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As parents, there is very little that hubby and I want more than to just let our children be who they are. We want to expose them to whatever we can and let them choose what is right for them. I know that it’s not possible to open every single door out there and that there is certainly more than enough bias just from what we value being passed along to them. We aren’t going out of our way to show them things that aren’t true to who we are, for better or worse, but we are letting things be when our kids take interest in what we’re interested in.

I think the best we can do as mom and dad and the most trusted human beings for these two small people today is to lay a foundation with how we live and what we value and if they accept that and want to learn more, great and if they show interest in something more than that, we’ll do what we can there as well.

As an example, I always said from before we even started thinking about having children that I NEVER wanted to have a daughter take ballet classes. I suffered from anorexia for a long time and my sisters-in-law all did ballet at some point and as a result starved themselves. So I related ballet to anorexia and never wanted my child to go through that for something so silly as dance classes. I was never a dancer. I’m very uncoordinated.

Fast-forward a few years and we have ourselves a three year old who LOVES all things girly, all things princessy and all things ballet. I don’t know when or how it even started. She maybe read a book about Angelina Ballerina or something but whatever it was, she was hooked. She owns leotards, she does plies, and she begs to take ballet classes. And we’ll put her in them as soon as we find a class that accepts her age. Because she wants to. I just have to take a deep breath and let be what is.

I actually remember from early on in my first pregnancy, that I was afraid to have a girl. I wanted a boy to watch football with, to play rough with in the yard and to make fun of ballerinas with. I hated the color pink and all things girly. Then reality struck. And I was given the most beautiful gift that is my daughter, who shows me every day how to challenge my beliefs, she shows me that it’s okay for things not be as we expected and just to love and embrace what is. She has shown me to just let it be. She loves pink, ballet, princesses, and everything girly you can imagine.

Now we have our son, he’s 13 months now and we’re starting to see that he is a little guy who will challenge our thoughts and ideas about the world and people also. He’s a sensitive guy. So far, he shows no interest in sports, much to my chagrin.

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Both of our kids, as young as they are, Drew 3 1/2 and Eli 1, have shown a keen interest in the project that is our home remodel. Both of them have found tools and projects beyond interesting. Drew has named herself “Daddy’s big helper” and Eli is right there in the middle of whatever he can be in the middle of.

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As parents, we have both stepped back. We don’t take hammers away, we don’t stop them from climbing the ladder. We just let them be. They are, after all, learning. And they may or may not take from this time in our lives an appreciation for remodeling and home improvement projects, but all we can do today is let them take interest in what they like. We’ll keep letting them be involved and enjoying the moment as it is. There are only so many moments when they’re little. Neither one of us wants to steer who they are or what they become so we’ll keep just sitting back and letting them explore their world, learning new things and finding their way. We’ll keep just letting them be.

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andy.jpgMy brother and his new wife just spent 10 days visiting sunny Florida. They stayed at my parents’ house and I got to visit them a few times. I would’ve liked to have seen them more but I was sick for that few days and didn’t want to get them sick too so we stayed huddled up at home.

I love my brother. I light up at the mention of his name, I can’t help but smile when I see him, laugh when he talks, and listen to his advice. I admire him so much for who he is. He is absolutely without question the most down-to-earth and true to himself person I know. He’s friendly to everyone he meets. He stands up for what he believes in.

My brother is such an individual. Nothing about him is anything but Andy. He refuses to conform to what others expect him to dress like, look like, act like. And all the while, people just love him. I have learned so much from him over the 29 years I’ve been alive. We are only 16 months apart in age and were often mistaken for twins growing up. That was probably helped by the fact that he was held back a grade in 5th grade so we were in the same grade for years.

I am going to share some things I have learned from my brother, some of the more important lessons he’s taught me through example.

1. All people are equal – he used to get in fights in middle and high school because he’d get made fun of by ignorant kids because his best friends were black. I know that he’s learned by now that beating people up isn’t the way to get them to listen to you. But he has always shown a passion for standing up for what is right and fighting for what he believes in. Now he just does it a little more civilly.

2. Don’t be a follower – live your own life, live it well and be happy with who you are. I will never forget the 3 months in high school that my brother didn’t talk to me. Not one word. After he found out that I had gone out to a concert with friends and gotten drunk and been smoking cigarettes. To him, I was doing what everyone expected in an effort to be cool (and he was right) and he had no tolerance for me being an idiot in order to be liked. That 3 months was hell. I was embarrassed that I had behaved so stupidly to try to make insignificant people like me and in the process made my best friend dislike me.

3. Show your love – when I see my brother with his wife, I think he’s amazing. He’s the perfect combination of loving but goofy, he takes care of her without being overbearing. He always thinks of her first for everything. That is how marriage should be. Putting the other person first and making sure they are shown everyday how much you love and appreciate them.

4. Laugh at yourself – NEVER take yourself too seriously. This is above all else the single biggest thing I got from growing up with him. He’s not obnoxious but he likes to make fun of people and he’s sarcastic and goofy. If you trip, he’ll laugh. That kind of thing. He makes the mundane hilarious and shows me how to smile and laugh through life even when things are bad.

Those are the big things. He’s special, my brother. I’m lucky to have him in my life showing that everything doesn’t have to be conventional and happiness can come when you are true to yourself and put a smile on your face. It becomes contagious.