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What You Need to Know About Positive Parenting

How you parent can strengthen the bond you have with your child.

When you first learn that you’re expecting a baby, you experience tons of thoughts, feelings, and emotions. If you’re honest, one of them may include sheer terror. You’re now responsible for the growth and development of another human being. NO pressure, right?! Maybe you’re like me: You went to a bookstore where you found shelves and shelves of parenting books to get information. Maybe you Googled “how to be the best parent”… and got 654,000,000 results. 

It can be overwhelming, but guess what? You don’t need ALL those books OR over half a million google results to get it right.

Here’s a simple breakdown of some parenting styles to help you sort it all out.

Authoritative Parenting 

This parenting style utilizes punishment, but the parent explains to the child the reason for the punishment. Children learn from their mistakes, and parents provide clear boundaries and structure. Parents are nurturing, caring, and loving toward their children.

Authoritarian Parenting

This parenting style is the epitome of “My way or the highway.” Parents make all the decisions without any input from the child. The goal is obedience, so punishment is utilized. This style isn’t known for lots of affection. Parents set high expectations and enforce strict rules. 

Permissive Parenting

The focus of this parenting style is to make the child happy at all costs. Parents often give in to the desires of their children. They act more like a friend than a parent. Rules and expectations are limited or nonexistent.

Neglectful Parenting

In this parenting style, parents offer no attention to their children. They don’t respond to their child’s needs. They can be detached or uninvolved. There is no structure for the children or guidance from the parents. 

Helicopter Parenting

In this parenting style, parents hover over their children. They intervene in their child’s life inappropriately. Instead of letting them learn from experiences, parents come to the rescue to prevent their children from failure.  

Attachment Parenting

This parenting style aims to build a close bond with the young child by breastfeeding, co-sleeping, and babywearing. Because of this bond, parents are highly attentive and responsive to their child’s needs.

There’s also positive parenting…

Here’s what you need to know about Positive Parenting:

  • It’s a philosophy (mindset) that sees each child as an individual who needs to belong and have significance. Additionally, you respect and see value in your children, not as your mini-me, but for the beautiful human he or she is. 
  • Its focus is on developing a positive relationship with children by spending one-on-one, intentional, and scheduled time with them every day. 
  • It encourages parents to teach their kids how they would like them to behave instead of what they don’t want them to do. For example, instead of saying, “Don’t run in the house!” you’d emphasize that “we walk while inside the house.”
  • It helps parents get to know their children: their likes, dislikes, strengths, and growth areas. As a result, parents are realistic about each child’s capabilities and limitations. As a parent of 3 sons, it was easy for me to treat and relate to them as a collective group rather than individually. Now, I’m keenly aware of my sons as individuals.
  • It reminds parents that their kids are watching and taking their cues from them. Children more often do what we do rather than what we say. You are your child’s model for behavior. They’re always watching.

No matter what parenting style you choose, it’s essential to use one that bolsters the bond you have with your child. Additionally, your parenting style has to grow and change as your child grows and changes over time. Remember, parenting is a process of learning about yourself and your child; trust the process.

Other helpful blogs:

5 Ways Positive Parenting Created a Lifelong Connection With Your Child

How Positive Parenting Impacts a Child’s Risk of Substance Abuse

My Spouse and I Disagree About Parenting

What To Do When Your Spouse Is A Bad Parent

Help! We Just Had a Baby and Now We Can’t Stop Fighting

You can have a strong, healthy marriage, even if you fight sometimes.

Having a new baby is amazing. And amazingly exhausting. You can always tell which parents have a newborn. They’re excited, but you can see the stress in their eyes. We’ve been there. When our son was born, he rocked our world. At times, we were so stressed and tired that the slightest frustration triggered an argument. And arguments, when you’re both exhausted, are dangerous. Here’s a secret, though: After having a baby, many couples can’t stop fighting. It’s not just you. All new parents experience high levels of stress and frustration.

Those first few months are filled with sleepless nights, hectic schedules, and disrupted routines. Not to mention you’re both figuring out how to balance work, family, chores, and grandparents. It’s no surprise that new parents experience high levels of stress. And high levels of stress often lead to arguments. But it doesn’t have to be this way. Parenting isn’t stress-free (sorry to burst that bubble), but you can reduce stress and manage it. 

How can you lessen the stress (and fight less) after having a baby? 

Communicate often.

It’s common for new parents to feel like they aren’t communicating with each other. Communication doesn’t have to be complex at this stage. Make sure to take a few minutes each day and talk to each other. Talk about your needs, emotions, struggles, and listen to each other. 

Don’t assume.

Assuming is dangerous, and it leads to frustration. But it’s so easy when you are both tired. Talk to each other, ask questions, and voice any concerns.

Apologize when you see you made a mistake.

If you’re in the wrong, own it. We all make mistakes, especially when we’re tired.

Don’t play the blame game.

When you both are stressed and arguing over something, don’t fall into the blame game. Own your mistakes, voice your concerns, but don’t turn it into a contest of who has made the most mistakes. 

When things get heated, take a break.

Sometimes the healthiest thing to do is walk away from an argument. You don’t want to say something that will cause far more damage in the long term. 

  • Address the issue at hand. Solve one problem at a time.

Tackle whatever the problem is that led to the fighting and come to an agreed-upon solution.

How do you reconnect?

Be intentional about talking for at least 5 minutes a day.

Schedules are hectic when a newborn is in the picture. It’s easy for time with your spouse to take a backseat. Set aside time to talk and reconnect.

Give at least two compliments or expressions of gratitude every day. You look great today. Thanks for taking care of ______. I appreciate all your help with ________. 

Expressing gratitude improves your physical health, reduces aggression, and increases your mental strength.

Be intentional about connecting with your spouse.

In the first few months of parenting, newborns own your schedule. But you can still connect with your spouse. When your baby is napping, it may be more important to sit and talk to each other than clean the kitchen.

Keep your marriage at the forefront of your relationship.

John Medina, a molecular biologist and author, was once asked, “How do I get my child into Harvard?” His answer, “Go home, love your spouse well and create a stable environment for your child.” One of the greatest gifts you can give your child is a healthy, stable (not perfect) home.

If you just had a baby and you can’t stop fighting, remember that parenting is tough, but it’s fantastic. These last eight years as a parent have been some of the best moments of my life. You and your spouse can have a strong, healthy marriage, even if you fight from time to time. Put your marriage first and provide the best possible home for your child you can. 

Other helpful blogs:

Is It Good To Fight In Marriage?

10 Rules To “Fight Nice” With Your Spouse

Help! We fight about money all the time…

Should We Fight In Front Of The Kids?

How to Fight in Front of the Kids

Honey, the test was positive.” When you find out you’re about to be a dad, the lack of experience can strike fear into even the most confident man. There are a few things I’ve learned after playing a part in bringing seven kids into this world that would’ve been helpful to know on the front end. [You read that right. Seven.]

Things I wish I’d known before I became a dad…

1. I didn’t have to be a hero for my kid to think I am a hero.

Your kids think you’re great, not because you’re the biggest, strongest, smartest, most powerful person in the world. They just think you are. You’re their hero because you’re Dad. You don’t have to become a great musician, make a lot of money, or be able to show them amazing tricks. Being the person who spends time with them, provides, and takes care of them cements your hero status in their eyes.

2. My words carried more weight than a giant boulder damming up a mountain stream.

Your words will build up or tear down your child. Even babies respond to their parents’ voices. Talking and reading to them as infants, teaching them as toddlers, and affirming them as adolescents—your words make an impact. The more “I love you’s,I’m proud of you’s,” and “I’m thankful to be your dad” they hear, the more validated they’ll feel.

3. I didn’t have to know how to be a good dad before I became one.

Being a good dad is definitely something that can happen through on the job training. Even if your dad wasn’t around for you, you’re still able to be a good dad to your child. Changing diapers, building Legos, and listening to your daughter talk about her day are all skills that can be learned once your child is born. While good examples help (and every dad should seek out other dads they can talk to and get advice from), previous experience is not a requirement for you to fill the position of a good dad. 

4. My kids would be giant sponges.

They watch you and they listen to you. They absorb what they see and hear. Then they follow your lead. If you fuss a lot, then they’ll fuss a lot when they’re playing with their toys. If you’re gentle, they’ll be gentle. “Do as I say and not as I do,” doesn’t work with your little ones. If you want to raise a future adult who respects others and has good relationships, be that adult

5. Tapping into my inner child can make it easier for my kids to respect my authority.

Dads have a reputation for being playful, silly, and adventurous. There’s an essential place for this in fatherhood. It gives you parenting cred with your kids. When your kids know you like them and enjoy being around them, it will be easier for your child to respect and obey you.

Whether you knew it or not, you have everything you need to be a good dad. Be present. Pay attention to your child. Don’t let fear of failure prevent you from diving in. On the job training will help you learn everything you need to know about being a dad. And your biggest influence will also be your biggest fan—your child.

So you’re a new dad. Congrats!! This is an exciting time. Did you get your how-to manual full of explanations and instructions? You didn’t? Hmmm, wonder what happened there? Oh wait, that doesn’t exist. If only kids came with instruction manuals. (Even if they did, would you even read it? I probably wouldn’t. Maybe that’s why the shelves I put up are crooked…)

So here you are asking the questions: What do I do now? What do I need to know? All valid questions. (We don’t want our kids to end up like those shelves!)

It’s ok, Dad—I got you! Here are some first-time dad tips as you begin this journey.

You don’t have to know everything.

It’s ok to not know everything. (Here’s a little secret, Mom doesn’t either.) Parenting is all about learning; each day brings new challenges, new adventures, new lessons. You have a partner in this so walk the road together. Embrace the journey and give yourself (and mom) lots of grace because neither of you knows it all.

Kids come in different models.

All children are different. All deliveries are different. Your experience won’t look like mine or your buddy’s, and that’s ok. Embrace this time, ask lots of questions, seek counsel from dads who have newborns. (I highly recommend talking to those dads; dads who have been in the game for a while may have forgotten those first weeks and months… sleepless nights are a real thing.)

Be present.

You’re not going to know everything it takes to be a dad, but one of the most important aspects is to be present and involved. Take every opportunity to hold your newborn, swaddle, feed, talk, and read to them. This all strengthens the bond between you. (And Mom will be impressed!)

Diaper duty… you got this.

The first time I changed a diaper was the day my son was born. My philosophy was that if a kid was gonna pee on me, it’d better be one I helped create. Change lots of diapers! Changing diapers is a dirty business (often literally) but it’s nothing to fear and creates an awesome opportunity to bond with your newborn. Talk to your baby and make goofy faces at them while changing their diaper.

Feeding time… you have a role, too!

Be part of feedings. If mom is breastfeeding, you’re on diaper duty… there are those diapers again. Our routine for nighttime feedings was my wife fed and I changed the diaper. We’d alternate rocking our son for a bit. Here’s a Hero Tip: If you’re bottle-feeding, own those night feedings. This is as much about mom as the baby. She will love the time to rest. Hero Status: Unlocked.

Babies are gonna cry… that doesn’t mean you should!

Babies cry and that’s ok. What you’ll learn is that they have different cries for different reasons. You will get to know these. Make mental notes as to what sounds mean what.

Newborns are great to watch sports with.

Make your newborn part of what you love to do. My son watched tons of baseball and Moto GP races when he was little. We also took him to car shows, baseball games, and boat races. He doesn’t remember, but I can show him he was included in what I loved.

Dad jokes… everyone else is welcome.

You are a dad now, so you have a responsibility to share dad jokes every opportunity you can. Brush up on those skills, watch some YouTube videos, and be prepared for lots of eye rolls.

You’ve got this, Dad. You’ll have lots of questions and you will learn a lot in the coming weeks and months. That’s ok—fatherhood is a journey… embrace it.

For more information and tips for a first-time dad (and mom), check out our class, Oh, Baby! Online.

No matter how you slice it, the birth of a child brings about changes that can be challenging. Here are some of the reasons why marriage can be harder after having a baby and how those challenges can make your marriage stronger.

  1. Unspoken Expectations. You probably have a picture in your mind of what your lives will look like after the baby is born. You might be expecting to split household duties, take turns sleeping, grow closer in your marriage, and agree on parenting decisions. When someone doesn’t meet our expectations however, disappointment and resentment can build. 
  1. Entering the Land of the Unknown. Between the internet, books, experienced parents, and doctors, you try and eliminate as many potential unknowns as possible. And yet once the baby is here, you realize there are some things you just can’t prepare for. Disagreements arise as couples differ on how to tackle these issues that you simply didn’t see coming. 
  1. We’re Changing and So Are Our Needs. Maybe your wife used to like you to open the car door for her. Now, she’d rather you turn on the A/C and get the kids in their seats. Herr needs may change after the birth of a baby. Sometimes she might not be consciously aware of the changes. As your needs change, it’s so easy to focus on meeting your own personal needs after a baby is born that you lose sight of the changing needs of your spouse. How you help, support, and comfort one another looks different. Even how you respond when something triggers your emotions may change. There were times when I was so focused on my tiredness, schoolwork (I was in school), and my job that I resented my wife for not understanding and expecting more out of me than I thought I was fair.
  1. Lack of Intimacy. So much focused energy is on the baby, trying to get rest, work, and everything that comes with a newborn that marital tension can replace marital intimacy. Plus, after carrying a baby for 9 months and breastfeeding, lots of women don’t want any physical intimacy because they are totally exhausted. They want to heal.
  1. Emotional Exhaustion: You are not at your best when you are exhausted… and that’s understandable. A tired and stressed person trying to adapt to change doesn’t respond as well as a rested and peaceful person. Imagine if both of you are suffering from emotional exhaustion. The stage is set for irritability, aggravation, and a short fuse.

These are all challenges that can make your marriage stronger, as long as you don’t avoid dealing with them. It’s possible to address them and work as a team to transition into parenthood well. Here are a few things you can do as a couple:

  • Discuss Expectations. Conversations about balancing work and family are a great place to start. Nighttime feedings. Diaper changes. Household chores and responsibilities. Who will do what and who can we ask to help us? Think of grandparents and family. Talking through what you hope this will look like can help the two of you be on the same page as you navigate your new normal.
  • Remember What’s Important. Your baby doesn’t need perfectly-prepared parents for every situation. They need loving parents who are attentive. Figuring it out together can provide lasting memories. My wife and I have made tons of mistakes when all seven of our children were babies. There are some things you simply don’t know. Gather information, talk to one another, and do your best. When you or your spouse makes a mistake, you learn from it and everyone is better for it.
  • Talk Openly About What You Need From One Another. It’s hard to know what my spouse needs if she doesn’t tell me. I kept opening her car door until one day she said, “I’d rather you turn on the A/C and get the car cool.” I would’ve never known. Talking about our needs helps us ward off the resentment that builds. Trying to read someone’s mind can be harmful. Open communication is the only antidote.
  • Intentional Marriage Time. Do it, even if it’s just for 15 minutes to emotionally connect or hold one another. Virtual date nights are great for just a little marriage time. Don’t forget that your marriage needs both of you.
  • Lean In To Each Other. Lack of sleep is an obvious issue after having a baby, but I’m not going to tell you to get more of it. Sometimes that’s just plain impossible. Here’s what will be helpful to your marriage: Pay attention to each other. Help each other. Look for ways to support one another. In sports, the team that functions as a team in the fourth quarter when everyone is tired typically wins. You are that team. And winning as a team is sweet and exhilarating, especially when you’re tired.
  • Express Appreciation. It’s highly probable that each of you is doing things for the baby and the family that are going unnoticed. Look for those things and express gratitude.

Your love isn’t measured by every right decision you make. In fact, the best gift of love you can give your new baby is a healthy, thriving marriage, not a perfect one. 


***If you or someone you know is in an abusive relationship, contact the National Hotline for Domestic Abuse. At this link, you can access a private chat with someone who can help you 24/7. If you fear someone is monitoring your computer or device, call the hotline 24/7 at: 1−800−799−7233. For a clear understanding of what defines an abusive relationship, click here.***

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There’s a lot that happens when a couple has their first baby

Sleepless nights. 

Endless, life-impacting decisions. 

The world being turned upside down.

Re-creating a “new normal.”

A constant fear of things going wrong.

The steep learning curve for both parents.

The list could go on, and on, and on. And I’ve heard it all… The good, the bad, the ugly, the astoundingly beautiful… And it’s all made me a little worried.

Reality Check

First, let me back up for a second. My husband and I have been married a little over a year, and we are not hoping to have kids for another two years or so. That being said, I’m fully convinced that I was brought into this world to be a mother. You can ask any friends or family. That whole “motherly instinct” has always come very naturally to me.

But for my husband… not so much. Although we both want kids someday, the timeframe and the number of kids differ just a little bit (or a lot, depending on the day). Even though we don’t have kids yet, the conversations around our future kids have already caused some division between us. And it’s caused a little bit of fear for the day that we do become parents.

And as we watch friends around us start to have kids and we hear the stories they share about all the challenges that come with starting a family, our fear has only grown…

“Wait, WHAT happens during delivery??”

“Are you SURE you want to go through that?”

“When we have kids, you can’t ________ anymore.”

“Why don’t we wait till we’re 40 and just adopt?”

“We’re cranky enough in the mornings on 8 hours of sleep.”

“There are very few parts of parenting that sound like a good thing…”

These are just a few pieces of conversations we’ve had about our future. The fear is real. And it’s for good reason.

But the desire to have kids is also real. Very real. So how do you balance the fear of parenting, the fear of having kids, the fear for your marriage—with the desire to have kids? Well, I can’t fully answer that for you. That’s something you and your spouse are going to have to work through together. But I can give you a few tips on how to have that conversation!

Here are a few questions to ask each other before having a baby:

  1. What are you most fearful about when it comes to having kids?
  2. In what area do you think having kids will cause us to have the most conflict?
  3. Is there anything we can do now to work on that area before we have kids?
  4. What tendencies do you see in me that might be a problem for you once we have kids?
  5. How will we share responsibilities so that one spouse isn’t totally overwhelmed?
  6. Are you willing to start our routines completely from scratch?
  7. How can we work together as a team and rely on each other’s strengths?
  8. What are your top 3 expectations of me as a parent?
  9. What roles did your mom and dad play in your life growing up? Are there ways you want to be like them? Not be like them?
  10. What are things I can do right now to help us both not fear becoming parents?

Prioritize Your Marriage

Having kids rocks your world. I don’t know that from experience, but I’ve been told that what seems like a bajillion times, so it must be true. Kids are a lot. They come with new responsibilities, new challenges, and new things to argue about.

And if you let it, being a parent might overtake being a spouse. But the key is to always prioritize your marriage first. Yes, kids require a lot. But they grow up. And after they’re grown, you’ll still have your spouse by your side.

So, choose today to strengthen your marriage. Actually, choose every day to strengthen your marriage. And the rest, even babies, will fall into place—a wonderful place.

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When groups of women who work together become pregnant at the same time, workplace conversations usually surround the fact that the department will have a hard time when these women all take maternity leave.

Contrast that response to a story that hit the airwaves about seven firefighters at the same fire station in Oklahoma. Their wives became pregnant around the same time, but no one really commented about how the station would operate while these dads took time off to be with their newborn babies.

While moms are essential to infant care, many people often overlook or don’t discuss the benefits to mom and child when the father is more involved in the caregiving process.

Articles from the Association of Women’s Health, Obstetric and Neonatal Nurses (AWHONN) highlight the fact that father-infant bonding is just as important as mother-infant bonding. In fact, delayed bonding can alter the long-term course of paternal involvement as the infant progresses throughout childhood and adolescence. It can also increase the risk of paternal postpartum depression.

According to the Journal of Obstetric, Gynecologic, & Neonatal Nursing:

  • Fathers reported that they didn’t start to experience fatherhood until birth.
  • Mothers reported that they started to experience motherhood as soon they discovered they were pregnant. 
  • Although most fathers expect to bond emotionally and immediately with their newborns, some fathers still did not feel bonded to their infants as long as six weeks to two months after birth.  

Successful father-infant bonding during the immediate postpartum period offers several benefits for the infant: 

  • It reduces cognitive delay,
  • Promotes weight gain in preterm infants, and
  • Improves breastfeeding rates.
  • Research shows that when the father frequently visits their prematurely-born child in the hospital, babies are more likely to get out of the hospital sooner, develop their brains better and have more psychomotor functioning. The more the father can be there, the better the child tends to improve.

A study by Kyle Pruett at Yale University showed that even for children born full-term, the importance of father involvement is enormous. 

  • A father breathing on the child when it is first born helps the bonding process to occur. It changes the dad’s brain, too! 
  • The sooner the father gets involved with the child, neurons in the male brain begin to develop and connect with each other – mimicking the mother instinct. 
  • When fathers are involved, their oxytocin levels go up and testosterone levels go down, and Dad is satisfied from the emotional intimacy with his child. Mother and child benefit from that, too.

“Father-infant bonding is an issue that is not discussed enough and is just as important as mother-infant bonding during the immediate postpartum period,” said AWHONN’s Chief Executive Officer, Lynn Erdman, MN, RN, FAAN. “It is vitally important for a father to interact and bond with his newborn to help the infant’s development and to reduce the risk of paternal postpartum depression.”

New dads can bond with their unborn children by talking, singing or reading to them in the womb. AWHONN offers these tips to help dads continue the bonding process after the baby arrives: 

  • Jump right in. Don’t be afraid to begin immediately caring for and loving your baby. The more you hold your baby, the more comfortable and natural it will feel.
  • Take a night shift. Once mom is breastfeeding well, she may want to let you give the baby a nighttime meal. This way she can get more sleep and you will have the opportunity to bond with your newborn.
  • Read your newborn a book. Your newborn will enjoy the rhythm and pace of your voice while you read a book. In these early months, it’s not about what you’re reading; it’s about reading itself.
  • Initiate the bath. Bathing your newborn will enhance bonding and provide a multi-sensory learning experience.
  • Create a bedtime ritual. Infants will learn to depend on the consistency and predictability of a nighttime routine.

The research is solid that fathers profoundly impact the lives of their children, even as infants. While you may think bonding with Mom is more important for the baby, you might want to think again. As a new dad, this is actually a one-time opportunity to give your child a gift money can’t buy. That gift is time with you, and more benefits for your family than you realize.

This article was originally published in the Chattanooga Times Free Press on June 21, 2019.

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“I hear so often that your entire life changes when you become a mother. But I just really want to know how… How exactly does it change? Like, specifically.”

As we walked down the sidewalk on a cool spring day, my best friend, who was pregnant with her first child, asked me this question.

I suddenly felt very nervous, as if I were in an interview and my answer was going to be highly scrutinized and dissected to its core. How can I possibly narrow down the specifics of a life-altering experience? I racked my brain and let out an anxious chuckle as I grasped at how to articulate all the million ways my life changed when I became a mother.

“I think the biggest thing that changed for me is… time. Before kids, I thought I was busy. I thought I had a never-ending to-do list. I thought I was overwhelmed. But I had NO idea what busy was. After kids, you literally have no time. You are working 24/7, whether it’s at a job or at home or both. You are constantly taking care of everyone else’s needs. All. The. Time. It never stops. And it’s the most exhausting and overwhelming thing you’ve ever done. You’ll sacrifice so much… but it’s so worth it because you will finally understand what unconditional love is.”

I vividly remember the moment I realized what being a mother meant.

My first daughter, Jackie, came as a happy little surprise. Although I certainly didn’t feel ready to be a parent, at the ripe age of 27, I found myself with the most precious bundle of joy. There was a flood of emotions as I navigated the waters of motherhood, especially when it came to being a working mom. My entire perspective changed one night, as I rocked and nursed my sweet baby to sleep after a long day at the office.

I realized that motherhood is a thankless job; expected; commonplace. It’s just what you do.

There are no awards given to the best mom. No “Mom-of-the-Month…” (although there should totally be!). You don’t get a raise for doing an exceptional job. No one congratulates you on calming a screaming baby or praises you for changing 50 diapers in a day. There is no recognition for how many times you woke in the middle of the night and no trophy for the fact that you are still able to run on three hours of sleep (barely). And all that hard work you pour into making and sustaining this tiny human will never get you a promotion.

But the paradox is that being a mother is actually MORE rewarding than any amount of acknowledgment you could ever receive. To experience the love a mother has for her child is beyond anything I can begin to describe. It’s supernatural. It’s divine. And that’s what keeps us going at 1 a.m., and 3 a.m., and 5 a.m. … through the blowups and blowouts, the baby blues and the bliss.

Motherhood is a thankless job that I, for one, am so very thankful to have.

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