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What mistakes did your parents make?

post #1 of 133
Thread Starter 

Whether your parents were terrific and just had a minor flaw or two, or outright abusive and neglectful - what mistakes did your parents make with you (and your siblings, if you like)?

 

Too strict? Too lax? Fed you too much junk food? Made you feel like you couldn't eat anything unless it was completely pure? Shamed you? Overpraised you? Did everything for you? Did nothing for you? Did not protect your safety?

 

And what was the effect on you, and how have you managed with these effects over the years?

 

I'd also be curious if you didn't mind adding what generation your parents are and what generation you are (ex: parents are Baby Boomers and you are GenX).

 

ETA: If you wish to reference anything triggering, please kindly use the spoiler tag or at least give a heads-up.

post #2 of 133

I think there were a few things that my parents did when I was a child that had pretty negative repercussions for me. 

 

One of the big things is there was no such thing as moderation-- it was either feast or famine in everything-- no sweets or gorging, we're totally broke or I'm handed $100,  In retrospect, if made me feel very insecure about asking for things and very bad at postponing gratification.  I've been working on that ever since... in my diet, my shopping habits, my work life, etc...

 

Another major thing is that I was always complimented for being so mature and smart.  Made me afraid to mess up in case I let my parents down... so I didn't try or take risks... for a VERY long time. 

 

I think the other big thing is that my mother had no boundaries.  She treated me as a friend and told me all sorts of crap that I really shouldn't know.  I don't think she parented or guided me very well in my teen years, she was too invested in hanging out and gossiping. 

 

Watch... my kids will be complaining about how reasoned and even keel everything was and how I never complimented them for their innate abilities :)

 

And, my parents are at the young end of baby boomers-- dad was born in 1950, mom in 1952. 

post #3 of 133

Two things stand out in my memory, one good and one just odd -

 

Dad - He had no gender bias what so ever and expected me to work along side him at various construction projects and take "boys" jobs during the summer that were well-paying (for a teen) and confidence building.  I cant' say I loved the work at the time but I had some great experiences.

 

Mom - Had no problem letting me date a 21 yo when I was 16 yo but was crazy strict about stuff that was FAR more age-appropriate for me like going to teen dances, post-football game bonfires, going to the next over for ice cream and such.  I wasn't allowed to do any of that but was totally fine with me hanging out in bars with my "of-drinking-age" boyfriend and all his friends and cousins.  At 16 yo, I was living like someone in their mid-20s, super-serious relationship and and doing adult things with him.  It wasn't damaging because he was actaully a really great guy.  If he hadn't been, it could have been a really bad experience.

post #4 of 133

My mom telling me that I couldn't do something like fix my bike because I was a girl. It was very frustrating.

 

Hiding that our family was having financial problems for years and years and my dad working all the time and using credit cards to keep up the facade that everything was fine. I would say I felt a bit betrayed and hurt that we couldn't face the problems openly as a family and live within our means. I had some trouble as a young adult handling finances. I'm pretty open with dd about our family finances and we do not use credit cards.

 

Telling me that things didn't matter when I was upset. I feel like I've had to learn as an adult how to handle my anger or sadness in positive ways instead of just repressing my emotions or exploding. It would have been nice to have better tools to deal with and communicate about feelings earlier on in life. I've learned a lot trying to help my own dd.

 

Using a trip to the doctor as a scary threat to get me to do something or send me to school when I was sick. I am very uncomfortable and anxious about seeing a doctor still and avoid getting medical care when maybe I should.

 

Buying my brother cigarettes when he was a teenager.

 

My parents were born in 1934 and 1942. I was born in 1974.
 

post #5 of 133

I'm Gen X.  My parents were born in the Depression.  

 

My feelings were always subjugated to other people's feelings.  What I wanted/felt/needed didn't matter if it conflicted with the wants/feelings/needs of someone else.  This was very literal---for example, once I got a puppy.  My parents made me give it away.  A few weeks later, my older brother came home with a puppy.  My parents let him keep it because he "needed it more."  (Yes, they actually said that to me.)  

 

 

 

My parents never, ever, ever, ever said "I'm sorry" to me, for anything.  If I said my feelings were hurt about something, I was told that I was too sensitive, or I misunderstood the situation, or I was making someone else feel bad in the process.  I learned to disappear and not need/want/feel anything.

 

 

The profound effect this had on my life is that I married someone emotionally similar, even though I initially thought he was completely different.  His needs/wants/feelings matter in this marriage, and mine do not.  He literally will try to own my feelings.  I'll say I need a jacket, and he will tell me I don't need a jacket because it's not cold.  (If he's not cold, he doesn't understand me feeling a different way.)  

 

It's like pulling teeth to get him to apologize for anything.


Edited by A&A - 6/26/12 at 3:00pm
post #6 of 133

I never remember where all the different generations start and stop, but my parents are slightly pre Baby-Boomer (born in '43 and '44).  I think I'm a Gen-Xer (my brother was born in '63, I was born in '68 and my sister in '69)?

 

Mostly, my parents were really great.

 

My dad's biggest "mistake" was/is being an alcoholic. He was an amazing dad when I was little. But, he couldn't handle it when my sister and I hit puberty, and his drinking was esclating. By the time I was about 14, he'd pretty much checked out of our family, emotionally. He'd stay at the bar drinking, after work, sometimes until bedtime. When he was home, he wasn't involved with anything - mostly just sat and watched tv and drank beer. He wasn't violent, or abusive. He was just completely checked out. At the time, I didn't even really notice, but looking back - he really wasn't part of my adolescence at all. He rarely even interacted with us (Christmas was always nice, at least - I think that's one of te reasons I love it so much). He was also pretty oblivious to hurt feelings and when he was being annoying or irritating (dad was a "funny" drunk, which was amazingly tedious).

 

I'm not really sure what effect that all had on me, but I think it probably contributed to me falling head over heels for my ex (met when I was 16, and stayed together until I was 31), because my ex was interested in me, talked to me, etc.  When I look back, he and I were kind of over the top, in terms of near constant contact, putting each other ahead of everything else, etc.  I also think I'm a little oversensitive to feeling as though I'm being ignored.

 

Mom made two big mistakes, in my opinion (and hers). The first was not cutting off contact with her incredibly toxic mother. That woman did pretty serious damage to all of her grandchildren (I consider myself a borderline basketcase, and I'm probably one of the two most functional of the six of us). Mom saw it, but not clearly, and really believed that "kids need their grandparents". If she could do it over again, she'd have cut off contact when I was very little. Effects? Too wide ranging to really describe. Grandma had a very negative impact on me on almost all levels. The crap that went on in her house (sexual abuse from my grandfather and a bribe of silence in the form of junk food) triggered disordered eating that I've struggled with most of my life. I don't eat crap to feel good, or to "stuff" - I eat crap as a form of slow suicide, and I know it when I'm doing it...I just don't care. (I'm on an up right now, and sugar isn't an issue, but major stresses in my life end up in a pile of sugar - the end of my first marriage, c-section related trauma, and Aaron's death have all triggered it.)

 

Mom's second big mistake was staying with my dad. She got really wrapped up in the relationship, and unwilling to end it. She used to go to the bar occasionally to confront him, and spent more hours than I care to think about sitting at home fretting about when he'd come back. She wasn't a neglectful parent, but she was also human, and only had so much time and energy to go around. We all needed more of those than she had to spare. I was a screwed up mess, and my sister went completely off the skids. Mom just wasn't able to deal with it all, and try to force things to work with my dad. (When they finally split up for good, I was in my early 20s, and was just soooo relieved that they'd finally ended it.) I can't really blame her for desperately wanting her marriage to work, especially since it was an unusually good relationship in the early days, but it definitely had a negative impact on her parenting.

 

Mom also made one more minor, but....fundamental?...mistake. She was too critical. I don't think she ever realized it, and I only realized it myself a few years ago. But, she was very prone to pointing out what we'd done wrong, without enough emphasis on what we'd done right. I find myself doing it sometimes, too. She was (is) kind of prone to making random critical comments about public figures - the way they look, the way they dress, whatever. I think it's kind of obnoxious, and I hope I don't do it, but I probably do, to some degree. :( 

 

I think this one is a generational improvement thing. My mom was nowhere near as bad as her mom, and I'm not as bad as my mom. We'll see what my kids are like. The criticism definitely impacted me. In conjuction with my peer issues (too numerous to mention), inability to fit in anywhere (my social circle with my ex was my haven - the first place in my life where I felt as if I belonged - and it really wasn't a healthy dynamic, but I couldn't resist it), and my grandmother's incessant emphasis on modesty (not in dress, but in the sense of humility - in  it was a major sin to be proud of myself for anything), the criticism left me with about the same level of self-confidence as the average peanut.

 

Mom made one other mistake, but it didn't affect me. She didn't take her children's temperaments into account when she was approaching discipline. It didn't matter to me very much, because her approach was right for me. I think it was really hard on my sister, though, because my sister had different needs than mom or I did. (One of the biggies is that it was really important to my sister to fit in. I don't think mom should have broken the bank or gone to extremes to facilitate that, but she mostly just dismissed it, because it wasn't important to her, so she felt it shouldn't be important to anyone. I think she'd do things differently now.)

 

And, despite all that - they were great. Dad was an amazingly involved dad, especially for the time, when we were little. And, they were both really great about spending time with us, letting us do things, and just...letting us be who we were, yk? I always knew we were important to both of them (well, to mom, and to dad until my teens). Most of my friends envied me, and our place was the "hang out" place, because our friends all really liked our parents.

post #7 of 133
I was just talking to my husband about this the other day. The big thing that my dad was really bad for was body shaming. Like I would get a new outfit and show it to my parents and he'd say something like, "Well you'd better hope you don't gain any weight!". Ugh. And I was a very fit teenager, dressed very preppy, and he'd be making this sort of comment over a button-up collared shirt! I still haven't forgiven him for the time I was involved in a fitness demonstration and unbeknownst to me, my breasts were bouncing a bit. I was around 14 years old and it was an end of the year presentation for parents. I was pretty proud because I was the only girl involved (I was an army cadet). After the presentation, walking to the car, I asked my parents if they liked it. My dad said, "Yeah it was pretty good but you're really going to have to do something about Flopsy and Mopsy!". I can feel the tears coming just typing that out - talk about humiliating. Surely my mom could've just taken me shopping for a good sports bra instead of my dad making a rude comment. After that I started strapping my boobs down with a tensor bandage or wearing two very tight bras so there was no movement at all. I've also felt embarrassment and shame over my breasts ever since. Like I'll wear one of those lace dickie thingies with a v-neck shirt because I don't even want to show a hint of cleavage. And my boobs aren't gargantuan - I'm about a 36D (was probably a 36C as a teenager). But I always feel the need to hide them.

I've lost my mind on at least two occasions when my dad has made comments about my daughter's body. We went camping with my parents once and my daughter was wearing a two piece bathing suit. My dad told her she needed to "suck in [her] gut." She was 3 years old and had no "gut" and even if she did, I have no idea why he would think it was okay to say that. I just told him, "Making rude comments about other peoples' bodies isn't okay in this family.". I'm just glad she was too young to understand.

Another thing that has always bothered me, and actually came out in therapy at one point when I was being treated for depression (depression was due to a work situation) was how unfairly my parents treated my sister and I. My parents are musicians so they really, REALLY valued all of the stuff my sister did, since she was just like them. They paid thousands of dollars for her to be in the local youth orchestra, paid for private violin lessons, a violin (obviously), private singing lessons, entrance fees for music festivals/competitions, sent her to the special arts high school, etc. I would be wearing threadbare pants and tell my mom that I needed some new ones and she would say, "Well, I guess you'd better start saving up your allowance!". My sister even realizes now how unfair it was and I think she feels a bit bad about it.

In terms of how it affected me...well, it made me realize that I had to look out for myself. Everything I have is due to my own hard work. I left home after high school and never went back, whereas my siblings had to move back in or get financial help. I don't begrudge them for that, I'm just glad I don't owe my parents anything.

Oh, and my folks are both baby boomers. We get along fine now on the surface, but mostly they drive me nuts. I prefer to limit my time with them because I just end up annoyed if we spend too much time together.
post #8 of 133

having kids.

post #9 of 133
Quote:
Originally Posted by Tapioca View Post

having kids.

I'm sorry, Tapioca.

post #10 of 133
Quote:
Originally Posted by QueenOfTheMeadow View Post

I'm sorry, Tapioca.


Thanks for this.

 

I hope I didn't kill the thread!

 

Carry on...;)

post #11 of 133

My parents were great, overall.  There are minor incidences I remember, but I don't think they've really had that long term of an effect on me, other than being on a mental list of things I should try to avoid while raising my own children. 

 

One funny one (that my mom swears she has no memory of) was what happened when she first noticed my breasts were developing.  My whole family (mom, dad, 4 of us kids) was gathered for family prayers before bed.  I had on my pajamas, which that night only consisted of a rather thin night shirt.  I was 9, almost 10, which was a good few years earlier than either my mom or my older sister began developing, so when she noticed, she was naturally pretty surprised. So surprised that I don't think she quite believed what she was seeing, because she just walked over to me and lifted my shirt to see that yes, I was indeed getting boobs.  She was the only one directly in front of me, but the whole family was present.  I think I gave her a good indignant, "Mom!!!".  When my dad asked what was going on she said, "She's poking out!".  It was embarrassing, but I don't remember crying over it or feeling totally humiliated.  It probably helped that I was quite proud to be getting some curves already.  I laugh about it now.

 

The other character flaw that comes to mind with my mom is that she is overly critical of her body.  I think her parents probably gave her some body issues when she was growing up.  I don't know that they criticized her, but she was forced to get her hair cut short every summer, which she hated, and her mom picked out her clothes for a little too long, which weren't always very flattering for her coloring/body type.  She went through a long awkward teenage phase.  Once she figured out how to pick out clothes that looked good on her she was a very attractive adult.  But she always complained about her breasts being too small, and since she hit menopause and her body changed from being naturally very thin to hanging onto a few pounds she's complained about being fat.  She's nowhere near what any reasonable person would consider fat, she's just a size 10 or so, rather than a 2 or 4.  I just hate hearing her talk poorly about herself.  She never criticized me or my sisters' appearance, and she gave us a lot more leeway than she ever had on clothing and hairstyle choices.  I inherited her natural thinness, and I just hope that when my body changes (as it most likely will) that I can be a little kinder and more accepting to myself about it!

post #12 of 133

Sorry, decided to delete my post because I have a lot of guilt talking about.  Very interesting thread, though.  Interesting to see how our own parenting is sometimes a result of push back against the way that our parents parented us.


Edited by CatsCradle - 6/26/12 at 11:31am
post #13 of 133

my parents were born in 56-60, i was born in 76.

1.my mom was barely 16 when i was born.

2.my dad was an alcholic when i was a baby and again after my mom finally went back to work when i was 17.

3.my parents raised me on James Dobson's Focus On The Family.

4.i was left to scream in my bed at night until i fell asleep. i remember seeing the devil standing in my curtains and i was terrified.

5.i wet the bed and got spanked with the belt(not beaten!! huge difference there, you see!) every morning and called a pisshead and other names.

6.i was not allowed to listen to any music except christian music, or wear any clothes that showed that i had a girly figure.

7.my father let my mother do these things.

8.i watched my brother be raised totally different(my brother and i even discussed it, it was very noticable within the whole family, grandparents included)

post #14 of 133
Quote:
Originally Posted by A&A View Post

I'm Gen X.  My parents were born in the Depression.  

 

My feelings were always subjugated to other people's feelings.  What I wanted/felt/needed didn't matter if it conflicted with the wants/feelings/needs of someone else.  This was very literal---for example, once I got a puppy.  My parents made me give it away.  A few weeks later, my older brother came home with a puppy.  My parents let him keep it because he "needed it more."  (Yes, they actually said that to me.)  

 

 

 

My parents never, ever, ever, ever said "I'm sorry" to me, for anything.  If I said my feelings were hurt about something, I was told that I was too sensitive, or I misunderstood the situation, or I was making someone else feel bad in the process.  I learned to disappear and not need/want/feel anything.

 

 

The profound effect this had on my life is that I married someone emotionally similar, even though I initially thought he was completely different.  His needs/wants/feelings matter in this marriage, and mine do not.  He literally will try to own my feelings.  I'll say I need a jacket, and he will tell me I don't need a jacket because it's not cold.  (If he's not cold, he doesn't understand me feeling a different way.)  

 

It's like pulling teeth to get him to apologize for anything.  If I complain about anything, I'm either too sensitive, or a b-word, or the latest thing he just called me, "malicious."  Ok, gotta stop because I'm crying now.  

 

I hope everything is okay. I've been thinking about you a lot this week. Feel free to PM me if you want <3

post #15 of 133
The main thing for me was we weren't allowed to have feelings and weren't listened too. Now I'm in counseling about this and also am finding it hard to break that mold.
post #16 of 133

In my mind my parents made a few biggie mistakes...

 

When my brother died of accedental choking at age 3 (I was 5), we never spoke of him for years later and acted like he never existed.  His clothes and toys disappeared and all photos were banished.  I don't know why, and when he *had* to be spoken of, we never used his name.  He was always refered to as "HIM".  At that age I was very close to my brother and I can't imagine what thoughts went through my mind at the time.

 

A couple of years after that, my parents had another baby (a girl), and she and I were sent off to live with my grandmother in the subburbs when my sister was 6 months old, and I was 7.  Even though my parents only lived 35 minutes away from us, had no health issues, were middle class and had a car, we only ever saw them on weekends.  My mother's excuse was that my dad had to stay at work (he was an apartment manager), and she had to stay with him. 

 

I rarely got any help from them with school, homework or any life problems that popped up.  I was told that if I couldn't handle it myself it was only because I was too stupid, and that everyone else could do it.  My marks were frequently publically compared to the marks of other kids of their aquaintence within our eyesight and hearing.

 

On the odd occasion that they had to come visit mid-week because I couldn't finish my homework without help (my grandmother didn't speak English, and was illiterate), only my mother would come, and she would make sure to mention how inconvienient the visit was for her.  They were generous with the criticism though when my report card marks were only so so.

 

Emotional outbursts were frowned upon and feelings were dismissed as well.  My sister was the favoured child and could do no wrong, and I was told to be responsible and set an example.

 

We moved back in with my parents when my sister was 6 and I was 13, and starting high school (no junior high at the time).  By then I had learned to be very independant, and pretty much didn't need anyone emotionally any more.  At that time they, including my sister, told me that I was "different" from them, and was stuck up.

 

Its little wonder now why I keep my family at arms length.  Yes, I am different.  I probably am not as emotionally available as I could be because I just don't know how.

 

My parents were born in the 40's and I was born in '72.


Edited by Ellp - 6/26/12 at 7:56am
post #17 of 133
Quote:
Originally Posted by BabyMae09 View Post

 

I hope everything is okay. I've been thinking about you a lot this week. Feel free to PM me if you want <3

 

Thank you.  That's very kind of you!  I'm ok. It's actually very healing to make the connections between how I was raised and what my life is now.  I learned from my parents' mistakes...........I apologize to my kids when their feelings are hurt, and I let them have feelings. 

post #18 of 133

My parents overall were good parents for the times. Both boomrs born in 46. My brothers each in 66 irish twins, me 71 and sister 78.

 

My father never was without a job, always worked until the day he retired and was a good planner. My mom stayed home. There were leaner time when we were younng and there was 4 mouths to feed but never did without. Needed a brownie uniform? fine, tuffskin jeans, zips holly hobby under the xmas tree, barbies, coach purse, guess jeans, new shoes etc. Had my education paid for, studied what I wanted, had a new car to drive in college, paid for our wedding. All my sibings had the same. Need to borrow money? Buy diapers? watch the kids? dinner? vacation? spoil grandchildren? Oh yeah do it all. OK, theres the hallmark card version

 

My parents  NEVER hit us, call us names, screamed at us, but could lay on the guilt, put us down, talk down to us, not talk at all to us. Say we have it all so so good so if we acted up, it could be taken away and we owed them for it. Now at 40, my dad still finds it ok to interupt me, tell me to be quiet, say I dont know what the hell I am talking about etc. Tell me Im wrng all the time. I now only can take them in small doses.  Funny he did it in my house once at my dinner table. I said- Hey Dad, this is MY HOUSE. You dont like it get the hell out. He stopped what he was doing back peddled and was nice for about 4 - 6 mos after since he knows I feel this way about him. He knws I would think nothing of not callin him, etc so its interesting that way.

post #19 of 133
Quote:
Originally Posted by CatsCradle View Post

Sorry, decided to delete my post because I have a lot of guilt talking about.  Very interesting thread, though.  Interesting to see how our own parenting is sometimes a result of push back against the way that our parents parented us.

 

Funny, I wrote a long bit and chickened out before posting it.  I have a lot of guilt talking about my feelings towards my childhood.  I am still very loyal to my family -- even though I know talking about stuff does not mean I am being disloyal (for lack of a better words) it feels like I am betraying someone. Ugh. 

 

Great thread though. 

post #20 of 133

It's interesting how many stories here are related to body image!

 

My childhood was kind of angsty in the same way that my whole life thus far has been kind of angsty - nothing super awful has happened, I'm incredibly lucky and have tons to be thankful for, but my mental issues create drama where there really shouldn't be any. In general my parents were great, but the little things they did do wrong have affected me quite profoundly, just because of my weird brain.

 

In terms of body image, my parents never told me I was pretty. Which on the one hand is understandable, because I wasn't - I was a gawky, pale kid with thick, Coke-bottle glasses and a huge triangular fringe. But I noticed. My oldest sister was (and is) gorgeous, with olive skin and lovely dark hair and all, and everyone was always complimenting her; and I remember sitting in the back of the car once hearing Mum say to Dad "Isn't [sister] beautiful?", and feeling very sad because I knew they never said stuff like that about me when I wasn't around.

 

Once my father, in one of his more questionable parenting moments, asked me which of us I thought was the prettiest (I had five sisters). I thought "Duh, [oldest sister]", but I was too stubborn to say so, so I said my youngest sister, who was a toddler at the time. I still wonder why on earth he'd ask a question like that - I'm sure he wasn't being malicious, just clueless, but come on, Dad!

 

I can remember, once, Mum saying I "looked nice", after a choir performance. I think she meant that my hair was done nicely and I looked tidy, though; nothing more. And I remember an interview for a homeschooling magazine once in which she described our family - my oldest sister was described as "beautiful inside and out", and I was described - kindly, but reading between the lines - as a difficult, prickly, dogmatic person who had been hard to raise. Again, true. :p But still, the comparison was rather stark to me.

 

Also, I had very knotty, unruly hair as a child. I liked to wear it long, for vaguely princessy/Laura Ingalls Wilder/Louisa May Alcott reasons. Mum had had very long hair herself in her teens, but hers was well-behaved; so she didn't have any idea how to deal with mine. Instead of teaching me how to braid it at night, use leave-in conditioner or whatever, she insisted on me getting it cut short in a bob. I hated it - I'd scream and cry and have to be literally dragged into the van, and would weep pathetically through the entire haircut, and spend the next few weeks dreading church, school or any other public event at which well-meaning people would say "Oh, you got a haircut!" - which, for some reason, was incredibly humiliating.

 

So when I was 13 I decided I would never have short hair again, and it's been waist-length or longer ever since. :p

 

In terms of parenting, I'm very determined not to force DD into a haircut she doesn't want - in fact, we didn't get it cut for over two years, until she was more or less able to consent, even though it was getting kind of ratty (and driving MIL nuts, heh). She currently fluctuates between wanting to grow her hair long like mine (awwww), and enjoying the excitement of going to the hairdresser.

 

And I make sure to tell both my children that I think they're pretty. It's hard to pinpoint how much Mum and Dad's lack of compliments affected me there, because in my early teens one really cruel comment by some teenage girls broke my self-esteem dramatically; but maybe it set me up for the breakage? I don't know. Now I'm a little older, I realise my mother has some pretty deep hatred of her own body. We had an odd conversation once in which she couldn't believe I wasn't upset about being flat-chested (probably the one aspect of my anatomy which has never caused me grief!).

 

I still find it very hard to accept compliments about my looks from DH, although I'm mostly over the scowling-and-contradiction stage which must have made our early courtship so charming. :p I love showy, flamboyant clothing styles like steampunk and goth, but tend to wear very plain, boring clothes so I won't feel conspicuous and draw attention to myself. I'm way better than I was - as a teenager, for a few years, I mentally removed myself from the category of "females" because I didn't feel worthy to be included in their pretty, made-up, well-dressed ranks. But I did find pregnancy stretch marks hugely traumatic, and I still freak out if I get a tiny cut that will leave a scar; things like that. It's odd, and I don't know how much of it I can or should blame on my parents; but it would have been nice to be called pretty, once or twice.

 

They made other mistakes, but not ones I feel like discussing. In general, I'm sure they did a far better job than I will.

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