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Having a great deal of difficulty w/ds starting kindergarten (long & involved)

post #1 of 55
Thread Starter 
I was very excited to get DS into a lovely little charter school that is a short drive away. It's a gentle, nurturing place that doesn't force academics in kindy. A big part of the curriculum is teaching respect for the earth (they even have compost buckets) and being kind to each other. The teacher is amazing and loved by kids, parents, and the school staff. I've seen her in action, as I've sat in ds's class for the past 2 days, and I was very impressed. She is wonderful with even the most difficult child, doesn't play favorites, and zeroes in on the kids who need the most nurturing. She uses gentle discipline and teaches kids through natural consequences. He LOVES the school and the teacher, and just blossomed in that setting. So there's no problem with the school.

I admittedly am feeling very upset at being separated from my son for 4.5 hours a day, since we've been together every day since he was born. I've cried over it and dealt with my misgivings and I know that this situation is the best for him (and me, and ds's little brother who is on the way). DS is highly active and curious and needs a lot of stimulation. I cannot provide him with all he needs at home.

Now the problem. He is *extremely* attached to me and absolutely refuses to go to school unless I sit in class with him. This is nothing new and has been the main source of the difficulty that we have with him and it also makes DH and I incredibly angry sometimes. He has been so ridiculously clingy since he was a baby. At that age it was to be expected and didn't bother me, but it NEVER lessened. It would take forever to go into all the details, so I'll use a recent one. We were in Disneyland in July, and MIL was with us. DS is close with her and comfortable. She was right next to him while he sat in his stroller, and dh and I were about 30 feet away from him in line at the bakery. We were in full view, and that was too much separation for ds. He screamed and cried, getting louder and louder, until dh went over to him. We couldn't leave him to do anything on our own, since we didn't want to leave MIL to deal with an uncontrollably shrieking kid. It just feels so controlling at this point, that this is what he does he get his way. He didn't go to preschool and he almost never stays with babysitters.

DH says that all kids are like that, that they don't like being separated from mom. He thinks we "babied" ds too much and waited too long for this separation. This morning, ds was supposed to do kindy on his own for the first time and dh was taking him, but ds starting crying and tantruming and wouldn't leave the house. He was flailing and fighting dh when he tried to pick him up. DH gets angry and says stupid things, like "Well, I'm disappointed in you and I'm not playing with you until you go to school!!" I mean, I am admittedly angry with ds right now for doing this again, but I don't think that saying those types of things helps much.

I know that I have been part of the problem with ds's behavior. He is a very sweet and gentle child, and although I have been pushing him for a long time to be more independent, maybe I didn't do it strongly enough or in the right way. I've always been very protective of him. Even in comparison to children in his age range, he is very naive and usually the sweetest and most openly enthusiastic of the group. I figured I could avoid any anxiety I might be transferring to him at kindy by having dh drop him off, but that was a disaster.

Okay, so am I doing the right thing by making him go to kindy? I'm going to work out some way with the teacher that we can get my kid to stay in school without me. It wouldn't be beyond him to shriek his head off and insist on waiting in the parking lot until I return. Is this behavior in the normal range, or is something "wrong" with my kid? Oh, and I cannot home school him, but I will take him out of school and start kindy next year if he truly cannot handle it. But then I may not be able to get him back into this school.

Thanks a million to anyone who made it through this post
post #2 of 55
I just responded to another post about ds starting kindy today. Because at least as far as dropping him off it did not go well.

It sounds like our ds's are a lot alike.
My ds has been home this past year, because we had ds(2) born in December and I've been staying home. DS would have been well off in pt preschool, but we couldn't afford it. Prior to that he had been in a preschool oriented daycare. It took him half of that year to really "participate" and talk to his teacher. He's always been super reserved, very attatched to mama, and long to warm up to new people or new situation.

So we were nervous about kindy and his lack of socializing in the last year. Fortunately for us my dh works at the school ds is attending. But since dh is a teacher he can't exactly have ds coming to find him and dh doesn't have time to check on him. But ds has had plenty of opportunities to meet his new teacher and lot's of time spent at the school.

But today I dropped him off and I wasn't allowed into the classroom. Ds was clinging to me and crying and they pried him away and took him inside. I had NO idea this is how they were going to approach it. I did spend time in the classroom a few days ago for the one hour of "meet your teacher". But I think for him it would have been best if the "meet your teacher" was at the beginning of a full day of school in which I would have left after that hour. I know he would have still had a tough time transitioning. But this morning just felt so rough and I feel like I lied to him about what the drop off would look like. Because I didn't know!

At least you have had time to be in the classroom with your ds thus far.
But I will say that he probably will do better once you leave, you will need to at some point. My ds was like that for daycare. I tried to have gentle drop offs and help him get situated and then I would leave. But he is the type of kid who wouldn't be comfortable tantruming in front of someone he doesn't know. He would probably just turn inward and be quiet and obliging (but not necessarily without anxiety, KWIM?) But you can alway leave and let the teacher handle it and see how it goes. Maybe he will scream in the parking lot and then maybe he'll do better than you expect.

My dh taught kindy and now teaches first grade and he's had a few kids who will still cry in first grade. I do think that these kids do need to foster a little more independence for their own mental health and happiness, believe me I have one of these kids!! But I realize how hard it is to do it gently. I'm hoping being in a structured but gentle environment will help my ds figure it out....
I have to admit that when he was in daycare/preschool, he really made a huge leap during that year. By the end of the year he was interacting with the other kids, talking to his teacher and really identified with it as "his school". He still talks about his old school and friends over a year later.

He is one of the younger kids going into kindergarten, just turned 5 in July. But honestly I don't think he'd be more prepared if we held him out for a year. I think his personality is just reserved and he'll only become more comfortable with people when he is in a setting to challenge him to do so. I'm just hoping to try and give him some tools to do so.

Thankfully for you it sounds like the school is a good fit. Have you thought about talking to the teacher after school (without your ds around) to come up with a game plan and to see how she would work with your ds once you leave the classroom? If he is in 1/2 day, I don't think you'd benefit by doing preschool over kindy. And if he is attatched as you say, it sounds like he could use more social interaction without you than he's had so far.

I would probably stop talking to your ds about how he's expected to stay at school on his own. You'v'e told him it will happen and just leave it at that. I know the buildup is sometimes too much for my ds. And remember that teachers have dealt with kids like this before. After you've actually let him be at school without, you can then evaluate and see how it's going.

Good luck mama! It's not easy, I know.
post #3 of 55
Thread Starter 
How funny, I was just reading your reply on the other thread and thinking "Well that sounds like my ds" when I saw your reply to my thread. He also just turned 5 in July!

Quote:
Originally Posted by beebalmmama View Post
Thankfully for you it sounds like the school is a good fit. Have you thought about talking to the teacher after school (without your ds around) to come up with a game plan and to see how she would work with your ds once you leave the classroom? If he is in 1/2 day, I don't think you'd benefit by doing preschool over kindy. And if he is attatched as you say, it sounds like he could use more social interaction without you than he's had so far.
Good luck mama! It's not easy, I know.
The teacher and I were talking yesterday, and she suggested that we do our separating about 10 minutes before school starts, with her present. She will comfort him and take it from there. She said that she would call me if a half hour went by and ds was still crying/inconsolable. She's a pro and has dealt both with kids like ds and anxious mamas like me.

I was shocked and very proud of how ds handled all the interactions in school. Since he STILL, even after 5 years, refuses to speak with people at dh's work whom he sees on a weekly basis, and he refuses to respond when most people talk to him, I figured him to be ridiculously introverted, like me. Turns out that he's a social butterfly. He talked to all the kids, played with them, went to his teacher with all his questions, and hardly ever looked at me. And that was after the first hour of the first day! He is obviously happy there. I don't think it would be beneficial to wait another year, this problem is not going away.

Another thing I like about this school is that is has an optional 2-year kindy program. There are a few kids in ds's class who are doing the second year. I assume ds will be doing that too, since he is still pretty young. So he isn't pressured to make leaps and bounds this year.

If we try a variety of ways to keep him in school and it doesn't work, perhaps there is something more serious that he needs help with.
post #4 of 55
It does sound like he enjoys it. My ds is like that in a way. He really enjoys social interactions but just can't seem to let him self step away from my side. He also will not answer people when they talk to him. He even gives kids at the park (whom he's not been introduced to) mean looks. I think it's just his way of coping with not knowing how to introduce himself or start a friendship. Because once he does strike up a friendship, they are very dear to him and has so much fun and doesn't stop talking.

It sounds like the teacher is trying to make it a gentle transition. I think the separation before class begins is a good idea, that way she can help him before all the other kids come into class.

I believe that all kids develop at a different rate and in their own time. But at least with my ds I think that this last year without as much social interaction there was some digression. I think some social development requires interaction with new and different faces, imo.

On the home front. Age 4 has been a tough year for us, which we are still dealing with even at the turn of 5. But I know for dh and I, we've really had to buckle down and mean what we say. It doesn't come easy for me becaue I'm not a strong disciplinarian. But ds has definitely been pushing his boundaries this year.
post #5 of 55
I think a big part of the problem is already answered in your OP. I think he is sensing YOUR reluctance to be away from him and feeding on that. You are projecting a feeling of fear and trauma at separation so he is responding in the same way. If you can show him that there is nothing to be scared of and that you will be fine during your separation then he will probably feel more confident.
post #6 of 55
I give you credit for putting your own anxiety aside and letting him grow through this transition to school. I do think kids can sense our anxiety (like dogs sense fear) so I would do everything you can to truly focus on all the many positives in this situation.

I disagree that "all kids are like that" but I do think that letting him skip all parts of early childhood that ease you into kindergarten (like preschool, babysitters on date nights that you and your dp take, etc) did none of you any favors for this transition. If he has used fussing/crying/screaming to get you back next to him (the Disneyland example you gave) over and over, and it has always worked - well, I'm betting he will keep it up until it doesn't. Wouldn't you? He has an effective system going here. But honestly, it isn't good for him or you or baby on the way.

Should mom and dad be primary trusted and loved people in a child's life - definitely in an ideal world. But finding out that he is safe with gramma, auntie, your best friend with a child his age, experienced babysitter, preschool teacher, etc - well, that is good too.

I was a SAHM for a decade for my three kids. But starting when dd1 was two weeks old, I would make a quick trip to the grocery store alone - leaving her with my dp or gramma. Short date nights - two hours? - with gramma babysitting at our house at three months old. My sister would babysit for us starting around one or two? My brother took her to the zoo when she was two or three - hour round trip from our house and he has never had kids. Still the funniest story ever told. Very highly recommended high school babysitter at four years old. Mommy and me classes, then co-op preschool. Just baby steps throughout their lives.

I can appreciate that some kids handle this better than others. But I think that means you do those steps slower and shorter then I might have - but still do them.

I think it would be petrifying to think that I was unsafe if my mom wasn't within arms reach of me at five. I mean you have to shower, go to the bathroom, go to the dentist and gynocologist, have alone time with your dp, visit people in the hospital, go to weddings and funerals and graduations that ds might not enjoy or be able to sit quietly through. What if you fall and break something and need surgery? What if dp gets a big award at work and wants you to accompany him to the award ceremony?

I just really feel for people in your situation - it must be hard for all involved. I'd start today and go for a walk or to the store without him. I'd have gramma watch him at your house while you and dp go out for dinner. Learning he can be safe without you is such a gift to him.
post #7 of 55
Thread Starter 
Quote:
Originally Posted by Heavenly View Post
I think a big part of the problem is already answered in your OP. I think he is sensing YOUR reluctance to be away from him and feeding on that. You are projecting a feeling of fear and trauma at separation so he is responding in the same way. If you can show him that there is nothing to be scared of and that you will be fine during your separation then he will probably feel more confident.
Well, that's why we tried sending him with DH. I just acted normally while getting him ready to go. I wasn't feeling anxious about it, we just did our typical morning routine. But right before it was time to go, ds got very upset, ran to the bedroom and seated himself in a chair, refusing to leave. I will have no choice but to take him myself on Monday, since he wouldn't even leave the house with DH. I was with him at school for two days and DS had no issue getting enthusiastic about everything. He just refuses to separate.
post #8 of 55
DD1 wasn't so keen on separating at that age, she had major anxiety issues, still does but to a lesser degree now. She had been capable of separating starting at 3.5y, she had rarely been away prior to that, she would go to dance and gymnastics by her self. At age 5.5, she experienced a major traumatic event which lead into an anxiety disorder. It took a year of therapy, and working up to her being left again, she did not go to school during that time. She did go last year to 1st grade which was her first experience at school, she did fine. She has no issues once again separating during the day, at night is a whole other story.

Not all kids have issues separating, and while it could be a normal developmental phase during certain stages, prolonged refusal to separate like what you are describing is not normal. It doesn't mean that something is "wrong" with him but that he may need more help in learning how to separate. And I do say this with great kindness and a understanding of children that need more.

It sounds like the teacher is wonderful, and really willing to work with you! Working up to him being left probably should of been started prior to K, but hindsight is always 20/20, eh. I have certainly made my fair share of mistakes while navigating through uncharted waters. I'll put it this way, for a child that has never been left, it would be more surprising if he just waved at the door and yelled, "see ya later mom!". This is all so very new to him, maybe the teacher's plan will work and he will start being ok with being left or maybe you will need to pull him out and start working on separating so that you can try again next year. Only time will tell on that. Good luck!
post #9 of 55
Quote:
Originally Posted by Heavenly View Post
I think a big part of the problem is already answered in your OP. I think he is sensing YOUR reluctance to be away from him and feeding on that. You are projecting a feeling of fear and trauma at separation so he is responding in the same way. If you can show him that there is nothing to be scared of and that you will be fine during your separation then he will probably feel more confident.
I totally agree with this. I am sure if you are as upset as you described he can totally sense it, I know that my ds can read me like a book.

Quote:
Originally Posted by MommaMoo View Post
Well, that's why we tried sending him with DH. I just acted normally while getting him ready to go. I wasn't feeling anxious about it, we just did our typical morning routine. But right before it was time to go, ds got very upset, ran to the bedroom and seated himself in a chair, refusing to leave. I will have no choice but to take him myself on Monday, since he wouldn't even leave the house with DH. I was with him at school for two days and DS had no issue getting enthusiastic about everything. He just refuses to separate.
It sounds like though there was a lot of tension with your DH and there is a lot of tension surrounding the entire Kindergarten issue and your son is feeding off of that. I would be matter of fact about it, this is just what he does now, he goes to Kindergarten, like daddy goes to work. I would not sit in his classroom any more. When you drop him off make sure your mindset is calm and not upset at all and don't let yourself get there. Unfortunately he is going to cry, but his teacher will comfort him, I think her idea of bringing him 10 minutes early is great. You probably should make drop off quick. This is not the same as CIO, before someone starts saying it is, he will be left in the arms of a caring adult that his mother is entrusting to care for him. Good luck. He will be fine.
post #10 of 55
Thread Starter 
Quote:
Originally Posted by Kirsten View Post
I give you credit for putting your own anxiety aside and letting him grow through this transition to school. I do think kids can sense our anxiety (like dogs sense fear) so I would do everything you can to truly focus on all the many positives in this situation.

I disagree that "all kids are like that" but I do think that letting him skip all parts of early childhood that ease you into kindergarten (like preschool, babysitters on date nights that you and your dp take, etc) did none of you any favors for this transition. If he has used fussing/crying/screaming to get you back next to him (the Disneyland example you gave) over and over, and it has always worked - well, I'm betting he will keep it up until it doesn't. Wouldn't you? He has an effective system going here. But honestly, it isn't good for him or you or baby on the way.

Should mom and dad be primary trusted and loved people in a child's life - definitely in an ideal world. But finding out that he is safe with gramma, auntie, your best friend with a child his age, experienced babysitter, preschool teacher, etc - well, that is good too.

I was a SAHM for a decade for my three kids. But starting when dd1 was two weeks old, I would make a quick trip to the grocery store alone - leaving her with my dp or gramma. Short date nights - two hours? - with gramma babysitting at our house at three months old. My sister would babysit for us starting around one or two? My brother took her to the zoo when she was two or three - hour round trip from our house and he has never had kids. Still the funniest story ever told. Very highly recommended high school babysitter at four years old. Mommy and me classes, then co-op preschool. Just baby steps throughout their lives.

I can appreciate that some kids handle this better than others. But I think that means you do those steps slower and shorter then I might have - but still do them.

I think it would be petrifying to think that I was unsafe if my mom wasn't within arms reach of me at five. I mean you have to shower, go to the bathroom, go to the dentist and gynocologist, have alone time with your dp, visit people in the hospital, go to weddings and funerals and graduations that ds might not enjoy or be able to sit quietly through. What if you fall and break something and need surgery? What if dp gets a big award at work and wants you to accompany him to the award ceremony?

I just really feel for people in your situation - it must be hard for all involved. I'd start today and go for a walk or to the store without him. I'd have gramma watch him at your house while you and dp go out for dinner. Learning he can be safe without you is such a gift to him.
Thank you for that kind reply. A big part of the problem for us has always been that we have no family around. We are very isolated. We also can't afford to pay a babysitter every week to go on a date night. It's been a continual problem for DH and I and now it's coming to a head. I'm also not always the best mother because I feel so incredibly stuck, with no options at all to "free myself" from a constantly clinging 5 year old who is always demanding that I play with him or keep him entertained in some way. I just get so angry with him for being like this and I can't have him climbing all over me anymore. Kindy is basically our only option, since it's practically free.
He's fine with staying with DH while I go to appointments, etc, but never wants to be without both of us at once. Even though his grandma lives on the other side of the country, he has seen her many times and talks to her on the phone a lot, so he is comfortable with her. DH and I went out to a movie while she was recently visiting and DS cried most of the time and just sat out in front of our door, waiting for us to get home. Ugh. I'm so sick of this. DH insists that this new baby get used to babysitters and preschool from an early age. I am praying that baby is nothing like his big brother in this respect.
post #11 of 55
Thread Starter 
Quote:
Originally Posted by cycle View Post
It sounds like though there was a lot of tension with your DH and there is a lot of tension surrounding the entire Kindergarten issue and your son is feeding off of that. I would be matter of fact about it, this is just what he does now, he goes to Kindergarten, like daddy goes to work. I would not sit in his classroom any more. When you drop him off make sure your mindset is calm and not upset at all and don't let yourself get there. Unfortunately he is going to cry, but his teacher will comfort him, I think her idea of bringing him 10 minutes early is great. You probably should make drop off quick. This is not the same as CIO, before someone starts saying it is, he will be left in the arms of a caring adult that his mother is entrusting to care for him. Good luck. He will be fine.
Thanks for this advice. I will try it on Monday. I think that both DH and I should be there to support each other and make sure neither of us gets upset.
post #12 of 55
If you don't want to send him, don't. I don't know if you baby him too much. I have seen older kids get babied too much, but I am not sure it is possible really to baby a 5 yr old too much, unless you spoon feed him or never give him a chore of any sort.

I think you should make the decision, not your dh. You know him best. ((hugs))
post #13 of 55
Thread Starter 
Quote:
Originally Posted by Lisa1970 View Post
If you don't want to send him, don't. I don't know if you baby him too much. I have seen older kids get babied too much, but I am not sure it is possible really to baby a 5 yr old too much, unless you spoon feed him or never give him a chore of any sort.

I think you should make the decision, not your dh. You know him best. ((hugs))
Oh, I want him to go. I was upset at first because it was such a big change for both of us and I think I had the typical first-time kindergarten mom anxiety, plus all of my worries about his neediness. He is a high needs child and needs way, way more stimulation than I can provide him in our apartment during the day. He also really, really drives me nuts with his clinginess and it will be extremely difficult to get the baby's needs met during the day with DS around. So yes, I want and need him to go, but not if it's going to traumatize him and he's truly not ready.
post #14 of 55
Quote:
Originally Posted by MommaMoo View Post
Oh, I want him to go. I was upset at first because it was such a big change for both of us and I think I had the typical first-time kindergarten mom anxiety, plus all of my worries about his neediness. He is a high needs child and needs way, way more stimulation than I can provide him in our apartment during the day. He also really, really drives me nuts with his clinginess and it will be extremely difficult to get the baby's needs met during the day with DS around. So yes, I want and need him to go, but not if it's going to traumatize him and he's truly not ready.
If he does well with socialization when he is in the class I don't think its going to traumatize him. I think that the first couple of days may be very difficult, but if the teacher is willing to work with you, and it sounds like she is, I think you are just going to have to work through it. Once he gets the routine down, makes some friends, and lets himself enjoy the socialization and his day instead of being consumed with you not being there I think he will be fine. He will start enjoying himself and his days will start going by quickly and he will see that you are coming to get him every day at the same time, like clockwork. At five I think talking to him and explaining to him over the weekend that he is going to school, this is his thing to do, as I said in my other post; daddy goes to work, mommy does all the work at home, and ds goes to school. Does that make sense? I know that my five year old would benefit with conversations beforehand about things. Even make a schedule maybe for the day. I don't know if these things would work or not, just throwing out suggestions. I can understand that it must be very difficult for you all but you will get through it. (((hugs)))
post #15 of 55
Thread Starter 
Ok, I really appreciate all the advice, and I have another question. I sent an email to his teacher with this but haven't heard back yet. This morning when DS refused to go to school, he was having a tantrum, grabbing on to furniture, and flinging himself around when DH went to pick him up. I do not expect any improvements on Monday. When he acts like that again, should we just calmly pick him up, restrain him, and carry him downstairs to the car? No amount of calming him down and talking to him worked this morning. It I wasn't going to be in the class with him, he refused to ever go there again. Should we drag him to the car?
post #16 of 55
Since he is a young 5, would it work to delay enrollment in the great charter school and put him in a really great preschool for this year, then begin firmly working on having him accept that you will be leaving? At a preschool, if you choose the right one, there will be more acceptance of you being there at first, then leaving after a bit when he gets involved in the activities of the day. The thing is, I think you'll have to be quite conscious about spending less and less time at the preschool each time and making it clear that he is a growing boy who can truly handle this just fine. Have you tried reading a book like The Kissing Hand, about being together even when you are apart from one another? (comforting for mom and child)
post #17 of 55
Quote:
Originally Posted by MommaMoo View Post
When he acts like that again, should we just calmly pick him up, restrain him, and carry him downstairs to the car? No amount of calming him down and talking to him worked this morning. It I wasn't going to be in the class with him, he refused to ever go there again. Should we drag him to the car?
It depends what your goals are, I guess. True independence cannot be forced. It just doesn't work this way. He really needs you right now, and it not ready to separate. You can separate him forcefully and drag him to the car, but what you are going to gain is not independence, but detachment and helplessness at best, and anger at worst. He's not being heard, not at all. How does ignoring your child's need to be with you is fostering independence?
post #18 of 55
Thread Starter 
Quote:
Originally Posted by midnightwriter View Post
It depends what your goals are, I guess. True independence cannot be forced. It just doesn't work this way. He really needs you right now, and it not ready to separate. You can separate him forcefully and drag him to the car, but what you are going to gain is not independence, but detachment and helplessness at best, and anger at worst. He's not being heard, not at all. How does ignoring your child's need to be with you is fostering independence?
I have NEVER, not ONCE, EVER ignored my child's need to be with me. Now, when he wants me to be there and I can't is a different story. I believe that DH and I have a right to go out together every once in a while, even if DS has a freak-out over it. Also, I have been listening to DS and his needs pretty much every moment since he was born, thank you very much.
post #19 of 55
Thread Starter 
Quote:
Originally Posted by lauren View Post
Since he is a young 5, would it work to delay enrollment in the great charter school and put him in a really great preschool for this year, then begin firmly working on having him accept that you will be leaving? At a preschool, if you choose the right one, there will be more acceptance of you being there at first, then leaving after a bit when he gets involved in the activities of the day. The thing is, I think you'll have to be quite conscious about spending less and less time at the preschool each time and making it clear that he is a growing boy who can truly handle this just fine. Have you tried reading a book like The Kissing Hand, about being together even when you are apart from one another? (comforting for mom and child)
We couldn't afford to put him in any preschool, let alone a really great one. I don't think I'd even find a better teacher or environment than the kindy, anyway. The teacher read the Kissing Hand to the kids on the first day of class. It's a cute book, but my DS is powerfully stubborn and beyond it having no effect on him, it is doubtful that he would even "let" me read it to him. He is very picky about what books he wants to hear.
Thank you very much for the kind reply, though, I do appreciate it
post #20 of 55
He sounds like a really spirited child. I have one of those.

Sorry to suggest something that is unaffordable. I live in a state where good preschools can often be free--there is a lot of public pre-K here--I guess that is not an option for you.

You sound a bit at wit's end with him, though you clearly love him very very dearly. You are really ready for him to be in school. You have given him your heart and soul and all your time for 5+ years.

Would it work to sit down with his teacher and/or guidance counselor to map out a strategy together?
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