Eps 484: The real work of parenting during the middle school years

Episode 484

Ooh, I have some fun during this week’s solo show… If I could go back to parenting my kids through middle school I would take my own advice and do it differently. The beauty of hindsight. Lucky for YOU I am sharing all of my thoughts around parenting during middle school years today on the show!

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Takeaways from the show

  • Resources to check out
  • Where we get behind
  • Where to double down on firmness
  • Giving our middle schoolers more room for practice
  • The conversations to be normalizing
  • Building the win/win mentality and being on their side
  • Continuing to nurture connection
  • The power of learning about teen brain development together

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Casey O'Roarty 00:05
Hello, Welcome back. Welcome to the joyful courage podcast, a place for inspiration and transformation as we work to keep it together. While parenting our tweens and teens. This is real work people. And when we can focus on our own growth and nurturing the connection with our kids, we can move through the turbulence in a way that allows for relationships to remain intact. My name is Casey already, I am your fearless host. I'm a positive discipline trainer, space holder coach and the adolescent lead. It's browseable. Also mama to a 20 year old daughter and a 17 year old son I am walking right beside you on the path of raising our kids with positive discipline and conscious parenting. This show is meant to be a resource to you and I work really hard to keep it really real, transparent and authentic so that you feel seen and supported. Today is a solo show and I'm confident that what I share will be useful to you. Please don't forget sharing truly is caring. If you love today's show, please please pass the link around snap a screenshot posted on your socials or texted to your friends. Together we can make an even bigger impact on families around the globe. If you're feeling extra special, you can rate and review us over in Apple podcasts. I'm so glad that you're here. Welcome. Welcome. Welcome. Enjoy the show. All right. Hey, we're back. Together. You and me. Thursday, time for a solo show. How's it going out there in parent land? How's it going? I hope that you are coming into this podcast, feeling good. Hopefully you're out on a walk or driving somewhere cool. Or I don't know, doing something that brings you joy. Even if that's folding, laundry or cooking. I am glad that you are taking time to check in on what I have to say this week. This week. We are heading into the middle school years. The middle school years. That's right, hang on my friends. Middle School, I spent a lot of time talking about older teenagers. I feel like in the high school years, and sometimes even the years beyond high school later adolescence. You know especially those of you that have listened to me for a long time I kind of speak into what is currently alive in my life, right with my kids. My kids are getting older. My kids are old, you guys 21 and 18. That's really weird. And my son is going to graduate from high school in a few short months. Weird, exciting, but weird. But you know, I've had some really great conversations about middle school here on the podcast, and including just this week I had Douglas had dad on. He's a middle school teacher and he shared some glorious insights from the trenches of middle school classrooms. I also back in episode 264, Michelle Eichert came on she has this great book called 14 talks by the age 14, I believe is the title of it. She came on and talked about that book with us. I'll put a link in the show notes to that show. But it's episode 264 I loved that conversation. I totally fell in love with Michelle and her work, then she's a super easy interview guest and as is my friend and podcast favourite Amy Lang. I had her on a few times. But I was on my website. And there's if you're on a desktop or a laptop and you go on to the sprout of a website, there is a search bar and you can search for keywords and things you know, that makes it really easy. Sometimes I have people reach out to me and say hey, do you have a podcast about this are about that. And you can actually go on the website, go into the search bar and search for those topics that you're looking for. When I put in middle school, like conversation from way back from like 2015 or 16 Episode 27 Amy Lang came on and we talked about middle school dating. I literally in the title it says Middle School quote dating and then in parentheses, in all caps. It says Yikes. I was clearly going through some things at the time and needed some guidance which Amy always has provided me since my kids were really little so there's two shows that you can go back to about middle school and you know, I think that a lot of what I talked about here on the podcast is relative intent to younger kids as well as older teens and young adults. If you listen for that, right, if you're listening for and thinking about, what does this look like with my kid? What could this look like? With my kid? I don't think that I'm leaving parents of tweens and middle schoolers out, I just might be spending a little bit more time talking about the experience of some of the older teen years. But thanks for hanging out this show is for you. Parents of middle schoolers, parents of tweens and young teens, Middle School is such a weird experience. Right? Like, I mean, have you been to the middle school lately? Those of you that have middle schoolers? The answer is yes. I mean, just watching them walk into the building, right? Some schools, it's sixth, seventh, eighth, and some schools, it's seventh and eighth. There's such a range, right? Some of the kids look like they're a few years away from adulthood, while others, you just can't believe that they're actually old enough to be in middle school, right? The maturity range in their body type, and even in their behaviour. It's just a huge, huge range. It's a huge range. And you might be experiencing that you might have a kiddo who's like, oh, yeah, they're ready for middle school, they're 11 going on 25. You know, and or maybe they have older siblings or hanging with older kids, and they're just ready, right for that next step. And then you've got the baby, the ones that you're like, Oh, God, they're gonna get eaten alive. And they, you know, still very much our plan with their dolls or their, you know, Beyblades or whatever, right? It's wild. Right? And it is, you know, puberty and that teen brain development, it begins, but the rate and how each individual child receives it, you know, it's their own timeline. Right. It's their own timeline. And, you know, so back in January, I got to go to Chicago and PTA hired me to come and do a talk, actually, the whole school district, all three PTAs came together, to hire me to talk to all the parents of middle schoolers. So there's something to think about, if you're involved in your PTA and you want to invite me to come and talk, talk to neighbouring PTA is pool your resources, invite me, I'm for hire. Anyway, I was talking to this group of parents was amazing. I had such a good time. And I had a nice chunky q&a at the end. And I brought up pornography, as I do, and as well as other things, but one of the moms said, you know, I, my kid is really young, they're really immature, I don't really think they, you know, I don't think it's time for us to have this conversation. And I leaned in and I said, Listen, if you haven't already had a conversation about pornography with your middle schooler, then you need to do it tonight. It needs to happen. And when I asked, you know, even though the mom was like, oh, you know, especially this was probably her oldest. So, you know, don't be fooled into thinking that because your child isn't getting into mischief or isn't showing interest in certain things, or seems more on the immature side that they don't need to hear about things like pornography and sex and sexual development and puberty and you have to be having those conversations with your kids, you need to prep them, you need to set the stage that you are the authority, you are the person who's safe and willing and open to talking about these things. Otherwise, it's going to show up in their life on the school bus. At school. Everybody's got a computer in their pocket. Not everybody has limits, and it's going to come up. So be the first one to bring it up. When I asked in the joyful courage for teens Facebook group, when I asked Hey, what's going on with you, parents of younger teens, I hear all about, you know, the struggles with tech and phones, and video games and kids that want more freedom. The parents want to give people talk about hygiene and why won't they want to take showers and struggles with self regulation. And these themes exist for the you know, everybody. So it's nice. I always appreciate it when people are willing to comment on my posts, because every time somebody shows up and says, Well, this is what I'm struggling with, you know, everybody else gets to say me, Joe. I'm not the only one. I'm not alone and not so powerful in this era of in this season of parenting adolescents. You know,

Casey O'Roarty 09:48
there's a couple really great resources that talk about this period of time, this middle school period of time there's a documentary called The Mask You Live in. Have you seen that? It is so good, you have to Google it to find it. It's about teen boys and Guy Code and the guy box. And the messaging that our boys are getting through media, through social media, through the music, that they're listening through the movies, the TV shows the video games. And it is right around middle school, where if your son previously had close relationships, and intimate relationships with boys, and by intimate I just mean that they're good buddies, and they're emotionally vulnerable and open to each other, then middle school that gets kind of squeezed out of our boys, because of all the messaging that they get around what it looks like to be a guy, right. And the reason I bring this up is, you know, we get to talk about this stuff with our kids, we get to highlight the and put a spotlight on the messaging that is coming at them, right and to help them develop a critical lens and to help them decide who they want to be, versus who society is telling them to be. There's endless articles and blogs and books talking about girls at this age as well. And the pressure that they feel to look act be a certain way, one of my favourite authors about just like boys and girls in peer groups, and the effects that peer groups and roles inside of peer groups have on our kids is Rosalind Wiseman. She wrote a book called mastermind than wing men, which is all about the boy the male hierarchy in peer groups. And she also wrote Queen Bees and Wannabes, which is the female version of that also mean girls was based on that book, that movie Mean Girls, and it's all about the girl dynamic. And the roles that girls tend to fall into in peer groups starting in middle school. And it's well not even starting in middle school starting in elementary school. And it's so interesting, right to pull the curtain back and look at this time of life, right. And it's really powerful for us to help our kids recognise they can do the same thing they can grow their observer of themselves, right. And it's not the same as a 35 year old learning about this, but it definitely is a time to plant some seeds.

Casey O'Roarty 12:38
Again, as soon as they get a phone, or social media on, you know, a tablet or whatever, they're getting extra info on how to be who to be how to look how to act. I remember we really held off on the phone, however, Rowan had a iPod Touch, which is pretty much a phone. Right? We hold off on social media. However, back in the day there was musically this was like pre Tik Tok, which is, who's out there is like, oh, yeah, I remember musically, that was a whole thing. And it was social media. Right? I thought it was just kind of this creative, funny thing where they're making videos. But man, it quickly got out of my control. And we were deep into it before we could really have the conversations and set some limits, right. And that's the story. That's what happens in middle school, we get behind, we get behind, we get behind. In middle school, everything happens super fast. And here's why we're in denial of the hard things. Because our kids are so great. They're so innocent, they would never get into mischief. Right? We know them, we know who they're going to be, it's probably not going to be that hard for them, we probably aren't going to have to this was me, I'm probably not going to have that hard of a time because I've been, you know, parenting with positive discipline. The other thing that happens is, especially with our first middle schoolers, if we have more than one, we can't see the road ahead. So we don't plan accordingly. We don't really realise how quickly things can change, and how hardcore the influence of peers and social status becomes. And it's really beyond that it's or under that it's this deep need for belonging, the in group out group stuff starts happening hard. In middle school. We were coming into middle school, while having lived in this illusion of control. Right, like elementary school, you know, we have our rules, we have our boundaries. We have this feeling of control, right? For some of us, most of us many of us feel like okay, I'm the adult I'm the authority even if we are living inside of like everybody gets a voice and this democratic parenting style Well, it's still much easier for a lot of us and a lot of our kids to kind of stand in that authority. And you know, be the parent. Right, and then we come in to middle school. And we think we can still operate from that space, teen brain developments coming. Right? If it hasn't already landed, the pushback is coming, you know, the differing opinion is coming, that creative exploration push against status quo, it's all coming. And if we're taking this hard stance around, what I'm the authority, man, it's gonna get brutal, right. And this is why we get behind. And we also, you know, this idea that we don't have to talk about things until the things show up, right is a recipe for disaster because once they show up, we're no longer ahead of it. Now we're playing catch up the place where this happens. So clearly is with the phone. You know, so many parents, myself included. I mean, I think I did a decent job. We waited till eighth grade. Now we waited till seventh grade for a phone and eighth grade for social media, although, like I said, musically existed. But even then, so many parents, it's like, we got you this phone, we got you this thing you've been asking for and it's exciting to give our kids gifts. Oh my god, but the smartphones can you all if you don't have not given your kit a smartphone yet? Can you just not go with the flip phone, everybody needs to just get their kids flip phones. I mean, they do not need smartphones. I wish we could go back in time, and really drill that in for all of us. Anyway, the phones. So that's a classic example where we get them the phones, and it's a free for all. And then we realise like, oh, shoot, I gotta figure out how to set some limits. I gotta figure out how to, you know, block certain things. I gotta figure out do I monitor right? We realise that after we've gotten them the phone, now, that is too late. It's not too late, but it sure is a pain in the ass. Right, because in the meantime, they're doing all the things and figuring out all the things and so excited about this freedom of the internet and social media. It's like spinning out of control. And I know you know, we all know that feeling. Right? Caray, for those of you that really came into the phone thing with a solid plan, I really am stoked for you. And you know anymore, there's plenty of bones and phone plans that are like dumbed down where you start. And it is already dialled in and restricted. Which it should be right, it should be restricted, we shouldn't be just saying, Here's the phone, have fun with that, right? Because they don't know what they're doing. And we don't know what they're doing. And there are plenty of people out there that know exactly what they're doing and are targeting our kids, whether it's marketers, or predators or whatever, the phones are a nightmare. So we need to stay ahead of it right. And again, so we don't want to get behind on the phones on the freedoms on any of it. So there's a couple things I want to talk about, for you, middle school parents around this idea of what this period of time can be this bridge into adolescence. And we're going to talk about doubling down on the places where it is important to be firm. I want to talk about giving them our kids more time for practising life skills that are important. I want to talk about the conversations that you should be normalising in your house. And I want to talk about building a win win mentality being on their side. Okay, and continuing to nurture connection. Okay, so there's a lot there. And I'm already almost 20 minutes in. Okay, so where to double down on firmness? I've already talked about screens? Yes, yes, yes. Middle School. If you're doing screens, you need to double down on those agreements, around limits and expectations with the screens. I have an entire little handout around making agreements around screens. There's plenty of podcasts where I talk about screens, listen to them, and make it work for your family. I think another thing you get to double down on is family time slash special time, one on one time, and it is so important. If you've already have that established in the elementary years when you come into middle school years, keep that connection alive. It doesn't have to be, you know, eating dinner together every night although that is fantastic. But I know kids are busy and families are busy. Making sure that you have family time time where you're spending together as a family every week and making sure that you have one on one time with your middle schooler. That is real quality one on one In Time Kid lead, you know, you're not having hard conversations unless they're bringing it up, you're doing what they want to do. You are delighting in them because they are changing. They are growing, they are developing, right? And so that one on one time routine is key in keeping your finger on the pulse of who your kiddo is. Right? And the other thing to double down on is routines like, what is the after dinner routine look

Casey O'Roarty 20:25
like? What does the after school routine look like? Maybe you don't have posters in the household anymore? I think I did. My kids were like, well, Roland especially was like, Oh, geez. But like, what do routines look like? And is that common language, and when everybody knows what to do, then everybody knows what to do. So it's really important that you maintain that structure of routines. As kids move into middle school, this is what we do as a family after dinner. This is what we do in the afternoons. Right? And be open to changing it up to when your middle schooler says, Well, I don't want it to be like this. Okay, great. What can it look like? What can it look like to make sure the things that need to get done, get done? What kind of routine Do you want to create? Let's talk about it. Right. The other thing that is really important during the middle school years, and bridging that gap between elementary and into adolescence is giving them ever more room to practice advocating for themselves practice responsibility to practice accountability, right? We want to give them ever more freedom within structure. Right? And that's taking a look at where are they using their voice? What does it look like for them to be in relationship and conversation with their teachers? Where do they need support around that? Do you have a kiddo that's a little bit more conservative or shy or anxious around talking to adults? So what kind of scaffolding do they need, so that they can start to take that on and start to practice that? Right? We want to extend continue to extend their comfort zone with that scaffolding. And the scaffolding can look like you know, I'll help you write the email to your teacher, but it needs to come from you. Let's roleplay the conversation you need to have with your coach so that you're ready to have it with them, you know, at practice later, extending their comfort zone with scaffolding and with practice is really important during middle school years, and staying curious about what they want. Like, if you haven't already started this conversation, then Middle School is a great time for it. What are you hoping for? At the end of the semester? What are you hoping for? At the end of the year? What are the grades that you want? What do you want to accomplish? What are your goals for soccer? What are your goals for volleyball? What are your goals for the clarinet? How are you going to know that you've grown? What is that going to look like for you? Obviously, you're not going to like pepper them with all these questions all at once. But this is the idea. We want to be generating a conversation and really putting the centre putting the onus on them. We want to centre this is your experience to have and I'm so excited to be on the sidelines celebrating you and supporting you. What is it that you want? Right? So really practising taking what we want out of the conversation, right, and this is going to serve you as they move into high school to so this is kind of the practice ground? I mean, because probably they're already real aware of what you want, right? We're not subtle. So we get to really celebrate and be in the conversation around helping them think about and consider and reflect on what yeah, what is it that I want? How will I know that I've grown? What will make me feel good, right?

Casey O'Roarty 23:48
So giving them more room for practising those life skills. Absolutely. The other piece is thinking about what conversations could you be normalising during the tween middle school years. I think this is really important. It can feel like everything changes overnight, but it doesn't, doesn't change overnight, but it changes quick, once they go from kid to adolescent feels like overnight, right? And I think some of the things that I really want to encourage you to normalise and you've heard me talk a little bit about this in previous podcasts over the last couple of weeks. But really these ideas that in our family, we talk about how we're feeling, right, we talk about emotions, we name emotions, you know, and that starts with mom and dad or mom and mom and starts with dad's parents, grandparents, whoever the adults are that are caregiving. You get to talk about your emotions in a really healthy way. You get to identify how you're feeling and speak it and identify it and talk about it. Right. It's really hard to feel conflicted or to feel embarrassed or to feel humiliated. Right. And I think it's really important for our kids to see us nap forgetting those emotions, it is important. That's how they learn their own navigation and their own emotional intelligence is by the model that we are. In our family, we talk about how we're feeling, even though it's hard to do in our family, we own our mistakes, right? we name our mistakes. And we take ownership and we make things right. We repair when we've hurt someone. In our family, we get that things are hard, and we keep showing up. We do things anyway. Right? We do it anyway. In our family, we talk about screen use, and we talk about limits. And we look at our, you know, our results of screen time, right? In our family, we hand over our devices, and let each other explore. Right and our family. This is an out neopagan thing. I'm not going to read your diary, right? You don't need to panic because I'm holding your phone. In our family, we talk about sex, sexual development, relationships, healthy relationships, toxic relationships, right? This is really important and absolutely should be something that's normalised in middle school, because this is where they're headed. You're headed into these more intimate, more romantic relationships. So we get to talk about it. In our family, we talk about substance use, and abuse and experimenting, we talk about what it's like to look over and see kids are vaping. And it's kind of cool. I remember he and was like, I think that this smoke is really cool. And I remember feeling like oh, God, we talked about it. And we continue to talk about it. We get to normalise these conversations, people. And we get to normalise it in middle school, we get to show our kids that we can handle these conversations that we're not going to be lunatics about it that we're not super close minded, that we're open to exploring the conversations and we're curious, and we want to find out what our kids think and how might you, you know, interact with that challenge? Should it come up? Right? And wow, what would make it hard with your peers are doing something that you don't want to do? You know, just we get to normalise these conversations. And normalising them means that we get to have them, right. You get to talk about them. We're cool with that. Cool talking about all this stuff, right? Because it's all on our kids minds. Right? They are curious, they are watching, they are exposed. They want to be talking about this stuff, and they want to know that you can handle talking about it. So handle it. Right, you handle it. Another thing that is super key during this time is building the Win Win mentality, and really landing for our young teens and tweens that we are on their side. Right again, control is an illusion. And when we get into power struggles, power struggles are a trap for disconnection. So we really want to stay in that Win Win mentality. They have to know that you're on their side, with teachers, with friends with other family members. And by being on their side. I mean, we show up with curiosity, we show up with more listening, Less talking, we show up in validation that what they're moving through is hard. And we stay solution focused. Right? This is how we show up on their side. Remember, negotiation, some parents are like, I'm so tired of all the negotiating. Well, negotiating is a life skill. Right? Arguing is a life skill, having space to disagree, being able to disagree and speak your truth. Even if it's a truth that changes over time, being able to voice your opinion. These are life skills, you know, we really have the opportunity to create greater space and environment a container for them to flex those life skills. Right. Creating those win wins being a listener, being on their side, being curious about what they're thinking and learning and wrestling with. And you get to have non negotiables. Right? You get to have non negotiables. You get to say no, not yet, or No, not today, or no, not ever. But really, you get to say no to things, right? This isn't about you not being that confident authority and leader in your family. But it is about recognising that you are collaborators. Right? You get to collaborate with your young teens and tweens. And when you do have non negotiables when it is like Nope, we're not doing phones yet. Right? You get to work on being with your child's disappointment. And I'm just gonna let you sit with that you get to work on being with your child's disappointment and anger and frustration. And then, and you know their choice words, and you get to work on being with it and seeing them. And recognising Wow, this is something they really care about. And it's really hard for them to be with their disappointment, right? You get to notice when you want to save them, right, all of our kids saying, Oh, my kids have an iPhone, all of my friends are on Snapchat. That's the only way I can connect with my friends. Right? Everybody's hanging out at that sketchy Park, except for me, I'm missing out, right? We hear our kids moaning and crying, so discouraged about missing out because they don't have the phone or the app, or the sketchy Park to go to right. And it's hard to hear. It's hard to hear. You get to be curious. You get to listen deeply. And you need to validate that they're moving through something hard. Right? Yeah. And even that, that's a win win. What can we do? What is the solution? I don't know that big. I hate you. Okay, I love you, I'll see you at dinner. So that's the person you know, there's a lot of inner work that gets to happen. As we move through these years and be who our kids need us to be through these years. There's a lot of inner work. And it's only the beginning people, it's only the beginning of adolescence, you're gonna have lots of opportunity to continue to find your flexibility. Find your resilience, right, encourage and empower yourself as the parent. Absolutely. And then yeah, continuing to nurture connection, I already mentioned this building in the family time building in the one on one time, again, normalising this, this is what we do, and perhaps even reframing a bit what that special one time looks like, right? If they're quiet, and they don't want to talk or they don't want to do the one on one time, or they're mad at you if that you know that they're struggling, right with something and you want to get in there, you want to talk about it, but they're not bringing it up. And it's their one on one time. And you don't get to write being with that. It's okay, you get to be an energetic presence, and the power of that, we can't measure it. But it exists, the ability to just be with our kids as they are in the moment. It's such a gift for them to get to be who they are without somebody sending a message that it's not okay for them to be quiet or sad or disappointed. Right. And I'm not saying that you say that out loud. But when we feel uncomfortable with that, and we want to kind of jostle them out of it, the underlying message is, it's not okay for you to feel that way. Our kids want to be seen and accepted. They don't want to be judged or told how to feel, right, we can say, what do you need? Right now? How can I support you? Do you want me to be quiet,

Casey O'Roarty 32:57
I really want to ask you about what's going on. But I also recognise that, you know, you're having your own feels about it. So just know I'm here for you. Right, we can drive in in silence, or let's listen to this music or whatever. After the fact after those one on one times, and during, especially during this period of the middle school years, you can get into the practice of checking in with them about hey, you know, how did you feel like I showed up for you today, when you were having a hard time? What could I have done differently? What would be more useful next time, right? Checking in on the relationship and being open to growth and learning because if your kids a tween or a teen and they're your first you are in the gauntlet of personal growth and development, welcome, welcome to the workshop, it will last for the rest of your life with your child because they are constantly showing us our gaps and are places to grow. And it's exciting. It's exciting. So yeah, that's what I wanted to talk about today. I encourage you all to be proactive. Be proactive with that tween or a middle schooler of yours. Learn about teen brain development together, learn about the brain, learn about things that are coming talk about mental health, talk about body image, talk about friend drama, they're already thinking about it. Okay, so you're not going to create a mental health problem or create a body image problem or create friend drama. By talking about this stuff. What you are going to create is a space that your kids know, is safe to lean into. Right? A person that's you that can handle these hard conversations. So that's what I got Special delivery for all of you with middle schoolers. I hope that you found that useful. I would love to know your thoughts on all of this. I know it was kind of there. some broad strokes. But I hope that you can listen and really hear pieces that are useful for whatever the challenges are that you're currently navigating. This is so much bigger than screens or showers or backtalk. Right? This is really what do we want to create in this environment that we now live inside of with this young adolescent person is going to continue to grow and develop and we just want to give them the optimal space to do that. Right? Yes. So, okay, I have no questions for you to prop. Let me think about some prompts. So first, prompt, always, what are you taking away? Right? What are you taking away from this conversation? What are some conversations that you are going to start normalising in your home? So go back to that section and listen, or think about that? What do you want to be able to talk about in your family? And what are you going to do to nurture more regular one on one time, right? There's more that I want to ask you to. But those are the prompts that I'm going to give you for today. Loved it loved hanging out with you, per usual and if you think about it, and you want to give back to the podcast, please head over to Apple podcasts and leave me a five star review. And let others know what you take away from this show. And wherever you listen to me if you listen on Spotify, or Amazon or Apple, make sure you follow or subscribe the pod so that you automatically get it into your feed every Monday and Thursday when the show goes live. All right. Have a beautiful weekend and I will see you soon.

Casey O'Roarty 37:00
Thank you so much for listening in today. Thank you so much to my spreadable partners. Julieta and Ilana as well as Danielle and Chris Mann and the team at pod shaper for all the support with getting this show out there and helping it to sound so good. Check out our offers for parents with kids of all ages and sign up for our newsletter to stay better connected at beat sprout double.com tune back in on Monday for a brand new interview and I will be back solo with you next Thursday. Have a great day.

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