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Old 06-28-2010, 11:46 PM - Thread Starter
 
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(Just saying in advance that I don't in anyway mean to disparage anyone's beliefs, these are just our choices!) We are not religious, and I have no plans to give my dd religious instruction until she asks for it. That is, I will educate her about various world religions, but I will not choose a religion for her, if that makes sense.

Dsd has attended her grandmother's (christian) church, Sunday School, and VBS, although not consistently, as far as I know. I dont' think her mom or stepdad are religious at all, but the grandmother is and they are close and dsd used to frequently spend the weekend there before her mom got remarried.

Dsd today was drawing on the chalkboard and drew a big cross and wrote "God Rocks" and was explaining it to my dd, who is 3. Two times in the past that I know of, she has read to dd out of the bible. There are also little comments here and there that bother me. Today I just told dsd that she is welcome to make those drawings for herself, but to please not discuss them with dd. I told her the same thing with the bible, that she was welcome to read it for herself, but not to dd. I also made sure today to reiterate to her that I am happy to talk about it (christian religion) with her or to answer any questions she might have (I was raised Catholic and went to a Christian youth group for a while, so I do know a good amount about it). She seemed fine with it, but I am wondering if I am handling this the right way?

I am honestly not that touchy about most religious references in dd's life-i.e. around Christmas time, we sing carols that talk about Jesus etc., though we haven't discussed how it relates to christmas yet. I guess what I worry about is having a family member in the house exposing her to these things before I am ready to explain it all-it especially upset me to walk into dsd's room and see her reading the bible to dd-she didn't mean to do it "behind my back" but that is certainly how it felt-i feel like to some degree I should be able to control this in my own home while my kids are little, but at the same time, I would never want to stifle dsd's belief (in whatever she chooses to believe in). Anyway, this is getting long! Anyone else deal with this? I can easily handle the remarks about how everybody who doesn't believe in God is bad, etc., but it is these smaller things that i am not quite as sure on. What do you think?

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Old 06-29-2010, 03:43 PM
 
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We deal somewhat with similar issues around religion because of the beliefs of parents and close friends. It doesn't sound like you have an issue with your daughter being exposed to your step-daughter's beliefs, or those of other people, just that you want to have more control over how it is presented to her.

Here's what we've decided: What is most important to us is that we expose our children to a wide range of beliefs and help them to understand that different people believe different things. We want them to know that it is okay to disagree with what other people believe and that we should be respectful of everyone even if we disagree with them. We want them to believe that it is up to each individual person to decide exactly what they believe.

What we do is to keep our eye out for opportunities to talk about things that different people believe, and to make time to have discussions about that. We make sure we are following the kids' lead as far as how much they are interested in talking about it.

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Old 06-30-2010, 12:55 AM
 
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What are Dad's thoughts on the subject?
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Old 06-30-2010, 10:47 AM
 
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I don't think you should tell her she can't talk about it.

I have three daughters from a previous marriage; my ex and his wife are very religious. They go to the church that I used to go to with my ex and I essentially disagree with nearly everything they believe. (I would consider myself agnostic at this point and they go to an extremely conservative denomination) However, when we were living closer, my girls would go with their father to church every weekend, even on my weekends. It is my belief that children benefit from learning all about ALL kinds of beliefs, then as they get older they can sort out what they believe and what they don't. By telling your step-daughter that she can't talk about something that seems so normal to her, you could be alienating her in a way. Really, what harm can it do to your DD to hear a few things about God and the Bible? Consider the Bible a story book like any other and it seems a little less of a big deal (in my experience)

This is a very difficult area of being a blended family. I have come to realize that my children, regardless of my personal beliefs, are entitled to learn about the religions and beliefs of both sides of their family. Sheltering children from religion is, IMO, no different than being ultra-religious and sheltering your children from "worldly views"

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Old 06-30-2010, 06:13 PM - Thread Starter
 
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Thanks for the replies...

aricha, that is similar to my philosophy. Ideally, I would educate dd and ds about religion in general and then welcome them to further explore anything that struck their interest. I very much emphasize that we must respect other peoples beliefs even if we do not agree with them and that there is not one "right" thing to believe. I have said as much to dsd when she went through a stage of insisting that everybody besides Christians were "bad" and have said it in response to smaller things too. This is very important to me to empahsize and I will continue to do so. So, no, I don't mind that dd and ds are being exposed to her religion per se, but I do have a problem with how it is presented.

Dp (the kids' dad) agrees with how I would like to present religion. He wasn't home when this particular incident happened and kind of laughed off the bible reading thing and we never really got to talk about it. This isn't a huge issue with me, just something I wondered how to handle in the future, so at some point we will have a discussion about it.

I do get that a bible story is "just" a story-but I am just flat out not okay with dsd reading the bible to dd. I have my reasons and maybe they are good, maybe they are bad, but I am just not okay with it. I wouldn't let an adult do it either, if that makes a difference. It is important to me that she not receive the message early in life that Christianity is the "best" or "only" religion or belief system. Yes, I feel uncomfortable asking dsd not to talk about it, but I am just not sure how else to handle it or to explain it to dd who will certainly want to know who God/Jesus etc. are and what it is all about. As I said, I did tell her more than once that it was fine for HER (dsd) to read the bible etc., so I hope I didn't give her the idea that is was taboo in our house or anythign like that.

And I definitely do not plan on sheltering my kids from religion at all! Just on introducing it in a more general way so that they never feel pressure to choose one belief system over another (or one at all, really).

Thanks again everyone, I appreciate the thoughts. Feel free to chime in if anyone else has any experience/ideas!

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Old 06-30-2010, 07:34 PM
 
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You are reacting to your SD as though she is exposing your daughter to something bad, from which your daughter needs protection.

But you didn't start your post by saying that you're afraid of or hostile to religion, or that you think it's bad for your daughter. You just said you don't want to decide for her which one she'll practice, as an adult. In fact, you said you intend to teach her about a variety of religions, so she can make a fully-informed choice, later on.

Well, you're certainly not educating her, if you demand that nobody in her life share their religion with her.

If the problem is that she's not being exposed to anything besides mainstream Christianity... that's not your SD's fault. Most religions are designed to provide meaning and a sense of belonging throughout a person's entire life, especially the formative years of childhood. Therefore most religions have stories, rituals and celebrations meant to appeal to children. It would be sad to block your daughter's exposure to those things in Christianity (and simultaneously make your SD feel bad) just because you don't have any Jewish/Muslim/Hindu/Buddhist/Wiccan friends who want to share their religions with her; or because you don't want to make the effort to find other ways of introducing her to other religions, when she's so little.

And if your SD's a good Christian, she may not tell you that you've made her feel bad. But if Christianity is important enough to her that she made an effort to share it with her half-sister, as her grandmother has shared it with her, then of course her feelings are hurt, that you have told her this aspect of herself is not welcome in your home and that she needs to keep it to herself and not tell her sister what she believes. If she could speak a foreign language, would you tell her she can't speak it in your home because it might influence your daughter's future choice of which language she wants to study? If your SD were passionate about a future career goal, would you tell her she can't expose your daughter to it, for fear of swaying her to pursue the same career? And is religion inherently worse than other things people are passionate and knowledgeable about?

So, in answer to your specific question (what do other members think about you restricting your daughter's exposure to her sister's religion), I think you are not clear what your own intentions for your daughter are, regarding religion. Your words suggest open-mindedness. Your actions suggest you feel threatened by religion (or perhaps just by Christianity) and you want to keep your daughter away from it.

In a larger sense, I think kids who are relegated to choose their own religion tend to adopt religious cultural practices rather than deeply-held beliefs. If you spend your first 18 years with people who say, "Maybe there's a God. Or not. If there is, it's not a priority to US to find out, or to please Him," and who scold other people and say, "Don't tell our kid about your religion. Keep your Bible to yourself," OBVIOUSLY that will affect your development and personality and the likelihood you'll acquire a deep, genuine faith in God (or multiple Gods, or whatever).

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Old 06-30-2010, 10:10 PM
 
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I think this is a really really tough issue. I completely sympathize with the OP being an atheist myself. On the one hand, your dsd is sharing an aspect of herself that feels very important to her - and in that sense I agree with Jeannine that you asking her to not talk about it to dd can feel to her (even if not intended) as a rejection of an aspect of herself. However, if you are skeptical of religion than I understand being afraid of the undue influence of loved ones on your dd. For those of us who are skeptical of religion - and even those who are just concerned about early education of kids in it - so much of early religious learning can feel like indoctrination. And if the OP already has the experience of dsd believing that to be "good" you must be a certain religion than I think she has a right to be concerned.

For me, I guess I'd err on the side of letting dsd read her bible stories or share her religion with her. I would explain to your dd that there are all kinds of stories that help people to make sense of their world and that these bible stories are some of them. I might also read myths and fairy tales and native american stories and others so that bible stories just seem like one in a range of narratives. As she gets older you can actually have a discussion with her about religion, different choices, what she thinks, etc. All along the way I think you can have a respectful discussion about the different views people have and that not everyone does or does not believe in God.

As for the concern that by not sharing religion with her dd the OP is depriving her of deep-rooted faith, that's a value judgment rooted in a religious worldview. For those of us who don't have that world view this is not a problem. If a child chooses to believe in something that cannot be scientifically proven then they can do so without it being something the parent "teaches" from an early age. And they can do so with the recognition that no faith or belief should come at the expense of excluding other people - a distinction that is much harder for young children who tend to think in black and white (i.e., you're either loved/saved/forgiven/chosen by God or you're not).
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Old 06-30-2010, 10:29 PM
 
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I am in a similar situation to you in some ways, in that I plan to raise my child(ren) to be open, but certainly not in a specific religion, and DSS and DSD are being raised very strictly Christian. I share your concern, and I'm especially concerned that she's starting so young. 3 is way too young to be exposed to these ideas and truly be able to make up your own mind about them.

I also have personal experience. I was raised agnostic, and I really had very little exposure to Christianity until I was in school. This would have been fine, but when I was quite little (not sure how little -- maybe 5 or so?) a well-meaning babysitter asked me about Jesus. When she figured out I really didn't know much more than some basic Bible stories, and that I really didn't distinguish my kid Bible stories from, say, Tuggy the Tugboat, she decided to teach me about her god. She basically told me that my parents would be burning in an eternal fire of Hell and there was nothing I could do for them, but that I could be saved myself if I followed what she told me. As you might imagine, this was HUGELY traumatic. I cried and cried and cried. It's one of my more vivid early memories, actually. My parents calmed me down when they got home, and of course they fired the babysitter. But it was very very scary and upsetting as a child, and that's the type of thing I'd be afraid of -- that your little baby will be frightened or otherwise indoctrinated by her older sister.

So I will differ from the previous posters and say that, at least while she's very young, you have every right and responsibility to monitor what she is exposed to, including telling your DSD that she is too young for that topic and she is not to teach it to her. I think that's reasonable. Once she's older and has been exposed to other ideas and other faiths and you feel she is ready to sort these ideas out herself, then let DSD discuss her faith as well. I don't know what age that might be, but it isn't 3. So you wouldn't be limiting her religious practice, just telling her not to teach it to your very young child. I think that is fair. You're the parent, not DSD, so you should direct when DD is exposed to religious topics.

Oh, and by the way, Unitarian churches often have good kids' programs where they learn about all sorts of faiths, and when they are older (maybe teens? I don't remember) they visit religious services of many different sorts. So that may be a useful resource to you if you are interested in religious education when she's older.

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Old 07-01-2010, 12:47 AM
 
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So I will differ from the previous posters and say that, at least while she's very young, you have every right and responsibility to monitor what she is exposed to, including telling your DSD that she is too young for that topic and she is not to teach it to her. I think that's reasonable. Once she's older and has been exposed to other ideas and other faiths and you feel she is ready to sort these ideas out herself, then let DSD discuss her faith as well. I don't know what age that might be, but it isn't 3. So you wouldn't be limiting her religious practice, just telling her not to teach it to your very young child. I think that is fair. You're the parent, not DSD, so you should direct when DD is exposed to religious topics.
I think Dad should be directly involved in this, too. Whichever way his opinion falls.
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Old 07-01-2010, 01:05 AM - Thread Starter
 
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Once she's older and has been exposed to other ideas and other faiths and you feel she is ready to sort these ideas out herself, then let DSD discuss her faith as well. I don't know what age that might be, but it isn't 3. So you wouldn't be limiting her religious practice, just telling her not to teach it to your very young child. I think that is fair. You're the parent, not DSD, so you should direct when DD is exposed to religious topics..
This was sort of where I was going in my thought process-thanks for phrasing it so well.

Thanks again for the input. I think one of the hardest parts of being a stepparent is giving up some measure of control over what your kids (step and bio) are exposed to, in this case my bio kids being influenced by what my dsd is exposed to through her "other" family.

Also, just to clarify, dsd is not particularly passionate about being "Christian", and I don't think she was all that bothered by my asking her not to discuss it with dd. This doesn't come up often and I really don't feel like it is a big part of her life-as I said, as far as I know, her mom/stepdad are not practicing Christians either, just her grandparents whom she no longer often spends the weekend with (again, as far as I can tell) although they are still fairly close.

I don't want to get into a discussion of religion outside of how it related to blended family, but suffice to say I dont' feel like I am taking anything away from dd or ds by not exposing them to religion at a young age, so that is not my concern here. I do feel like I should get to decide what my children are exposed to in my own home. Bible stories at the age of 3 are not it for me. After I asked dsd not to explain the cross and "god rocks" message on the chalk board, she asked if she could keep drawing them and I said sure, so I don't think I am limiting her self-expression really, just her teaching of dd, which I just don't feel is appropriate.

Jeannine, I'm not sure if you meant it to come across this way, but I was pretty taken aback by your post-it felt more like a criticism of how I was planning on exposing my kids to religion in general, along with how I handled the situation with dsd: (sorry don't know how to mult-quote, so I just copied and pasted from your post)

" It would be sad to block your daughter's exposure to those things in Christianity (and simultaneously make your SD feel bad) just because you don't have any Jewish/Muslim/Hindu/Buddhist/Wiccan friends who want to share their religions with her; or because you don't want to make the effort to find other ways of introducing her to other religions, when she's so little."

As I said, I have no intention of blocking her from learning about any of these things, I just choose to do it when she is older and actually able to understand it. So if at some point dsd does become passionately Christian (or anything else) of course she will be allowed to express that in our house in an appropriate way. I will not allow anyone to try to convert others to their belief system, period, end of story. I have had a bad experience with groups evangalizing and yes, that very much bothers me, so yes, I do react strongly to walking into a room to find my 3 year old dd being read bible stories without my knowledge or consent. I did not at all act angry about it to dsd, I just asked her to read something else and it was not a big deal at all. I think she is trying to be helpful and repeating what she sees people at her grandma's church doing to her, teachign her about God etc., but this feels like (thanks bronxmom for this description!) indoctrination to me, exactly. I have explained to her many times in discussing God and Christianity with her that many people believe many different things and that is just wonderful, so she is welcome to believe what she woudl like about God, I just do not happen to agree with it all, and I think that is a good lesson for both of us. Anyway, thank you for your opinion, you did make me realize a little more of the root of my issue with it, so hopefully I can enter the discussion with more awareness, although I honestly think I am doing the best I can in balancing my desires for my dd and ds and respecting dsd's beliefs.

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Old 07-01-2010, 10:06 AM
 
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I like how you told your DSD that you would talk to her about it and answer questions, that way she does not feel as though she has to hide it. Maybe say it is for bigger kids and your DD is just too little to understand yet (only if it arises again). Don't want to make religion a taboo!
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Old 07-01-2010, 02:51 PM
 
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I very much emphasize that we must respect other peoples beliefs even if we do not agree with them and that there is not one "right" thing to believe. I have said as much to dsd when she went through a stage of insisting that everybody besides Christians were "bad" and have said it in response to smaller things too. This is very important to me to empahsize and I will continue to do so.
This is how many Christian denominations believe, though, so you are stifling religion. Here's how I see it when people say they want to expose their kids to world religion & let them choose. It cannot really be done that way. Many religions believe they are right - and the only ones who are. That's sort of the point of multiple religions, religious conflict, conversion efforts, etc. So it's not genuine to say you want "exposure" but then to tell your SD that she's wrong for saying non-Christians are bad. I grew up in a church where that was the religious belief. We were told that in no certain terms - non-Christians (which included Catholics) are going to hell. That was the church's message.

As an adult, I don't have any qualms about telling my children that I believe that's wrong. I do, and I'm not going to go around saying I want to expose them to all religions equally and that I don't disparage others for their beliefs when that's not true. There are people whose beliefs I think are wrong. If you're honest with yourself, that sounds like how you feel, too. So you don't want your SD to read from the Bible or tell your dd what "God rocks" means (which is pretty innocent, really) because you *don't* want your daughter exposed to mainstream Christianity. I'm not criticizing that. I agree with it, but I think it would serve your whole family better if you could admit that. Then you could talk with your partner and make decisions about how to move forward with religious issues.

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Old 07-02-2010, 10:14 AM
 
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This is how many Christian denominations believe, though, so you are stifling religion. Here's how I see it when people say they want to expose their kids to world religion & let them choose. It cannot really be done that way. Many religions believe they are right - and the only ones who are. That's sort of the point of multiple religions, religious conflict, conversion efforts, etc. So it's not genuine to say you want "exposure" but then to tell your SD that she's wrong for saying non-Christians are bad. I grew up in a church where that was the religious belief. We were told that in no certain terms - non-Christians (which included Catholics) are going to hell. That was the church's message.

As an adult, I don't have any qualms about telling my children that I believe that's wrong. I do, and I'm not going to go around saying I want to expose them to all religions equally and that I don't disparage others for their beliefs when that's not true. There are people whose beliefs I think are wrong. If you're honest with yourself, that sounds like how you feel, too. So you don't want your SD to read from the Bible or tell your dd what "God rocks" means (which is pretty innocent, really) because you *don't* want your daughter exposed to mainstream Christianity. I'm not criticizing that. I agree with it, but I think it would serve your whole family better if you could admit that. Then you could talk with your partner and make decisions about how to move forward with religious issues.
As a side note... there is a way to expose kids to all religions and know that they are all okay... Unitarian Universalist.

But anyway... I have to agree with the sentiment of as a parent you should be able to have some control over when your children are exposed to different things. I like the idea PP's suggested of telling DSD that DD is just a little too young for those stories right now, which should be an easy to understand approach without hurting any feelings or making DSD feel alienated for her beleifs.

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Old 07-02-2010, 06:08 PM
 
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But anyway... I have to agree with the sentiment of as a parent you should be able to have some control over when your children are exposed to different things. I like the idea PP's suggested of telling DSD that DD is just a little too young for those stories right now, which should be an easy to understand approach without hurting any feelings or making DSD feel alienated for her beleifs.
However, this should also include Dad's thoughts and input since BOTH children are his.
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Old 07-02-2010, 10:08 PM
 
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As an adult, I don't have any qualms about telling my children that I believe that's wrong. I do, and I'm not going to go around saying I want to expose them to all religions equally and that I don't disparage others for their beliefs when that's not true. There are people whose beliefs I think are wrong. If you're honest with yourself, that sounds like how you feel, too.
A couple of comments... first, I don't think you have to expose children to all religions equally in order to offer the idea that there are many different beliefs and that different people believe different things. I don't think you have to agree with other religions to teach children to be respectful of people's rights to decide on their own set of beliefs. And I think there is a difference between saying that people have a right to choose what to believe in and saying that you believe in or agree with everything they believe.

And to the OP, I don't think 3 is too young to talk about religions or belief systems. You and I seem to be on the same page in many ways, but I wouldn't have an issue with answering my 3-yr-old if she asked who Jesus is, if she wanted to read the story of Noah's Ark, or if she asked why her grandmother said something to "Dear Heavenly Father" before she eats dinner. Likewise, I wouldn't have a problem telling her why her friend doesn't have a Christmas tree, why another friend doesn't have parties for her birthday, or what the two guys wanted to talk to us about when they knocked on our door...

It's just my opinion, but if you are serious about wanting to expose your daughter to different belief systems and instill in her a belief that it is really and truly okay to believe whatever it is you choose to believe... then I think you have a responsibility to figure out exactly what you believe and how you are going to explain these things when they come up. Especially if there is someone living in your house who is vocal about her own religious views. Kids don't wait until you are ready before they ask the tough questions... they ask them when they think of them, ready or not. I think that as parents it is our job to be ready for them *before* we think they are going to come up so we are prepared to handle them when they do.

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Old 07-02-2010, 11:10 PM - Thread Starter
 
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And to the OP, I don't think 3 is too young to talk about religions or belief systems. You and I seem to be on the same page in many ways, but I wouldn't have an issue with answering my 3-yr-old if she asked who Jesus is, if she wanted to read the story of Noah's Ark, or if she asked why her grandmother said something to "Dear Heavenly Father" before she eats dinner. Likewise, I wouldn't have a problem telling her why her friend doesn't have a Christmas tree, why another friend doesn't have parties for her birthday, or what the two guys wanted to talk to us about when they knocked on our door...
Hi all-thanks for an interesting conversation. I just have a moment, but in regards to the above comment aricha, I think my problem here is that I have no problem answering dd's questions MYSELF, but I do have a problem with a 9 year old (dsd) "educating" my daughter about religion, especially with a viewpoint that is heavily skewed towards Christianity (which is the only thing dsd really knows about). Ditto for grandparents etc.. So I am happy to (and have) explained religious things to dd when appropriate, but I am upset about that loss of control over what is taught in our home, does that make sense?

In any case, I definitely have a lot to think about regarding how I actually do want to present religion to my kids-I think many of you have a valid point when you said that I need to decide that for myself and then decide how to deal with the situation. I do have mixed feelings about it all and I guess it shows!

mtiger, yes, dp will certainly be a part of this conversation and his wishes will be given equal if not more consideration in terms of dsd. Thanks.

Single mama namaste.gif to dd dust.gifand ds fencing.gif, loving my dsd always reading.gif .
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