My Parenting Don’ts

posted by Andrea | 08/8/2017
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The other day, I was talking with some friends and I mentioned that Dave and I have never taken our kids to the beach. Yes, they have BEEN to the beach a couple times during various family vacations, but considering we live about 20 minutes from Lake MI (absolutely gorgeous beaches and water) it’s pretty crazy that Dave and I have never driven our kids to the beach!

Did I mention I hate sand… and crowds… and going anywhere public with multiple little children? 🙂

In all seriousness, Dave and I really don’t enjoy DOING a lot of extra things with young children. Too much ‘extra’ stresses us out, makes us crabby, and we become less fun parents.

We both feel there is plenty of time (once the kids are a bit older and more self-sufficient) to DO more with them. For now, we are 100% satisfied to play outside, ride bikes in our neighborhood, go for walks to the local dollar store or pizza place, have fun with neighbor friends, invite Grandparents over for special meals, and just spend time together at home.

If you’re the type of parent who can nod in agreement, I hope this post helps you realize you’re not alone, and you’re not completely weird!

NOTE: I most definitely do not think it’s bad or wrong if you do any of the things I’ve listed below — in fact, there’s a very real possibility Dave and I WILL do many of these things with our children in the future.

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I don’t cook or bake with my kids all that often. Yes, I have a handful of kid-friendly recipes I let them help with, but the majority of my time in the kitchen is spent trying to make food for our family as quickly and as efficiently as possible. They help occasionally, but I definitely don’t have the patience to let them help with everything I make (nor do they want to help with everything).

I don’t make our kids do chores. Yes, they often pick up their toys (with our help) and Nora is good about putting her laundry away, but I personally feel like “forcing” a 2, 3, and 5 year old to do actual chores simply creates more work for me as I’d most likely need to re-clean anything they supposedly “cleaned” anyway! Plus, I actually ENJOY cleaning — it’s like a cathartic release for me to do mindless cleaning work while the kids are sleeping or outside playing.

I don’t monitor everything they do. Speaking of the kids being outside to play… I’m often asked how on earth I dare let my kids play outside unsupervised! Of course, when they are too young to know not to go into the road, I’m always out there, but we have a fenced in yard, we are set back VERY far off the road, and our kids know the “rules”. After almost 6 years of parenting, James is the only who who has crossed the invisible line and gone too close to the road — and he only did it once. So yes, I feel very safe letting the kids play outside unsupervised.

I don’t feed them all organic or natural foods. It’s great if others are more gung-ho about eating all organic, it’s just not something I’m passionate about right now. My children eat lots of fruits and veggies, they clean their plates at every meal, and (in my opinion) they have a relatively balanced diet.

I don’t limit desserts to special occasions. We literally eat a small dessert after every lunch and dinner (provided they finish their main meal) and our whole family thoroughly enjoys it. Sometimes, on special occasions, we even have “breakfast dessert”!

I don’t “enjoy every moment” (but I enjoy a lot of them!)

I don’t take nearly as many pictures as I could or maybe should (and I don’t have a fancy camera). We often end up with very few pictures of birthday parties and vacation because I’m the one who takes 95% of our pictures, and if I’m enjoying myself at a birthday party or on a vacation, I often don’t have my phone out every spare moment to take pictures. I DO have a simple “checklist” of photos I try to get every month — mainly so I have enough photos for our family’s yearly photo album, but outside of that, I definitely do not stress about photographing every major (or minor) event in our family’s life.

I don’t throw amazing birthday parties. My kids’ birthday parties are just great (in my opinion, and usually in their opinions) but I rarely spend more than $40 on them. I also don’t spend a lot of time on them — and they certainly are NOT “Pinterest worthy”. Also, my kids have never had a birthday party with friends and I don’t anticipate doing ‘friend parties’ any time soon.

I don’t do sleepovers. Besides sleeping at their grandparents’ houses 2 or 3 times in their lives, our kids have never had a sleepover at anyone else’s house. I’m honestly not opposed to sleepovers (despite some of the super creepy stories I’ve read) but my kids are WAAAAAY too young for sleepovers with friends right now. I have absolutely no problem saying no to any sleepover requests — and most likely will for a few more years.

I don’t always have enough patience with my children and sometimes yell at them when I don’t know the full story.

I don’t always do family devotions. In fact, more often than not, our kids are very antsy after a meal, so Dave and I just let them get up and run around while we clean up. Devotions don’t necessarily have to be after a meal (in my opinion) — we can still read Bible stories at other points in the day.

I don’t plan family vacations. Dave and I were just talking last week about the fact that we have never once taken a family vacation with just our immediate family (Dave, me, and the kids). The only time we’ve ever gone on any vacation in the last 6 years is if one of our parents planned it, coordinated all the details, and basically just told us when to show up. In general, Dave and I have ZERO desire to travel anywhere with small children on our own. It’s not enjoyable, it’s not relaxing, and it’s definitely not a “vacation” for either of us. We enjoy spending time with both of our families (and our kids LOVE playing with their cousins) but I don’t see myself planning any big family vacations for our immediate family in the near future!

I don’t do extra curricular kids’ activities. I know, I’m such a boring mom, but besides doing 1 week of swimming lessons last summer and taking a free 4-day dance class 2 years ago, our kids literally have never done any type of extra curricular activity. No sports camps, no music lessons, no gymnastics or karate, no vacation Bible school, no outside learning opportunities, nothing. And you know what, they are fine. We have friends with similar-aged kids who do EVERYTHING under the sun, and earlier this summer, Nora said to me, “Mom, why is the __________ family always gone? Isn’t it weird that they don’t ever want to be home and their kids never just get to play?”

I don’t worry about eating only “nutritious” snacks. My kids are great eaters (in my opinion) and usually clear their plates at every meal. My kids also LOVE snacks! They usually ask for candy as their snack, but I almost always make them choose something “filling” first (note: I don’t say “healthy” or “nutritious” or “good”, just “filling”). They can choose between pretzels, goldfish, veggie straws, string cheese, yogurt, or fruit. Once they have their “filling” snack, then they may have a small candy snack (Tootsie Roll, Starburst, DumDum sucker, etc.)

I don’t care about what they wear. They have a couple nicer outfits for church, but everything else is fair game for whatever and whenever they want to wear it. They can wear their clothes outside, to school, to friends’ houses, to run errands with me, whatever. I don’t care if it doesn’t match, if it’s a little too big or a little too small — if they feel great wearing it (and it’s weather appropriate), I usually don’t care.

I don’t stress about a little TV time. My kids love playing outside, doing crafts, playing dress-up, building with blocks, and playing games. They have fantastic imaginations and actually play really well together the majority of the time. That said, they usually get to watch a show (via Netflix, Disney Jr, PBS, or YouTube apps) 2 or 3 times every single day — usually right before breakfast, lunch, and dinner so I can cook in peace and quiet while they calm down a bit! They do not ALWAYS watch TV before we eat, but if they aren’t playing nicely outside, if they are overly hungry and whiny, and if Dave isn’t around to help, the TV is a fabulous (and free) babysitter in our house, and I honestly don’t feel guilty about that at all.

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I could probably keep going, but I think that’s enough for now.

I want to reiterate again that, in no way, do I think it’s bad if any parent does any of these things on my don’ts list. In fact, I have LOTS of friends and relatives who DO many of the things we DON’T. That’s fine!

I like parents who plan the fun parties and invite my kids to enjoy them.

I like parents who come up with amazing craft ideas and post them to Pinterest, so when I’m not feeling very creative, I can ‘steal’ their ideas to do something extra fun for my kids.

I like parents who serve my kids super healthy snack choices because it makes my kids appreciate the fact that I’m not as strict with snacks!

I like parents who don’t allow TV because I know I can send my kids over to their house and they will do something fun and creative (note: we almost NEVER watch TV if we have friends over).

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The world would be a very boring place if we were all the same — but for those of you reading this who also have a long list of things you DON’T do, please don’t let yourself feel guilty or “less than”. You’re doing just fine!

I’m certain there are so many things you DO do – focus on those instead!

And now I’m curious, what things are on YOUR “don’t” lists??

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27 comments

  1. Ashley G

    08/10/2017

    I love this. There’s so much pressure to do SO much with your kids. It’s nice for someone to stand up and say, it’s all too much! Simple is better!

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  2. JJ

    08/08/2017

    Yes, yes, yes!!! I have 3 small kids, and it’s honestly not sensible to do a lot where more than one adult would be helpful.8 Our favorite things to do are the park and library. So many extra activities are also late and would make them way past bedtime. Your posts are so encouraging!!! And we love dessert, too!!!

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  3. Kris

    08/08/2017

    I agree with so many things of your list and share many of the same sentiments! Though I know my fairly non-traditional upbringing played a role in it, we really didn’t do a lot of “big fancy fun things” out and about as younger kids (myself and my sister who is 2 years younger). We grew up on an acerage in the country with tons of space to run around and play in the yard, a bike trail across the road, and a sizeable play area in the basement. We never had a ton of toys but it was always more than enough, and we most always played well with and entertained each other with all those options. When we were really little (around the ages of your children) our “big outings” involved the park, library, VBS, and visiting relatives for a few days in the summer. We didn’t go on family vacations until we were much older because as my dad said, we would not have appreciated it at that young age, and he is completely right. As kids we enjoyed the simplicity, flexibility, and ease of staying home and not being go-go-go every day. Though I have no children of my own yet, it’s hard for me to grasp why parents of very young children choose to spend the time, money, and effort to have their kids or family so involved in things their children will barely remember (if at all). I completely get that things happen we don’t plan on, but I feel bad for parents when I see they just paid a lot of money for and put a lot of effort into doing something (museum, park, fair, carnival, etc.) only to have their children be crabby/antsy/whiny the whole time, making the experience unpleasant for all of them, when it would have been a lot easier to do something simpler that could be adjusted a lot easier if the kids are just having a bad day and things aren’t working out.

    Anyway, sorry for the super long comment but it’s something I’ve thought a lot about in the past and liked how you shared your thoughts on it in a very reasonable, level-minded way. It’s refreshing to hear others with “common sense”! 🙂

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    Meghan Reply:

    The reason we spend time and money doing things with our children that they won’t remember is because we love to be active, travel, and have new experiences! We’ve gone on many trips and to many events without our children, but we are fine bringing them along. My husband and I aren’t going to stop doing what we enjoy for 10 years while our children get older. Our daughter was four months old when she flew for her first “vacation.” However, my husband and I agree that the age of three is the age to hit for really successful travel and bigger experiences. Many people like Andrea are very content at home. My kids have been to every library, playground, museum, butterfly house, zoo, science center, etc near us because I find staying home all day with small kids tedious and draining. Maybe my perspective can help you understand a little bit why crazy people like me load her three kids on an airplane 😉

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    Andrea Reply:

    Meghan, you are like my parents! They did EVERYTHING with us, took us on ALL kinds of vacations and trips, brought us everywhere, signed us up for everything, and got us involved in everything. I liked almost all of it growing up, but the real reason they did all of it is because THEY liked going on vacation and visiting new places — so they just took us along too.

    Even right now, they are gone on a 3-week cruise in Europe (one of their many vacations each year). They still love to travel and do it even more now that they don’t have kids at home!

    I honestly can’t imagine doing everything they did with young children — and they often don’t understand why Dave and I don’t do more!

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  4. Katherine

    08/08/2017

    Mom of four kids- 2, 5, 7, and 9.

    I don’t fold my kids’ clothes. (They have clothes baskets, which makes laundry easier for me: https://yeoldcollegetry.wordpress.com/2015/02/16/clothes-baskets-can-help-you-not-resent-your-children)

    I don’t make them wash their hands or use hand sanitizer…almost ever. (Except after the bathroom, that is.)

    I don’t make them hug anyone they don’t want to- even relatives.

    I don’t make them share their toy/book/turn on the swing when a random kid at the playground demands it. Out with friends or at home it is either “Sure, here you go” or “Sure, in a little bit” if someone asks for a turn with something.

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    Andrea Reply:

    Great list Katherine!

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  5. Angela

    08/08/2017

    Our list is similar to yours. We have 5 kids ranging in age from 16-4. In the younger years we tried to follow the norm and have our kids signed up for all the activities and did the zoo and crafts on the weekends. As we had more kids we found we had more fun at home relaxing with our kids. I feel like child raising can be a bit like keeping up with Jones’s! Our oldest kids are now very involved in sports but that’s because it’s their choice and it’s their dream to play that sport in college. Probably the “weirdest” thing we don’t do with our kids is preschool. After sending our oldest a few years we realized it is also taxing on our family. Getting little ones up every day and dressed and rushed wasn’t fun for a 2 or3 hour school day. Plus, all the driving back and forth and our babies missing naps to pick up older siblings. It just didn’t work for us and we love that we’ve stepped away from that and only put our kids in school at Kindergarten. Our 16 & 14 year olds are in the top 5% of their class, so no preschool worked out just fine for us

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    Andrea Reply:

    you know what — after sending Nora to preschool last year, I told Dave “preschool is WAY too much work for the parents!”

    I totally agree with your reasonings not to do preschool, and I honestly might considering not doing it for some of our other children — I don’t know yet though. Simon will be able to go to preschool next fall (2018) and then James could technically go the year after that — but we’ve already considered not sending him to preschool and just doing “young 5’s” the following year so he can ride the bus with Nora and Simon and I don’t have to get out at 2 hour intervals.

    Who knows, my life will probably look very different in a few years, so maybe I’ll be up for the challenge; but this past spring, when I was pregnant AND had to load up 2 little boys just to bring and pick Nora up from preschool definitley made me think twice about doing preschool with the other kids!

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  6. Jen

    08/08/2017

    I LOVE this and we did much the same when our kids were younger! I was a schedule nazi too–so that made staying home much easier on all of us! I would add that I don’t make my young kids sit through adult church services. I don’t mean to offend anyone–and I know that there’s a huge push these days for families to attend church services and, if that works for you, GO FOR IT–but no way would my children or I ever have enjoyed or gotten one thing out of a church service if we had forced them to sit there and be still. It makes me giggle because we have friends who insist their (very) small children sit through a long sermon but their idea of “sitting through” is basically feeding them constant snacks, letting them color or play on the phone/ipad, and disrupting everyone around them trying to keep them quiet! How is that enjoyable for anyone?? I don’t get it. Our children always enjoyed the children’s programs that were geared toward them, and I enjoyed the adult service.

    Secondly, I did my best to avoid taking my children to the grocery store/shopping, etc. I felt like I was asking too much of my active 2 year olds to make them sit in a grocery cart for an hour, and we all just ended up stressed and grumpy. So I always made it a point to go when Jeff was available to be home with the kids. That made it easier on ALL of us!

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  7. Debbie

    08/08/2017

    Good for you, Andrea! I think you just gave a whole lot of parents permission to just relax a little. I’m not a parent and I feel all these pressure for other parents to get their kids involved and attend all kinds of activities, throw amazing parties, feed their kids healthy & organic food, etc. Wow! It’s enough to make someone without kids to not ever want any. LOL! Just joking a little here.

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  8. Meghan

    08/08/2017

    I don’t care what my kids wear either as long as it’s not too small. I also don’t worry about styling my boys’ hair. I don’t do anything to make school projects awesome. My kids do them themselves with the supplies we have at home. We don’t do any extra activities besides sports even though my oldest son asks.
    We do do lots of sports. It gets hectic at times but the life lessons and skills and character traits we have seen emerge from our boys through sports has made it all worth it.

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  9. Avia

    08/08/2017

    My don’t do list is very similar to yours. When I start feeling guilty that my kids are missing out on some great experience I remind myself that while that experience may enhance their life a little, having a sane parent will it enhance it a lot more. Plus I think it’s good for them to learn that they don’t have to do/have everything to be happy.

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  10. Anne

    08/08/2017

    My Don’t List is very very similar to yours!

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  11. Shan

    08/08/2017

    Andrea, because you and Dave don’t feel like you have to do all those things, you are able to many others: run a business from home, share your life and encourage others, have a reasonably clean house at any time of day, serve your family home cooked meals every day, build good habits and values into your children’s lives, enjoy them because YOU’RE NOT FRAZZLED, invest time, money and effort in making your home and garden beautiful, organize your family pictures regularly, and PAY OFF YOUR MORTGAGE, among many other wondering things!!! Now that I’m a grandmother, I see there’s similar pressure to be very involved in grandkids’ lives. This may sound terrible, but while I love my grandkids, I don’t feel like I need to keep up with what others do. I give myself permission not to feel guilty 🙂

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  12. Brenda

    08/08/2017

    I don’t referee every argument between my kids. We go with a “no blood, no foul” type of reasoning. They are learning problem solving, getting along, compromise, independence… My sons are 6 & 10. For example,they each have games on my phone/iPad. They determine who gets to play when and for how long. Sometimes they choose 30 min each or 5 minutes each back and forth for an hour. If they start arguing about it and can’t some to a decision, then I take it away from both. Basically, they need to learn to get along and I don’t want to hear fighting about it. One thing I do try to watch (from a distance) is that 1 kid isn’t always getting to make all the decisions.

    Also, I let my kids play outside without me. They will stay out for hours setting up villages and running “factories” using leaves or walnuts for money and manufactured goods. Sometimes it’s the only quiet time in my day!

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    Jenny Reply:

    This made me laugh because many years ago, growing up in Iowa, we had huge neighborhood kid industries/cities/projects/games featuring things like acorns, rocks, bottle caps, corn husks, etc. This kept us busy for DAYS, WEEKS, MONTHS and involved dozens of kids of all ages- all free and the mothers had quiet houses for hours- big kids helped with littler ones and everyone was safe. Negotiating skills and social graces were learned. No adults bothered us except when time to come inside and eat a meal or go to bed! Walking to the playground was the big outing, or occasionally going to a swimming pool on really hot days, maybe every few weeks. It was pretty magical though seeing it in print seems funny.
    Andrea, I live on the other side of Lake Michigan and we are so jealous of you there on the “sunset side”. When we moved to Illinois, it was so cool to have this ocean with no salt, no sharks, no jellyfish, and it is still one for he best parts of my life- we go as often as we can! It is different with little kids, for sure- but as they get older, maybe you will find it as wonderful as we have ( or not!) Our grandsons from Florida like our beaches (with rocks instead of shells) so much!

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    Andrea Reply:

    This sounds awesome Jenny!
    And yes, we are VERY lucky to have our glorious beaches and beautiful sunsets over the lake. Someday, we will take our kids… someday 🙂

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  13. Jamie

    08/08/2017

    I nodded in agreement with most of your list. I have never really listed out my don’ts. We have done sports before but only 1 sport, soccer. If they wanted to play a sport, it had to be soccer because it was something they all enjoyed and could play at close to the same time. We haven’t played at all this past year…the last season we played they were in three different divisions which made for 3 hrs of practice 2 nights/week and several hours on game day. NOT the way I want to spend the few precious days we have with my husband home. My kids do chores but mostly self-care and laundry. I did their laundry until they were 4ish and then they started helping me. My 3 oldest (12, 8, 6) all do theirs completely on their own. Is it always folded perfectly? NOPE! But I don’t care. They are learning how to do it on their own. The 2 oldest also take turns taking out recycling and emptying the dishwasher and they each vacuum one room. Again, it isn’t perfect but I figure it is better than it not getting done at all. I grew up with NO chores and wish now that my parents had given me chores to do. We also don’t do the beach. I was just saying to my husband the other day that I love going to the beach but I also hate going to the beach. (We live in S FL and have always been 30 min or less from the beach. I hate the worry, the sand EVERYWHERE, and crowds. We don’t do sleepovers. My kids have never even slept over at grandparent’s house. We did parties with friends for my first up until he was 5. Then my next 2 birthdays are just a few weeks apart and we just felt like we were having parties left and right and inviting the same people to all of them. Not to mention, money to feed everyone, decorations, etc. We now do a very simple birthday. We take the day off school (we homeschool) and birthday child (within reason) gets to plan the day. They choose what I make for breakfast, lunch dinner. They can choose to eat out for 1 meal (within reason). Sometimes they choose to go to a park and play or go bowling. Sometimes we just stay at home playing games of their choice. I like this was SO much better.

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  14. Amie

    08/08/2017

    I think that the more children you have, the less you feel he need to go out to do things because the kids play together and it is a lot of work to go out to do things! I noticed that as we had more children, I was less inclined to go out and do the organized activities and get stressed out – while they were young – when they got older it became all about driving to activities and I longed for those “lazy” home days!!!

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  15. Kathryn

    08/08/2017

    Andrea, you’re my hero. 🙂 We have four kids (our oldest is 8), and I can’t believe the pressure already to get him into travel sports teams and extra activities. It is hard not to cave in when others subtly (or not-so-subtly) imply that if we don’t start him off now, he won’t have sports opportunities later. *sigh*

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    Shari Reply:

    We get that too. I want to roll my eyes every time. I have no problem with sports, but that is not all there is to life! Our kids have played soccer and do swimming lessons every year.

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  16. Joy Grant

    08/08/2017

    My list is about the same. My difference now is my youngest is 8 n my oldest is 18. We are trying to fit in more family vacations as they travel better than toddlers, before they all grow up n leave us! Ive tried to make them independant. However my teens are learning to do household chores. I dont want them moving out being used to mom doing all the work n having not learned to clean a toilet! They scare me. Will they survive without me! Right now my oldest says he will b with me till he is 30! OMGosh!

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    Andrea Reply:

    haha — well I do think there has to be some sort of happy medium! Dave and I were both expected to do lots of chores around our house when we were growing up — but not when we were 2, 3, and 5 🙂 So yes, our children will learn to do chores eventually, but I won’t stress about teaching them to clean the bathroom until it’s spotless when they are barely potty trained.

    That said, I’m sure your children will be fine. They might have a bit of a rude awakening when they enter the “real world” but they’ll figure it out eventually — and if they are anything like me, they learn better by trial and error!

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  17. Anna Lutz

    08/08/2017

    We don’t do extra curricular activities (dance, gymnastics,sports,karate,etc.) For the money, I don’t think the kids get a lot of of it at this age (6 and 2.) We will eventually, but I’m not ready to have to cart them anywhere weekly.

    We rarely go out to a restaurant to eat. It’s too much work, the kids don’t enjoy it, it’s too expensive, I like food at home better.

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    Andrea Reply:

    ah yes, restaurants! Pretty much the only “restaurants” we would ever take our children to are Arby’s, Mc. Donalds, Burger King, and Culvers — and even then, we usually just go through the drive thru and eat at home! 🙂

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  18. Francie

    08/08/2017

    Wow, awesome article, Andrea. I would love to not monitor my kids so closely while they are outside but I’m just too fearful at what might happen. Kiddos to you! http://www.supersimpleways.com

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