms B's cello Suzuki program and in the 3rd year of Ms T's...  This is year 6 of the same songs for me.  Frankly, I'm bored spitless with it and if I pay too much attention she acts up.  But some of the other parents think I'm definitely a poor and inattentive parent.  Which makes me smile when Ms T outplays the coddled ones.  Cool


Refuge
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Joined: Nov 10 2008

I agree 100% Michelle.  That is one of my big pet peeves too.  And some parent "help" their kids play right into highschool too, attending slumber parties like they are one of the teens etc.  Geesh.  Give kids / teens some space when supervising.  And don't supervise if they are trust worthy.

 In the case of the second child IMO I think it depends on to many factors.  Some kids at 6 are fine, others are not, what is the neighboorhood like, do they know the store owner / clerk.   How long the family has lived in the area. In some situations it would be fine but in others it would not.

I used to walk to school by myself at the age of 6 when I had lived in the neighborhood my whole life, we knew people along the way who I knew I could go to for help and would be hanging out in their front yards.  But my brother was walked to school until he was 7 even though he was older than me.  Different kids, different decisions.


Bookish Agrarian
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Joined: Nov 26 2004

When my kids were that age I used to get glares from the safety patrol parents because I was actually playing with my kids at such things.  Now it usually meant we had driven or biked into town so it was kind of a special treat for all, but I had no problem with being the troll trying to get the billy goat as my kids went screaming across the bridge structure, but apparently that was bad.  Here at home I built a large fort and other play apparatus for them to play on they were left to it.  On the other hand they were and are definite off-limits spaces though - like parts of the barn, the drive shed and around any equipment.  Very, very supervised around that stuff.

On the other issue we just gave our kids the truck keys and sent them on their way.  Okay maybe not, but if we lived in town and the road situation was safe, no problem in my mind.  


martin dufresne
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Joined: Dec 24 2005

I love these parlour-game double binds: "If the woman floats, she's a witch and should be put to death.  If she sinks, she was a good Christian after all..." (Malleus Maleficorum)

Mothers are always wrong in the eyes of others. Eriksson said fifty years ago that you can't be a good mother, you can only be good enough. Good enough for some, but that won't silence the others. Fathers rarely get that kind of lip. Indeed, when some do things much worse, such as forgetting an infant in a locked car for a full day in the sun, everyone sympathizes with poor dad and any charges are dropped, if ever laid. (Happened in Montreal a few years back.)

Other interesting gender issues about how the "problem" is framed for us to chime in: the children involved are girls. Some of you have made the point that boys get plenty more leeway - I certainly did in the ho-hum fifties - the stories I could tell...

Also, in the second story, the girl is sent on an errand, making the mother doubly responsible to start with, "instrumentalizing" the child... What if s/he is just out to play in the front yard, on the street? That would be mere "negligence", right?

Even day-care centers are now being rabidly denounced by a right-wing doctor media darling (Hopital Sainte-Justine's Dr. Chicoine) as contrary to the "natural law of parenting". Hard rain's gonna fall.


remind
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Joined: Jun 25 2004

Different kids different situations.I dislike helicopter parents.

 

___________________________________________________________ "watching the tide roll away"


Bookish Agrarian
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Joined: Nov 26 2004

What's a helicopter parent?


Caissa
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Joined: Jun 14 2006
One who hovers.

Timebandit
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Joined: Sep 25 2001

Oh, you get the bad parent thing from all angles.  You either grow a thicker skin or you wind up losing your mind.

 An artist friend of mine and I often joke about designing a logo and making "Bad Mother" t-shirts.  Would be popular with both the playground set and bikers.  Laughing

Although I have to say that the blond guy gets the same attitude, but to a lesser degree.  Then again, I am a lot more blunt and direct where he tends to avoid conflict.  And I'm content to ignore their disapproval -- as long as my kids are succeeding and growing and happy, then I am as good a parent as I need to be.

 The flak that's more difficult to dodge is when it comes from teachers and school administators...  I had a conversation with the school counselor last year when Ms B was having meltdowns (associated with bullying and the teachers wanted her to modify HER behaviour) where she said, "Look, you've got a great kid.  She's so smart and articulate and creative.  She's going to be a fantastic adult.  We just have to get her through the school system."  I just try to think about that comment when faced with the "bad mother" tone and look, take a deep breath and soldier on. 


Timebandit
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Joined: Sep 25 2001

Here's an explanation of helicopter parents.  You'll recognize them when you see them!

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Helicopter_parents


Bookish Agrarian
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Joined: Nov 26 2004

Caissa wrote:
One who hovers.

 Thanks

Duh.  Can't believe I missed that, either more caffine is needed or a nap!

 


remind
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Joined: Jun 25 2004

Interesting to note, the only time my child got hurt on the playground was when I was playing with her. No other kids were at the playground at that time, so I filled in as playmate. She was also riding her bike to school on her own by Grade 2. It was a quiet suburb and all the kids rode in a pack to school on a designated bike path.

Also, my daughter at 6 was very advanced, and had a lot more freedoms than what her daughter at 6 had, who was not so much. In fact,  I came home from work one day, when my daughter was 6 or 7, her father was a stay at home dad at the time. She had what I first had thought was a lemonade stand and selling of junk stand right in front of our house, something that she did regularily. When I had a closer look, at what was being sold, I saw she was selling my clothes amongst the junk. My good clothes as a matter of fact, as I , in her words, hardly ever wore them. She got 50 cents for a pair a dress heels I had paid over 100 bucks for on sale, just a week prior, for a wedding we were going to in a couple of weeks.  Thank god I came home before the silk dress I was wearing to the wedding, went too. Now my granddaughter would never have thought of doing such a thing, amongst many other things my daughter had gotten up to when she was a child.

 

 

___________________________________________________________ "watching the tide roll away"


martin dufresne
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Joined: Dec 24 2005
Remind, is your daughter interested in a job as Rabble fund-raiser?Smile

remind
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Joined: Jun 25 2004

LOL, no.

Though I was furious about the selling of my stuff, I never stopped her from continuing to have her junk stand, as she was very clever about selling junk. We would go to yard sales and she would buy something for a nickle, or as cheap as she could get it, and then when she collected enough stuff she would have her own sale and sell it for marked up prices. I have no idea where she got that inclination to re-market things from. But I just let her carry on, it kept her busy and interested, as well as actively learning about public conduct, money and responsibility. Also, she was not interested in other outside of school cultural activites, except for karate.

When she was old enough to decide she wanted to baby sit, she actually developed a rate scale. Premium time meant premium dollars, and she got it, the kids loved her as they were her single focus and the house was just as the parents left it, or better. Her highest one evening sitting take was 364.00, for 1 child.

___________________________________________________________ "watching the tide roll away"


martin dufresne
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Joined: Dec 24 2005
That's definitely GOOD parenting... and rich neighbours!!!

remind
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Joined: Jun 25 2004

na, no rich neighbours, strictly working class neighbourhood.  It was an unusual circumstance, as a out of town friend wanted a sitter on a Sunday night so he could play poker. She demanded a 10% take on what he won, instead of a flat rate.Laughing He won 3,640 dollars.

___________________________________________________________ "watching the tide roll away"


Michelle
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Joined: May 10 2001
Ha!  That's fabulous! :D

Bookish Agrarian
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Joined: Nov 26 2004

Now that is a life lesson I can get behind!  Very funny!


Agent 204
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Joined: Nov 19 2003

Thanks to everyone who participated in this.

This thread was crossposted to EnMasse and BnR, as well as a control post to the American dominated and libertarian-leaning board at Kitco. At EnMasse I described the children as boys, while at BnR and Kitco I did not specify the sex. Despite all this, though, there was surprisingly little difference in the range of responses. Not a very scientific study, I must admit, but interesting nonetheless to see everyone's response.

Oh, and FWIW: the kids are real. They are in fact girls, and the first and second mum are in fact one and the same.


Timebandit
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Joined: Sep 25 2001

Came across this over the weekend:

http://freerangekids.wordpress.com/

I'd heard about Lenore Skenazy's experiment with her 9 year old son (she gave him $20, a cel phone and a map and let him find his way home on the subway) and there was quite a kerfuffle about it.  She started the blog as a result and makes the case for more independent experience for kids.


Agent 204
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Joined: Nov 19 2003

Thanks for that link. Have to pass it on to the mum in question. 

When I was nine there was a "bike rodeo" at my elementary school. At the time we lived in St. Clements, Manitoba, and I normally took the schoolbus (for the bike rodeo, though, my mum had to drop me off with the bike). I asked her if it would be OK for me to ride home (about 13 km); she thought that would be fine. And it was; I knew the route just fine, and I didn't get run over, but I can't help but think that if this happened today she'd be getting criticized for it.


Agent 204
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Joined: Nov 19 2003

Update: anyone listen to As It Happens the other day? They discussed a similar situation:

Quote:

But last night, I was listening to As It Happens from the Canadian Broadcast Corporation (to listen, the story is in part one of the link at 14:50 to 27:50). They told the story of Lori Lavarre-Pierce from a small town in Mississippi. Lori was supposed to take her 10 year-old son to soccer practice last week. He asked his mom if he could walk. He had walked the same route the night before with his dad and sister, a route that he had taken many times. He knew the route. Mom said okay and gave him her cell phone. The kid left, and since she had to go to practice to meet a parent, she showed up 15 minutes after practice began. What she didn't know, was that in that period of time that he son walked to practice and she arrived, all hell broke loose.

 

It seems that people FREAKED OUT!!! A number of people reportedly called 911, and the police went to her home, and then to the soccer field. the first thing the police officer told her was "Do you know that you could have been charged with child endangerment? Your child is too young to walk alone." The kid only made it a few blocks from home before he was intercepted by the police. The police then drove the kid to soccer practice and then went looking for MOM.

Only link I could find for the story was here.


triciamarie
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Joined: Jul 28 2006

Martin, it wasn't just boys who had that freedom. When I was growing up in the 70's in a small village in Ontario, all us kids would be out in the woods or on the river from morning till night, all summer, every weekend and after school, starting from the time we were old enough to climb over the rail fence. Most of the time no one had the faintest idea where we were, and no one was expected to care. We fished, we got lost, we got stuck in the swamp, I fell into an old quarry one time, we played in the gravel pit, we threw cow patties, we learned to stay away from the cows, we caught every kind of frog and bug, we got poison ivy, we tobogganned down the first or second or big hill, we swam out to the little rock or second rock, we smoked anything we could find, we jumped off the bridge or the train bridge, we rode dirt bikes and skidoos, we hung out under the ice-breaking dam, and every other stupid thing we could think of, boys and girls often together. The only time I ever wore sunscreen was if I went to the beach (Coppertone SPF 2 oil!). If I missed the school bus I had to walk to school, through the woods, about an hour and a half, blackfly / hunting season or not.

It was wonderful. If I could give my kids that experience I would do it in a heartbeat. But that world is gone in Ontario, even there where I grew up. As it is now, I'm as safety-conscious for my kids as anyone else. It just seems like there's no way around it. I say that even knowing that for all the physical risks I'm helping them avoid, there are enormous known disadvantages to being so oversheltered, even including the physical risk of being so often confined to relative inactivity. I mean, we do our best, but it's not the same.


martin dufresne
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Joined: Dec 24 2005

"But that world is gone in Ontario, even there where I grew up..."

Why is that, do you think? Less children so more pressure on them and on mothers, more psych/CAS policing, apparently more assaulters on the prowl, more tolerance for 'transgression' (male violence), less open spaces, more speeding cars...?


Timebandit
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Joined: Sep 25 2001

There aren't more assaulters on the prowl, and I'd dismiss the other ideas as well.  No, it's more that we hear more about what happens when there's an abduction or assault and in much more detail.  That awareness has an effect on you, as a parent.  It's also a lifestyle shift, in my city anyway, of families out to housing developments rather than old-fashioned neighborhoods.  My kids have the opportunity to run an errand to the store or head over to the library for an hour without us, for example, where a kid out in the newer areas of town won't be able to.  It's a drive-everywhere culture for most families, and that makes kids more dependent for longer and it makes such experiences as walking somewhere unattended odd and suspicious because it's outside the average experience.


Michelle
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Joined: May 10 2001

I don't know, but I agree with triciamarie - we've gone to ridiculous, overprotective lengths with kids now.  The only thing that really worries me about kids is water - I don't think kids should be let near water without supervision.  But otherwise, yeah.  I did the same thing as a kid. 

At the age of 5, I was allowed to ride my tricycle around the corner to my friend's house in the same subdivision (on the sidewalk, of course) by myself.  I walked to and from school with friends the same age to a couple of years older when I was in kindergarten and grade one.  When I moved in grade one to a new community, I was allowed (at 6 years old) to ride my bike to the corner store, and walk to and from the school bus stop (which was out of view of my house) by myself.

From the age of 7, I was allowed to wander through the mall by myself while my parents went grocery shopping (since that's boring).  And we moved that year (when I was 7, and in grade 2) to a new town where it was a 10 or 15 minute walk to school.  I walked to and from school either by myself or with friends my age, and all the other kids walked to school there too, from kindergarten.  I had a babysitter after school since I was too young to look after myself for a couple of hours at home alone, but we walked to and from the babysitter (who lived near us) ourselves.  It was in this town (Trenton, Ontario) that I used to go to the store all the time to run errands, or to just get treats for myself or with friends, and we did have to cross a street to do it.  I used to go out to a park a couple of streets away and spend a few hours there at a time, or go to friends' houses in the neighbourhood (out of view of my parents' place) by myself.  The rule was that I had to tell my parents where I was going, and that's about it.

When we moved to a new place when I was 9, I was pretty much allowed to go anywhere and do anything as long as I let my parents know (generally) where I was going and as long as I was home when they told me to be home.  Walked to and from school (which was a 10-15 minute walk for a kid), and from grade 5 on (started grade 5 when I was 9), I was a "latch-key kid" after school.

We played in the woodsy areas of the community, went to parks, went for long walks with friends, walked to the strip mall in the community, etc.  We hardly ever got rides anywhere unless it was after dark, or it was REALLY too far to walk (e.g. the next community over).  We had "curfews" which was the time we had to be home, and as long as we got home and our parents had a general idea of where we were or who we were with, they didn't care where we went or what we did.

I sometimes wonder about our kids, the next generation.  Will they be capable adults?  Will they learn independence when they're so babied and coddled and protected by us?  I don't know.  When I was a kid, we all learned our addresses and phone numbers from kindergarten if not earlier.  We learned a lot of basic safety rules, and how to do things for ourselves.  My son and his friends, on the other hand, didn't generally know the basic information about where they live and their phone numbers even in grade 2.  (He didn't live with me during the week then, or else I'd have drilled it into him from an early age.) 

Maybe this is just one of those things that changes from generation to generation and it's not that big a deal.  But I can't help but think that there must be something missing from the childhood of the next generation when they can't do anything for themselves, and they can't have any freedom or independence, or playtimes that aren't completely structured by "joining" stuff.


WillC
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Joined: Oct 1 2004

I know I'm getting my vote in late, but I feel close to this issue because I supervise my 2 year, seven month old grandson as he plays on the combination slide, rope climbing and metalic fitting ladders  for climbing that we find in playgrounds in Toronto. There are numerous high points, several metres high, on these structures totally open that he could fall from. I always closely supervise him, often climbing up in the stucture with him. To show that it's not generational, his parents supervise him more stictly than I do. 

 

My daughter is about the same age as Michelle.  She was raised on downtown  Toronto streets, full of cars and pedestrians, and she never went anywhere by herself until she was 10.  That judgement is totally dependant on circumstances.

 

Independence should be more about independence of thought, than of independence of risking life and limb.  Do we want to raise a sky diver, or someone who thinks for herself?

 


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