I have a new article published in ADDitude magazine.
Please check out this fine e-zine. It is a terrific source for help, strategies and support.
I have a new article published in ADDitude magazine.
Please check out this fine e-zine. It is a terrific source for help, strategies and support.
Link to Melinda and Josh’s article in ADDitude magazine.
Check it out!
I’m nothing if not persistent. When I set my mind to do something, I am tenacious about seeing it through from start to finish. I love checklists because crossing completed items off my to-do list gives me a sense of accomplishment. In fact, if I finish a task that was not on my list, sometimes I write it on after the fact just so I can check it off as completed. Even when I don’t have a written list of what I hope to accomplish for the day, I usually have at least a mental checklist to refer to as I go about my daily activities. When it came to homeschooling, my general approach was the same and I wanted to be able to check tasks off my list and see real evidence that I had been productive. Can you relate?
The problem I ran into was that there are so many aspects of homeschooling that are hard to measure objectively. How could I tell on a daily basis if I was effective in teaching my children in ways that they learned best? It takes a lot of experience and trial and error to see what works with each individual child. With the learning challenges my children dealt with, I couldn’t even guarantee that what they seemed to have mastered one day would still be mastered the next day or if I’d have to back up and re-teach material. Sometimes it seemed like we were just marking time – one step forward, one step back.
My checklist and plans for academic accomplishments were only one aspect of my goals for homeschooling my children. I wanted my children to grow in their love for each other and to develop a Christian worldview for themselves. Ultimately, their character was far more important to me than any school subject and I prayed for my children daily. Again my checklist mentality nagged at me. How could I document that the children were growing in character as well as knowledge? One minute I would be congratulating myself on my successful instruction as one child would show kindness toward the other, and the next minute I’m breaking up a fight between the formerly loving siblings. I’d think we had made progress when a child tearfully confessed to an infraction, only to see the same child hours later protesting by sticking her tongue forward with her lips still closed so that technically she wasn’t sticking her tongue out which was against the rules. So much for her having an attitude of respect, although her critical thinking skills appeared to be developing!
While I am persistent, I am not especially patient. Homeschooling was harder than working other jobs had been for me, because there were so many intangibles that I often was unable to grab on to any specific accomplishment to help me feel successful. Somehow, just surviving another day didn’t seem adequate. I wondered if I was omitting something vital in the content of my instruction or perhaps missing an aspect of my children’s learning disabilities that could hold them back if left unidentified. Having faith and trusting God are important to me, but certainly don’t come naturally. Homeschooling was like planting seeds and pulling weeds around the tender young plants, but not knowing when or what the future harvest might be.
My children, bless them, are resilient in spite of their mother’s ways. In one of my many attempts to figure out how best to help my son, Josh, I was explaining the latest theory I’d learned about and suggested that maybe it would help him if we tried it out. By this point, we had been homeschooling for years and Josh had been through many of my well-intentioned experiments to find ways to alleviate some of his learning challenges. Josh looked at me as I explained the latest and greatest educational approach and then slowly shook his head.
“Mom, are you still trying after all this time? I think after all the things we’ve tried you should know that I’m just the way I am. Regular stuff doesn’t work with me.”
Wow. Josh knew I was trying to help him, but he also knew when to say “enough is enough” and to accept his strengths and limitations as the person he was intended to be. It was tough for me, coming from my family of high academic achievers and my checklist mentality to realize that my son was on a different path. It also tested my stated belief that character was truly more important than academics. Our ultimate goal as homeschoolers is to raise our children to be the individuals God intended them to be, and sometimes that looks different than we may have imagined.
Today, as a young adult, my son’s character is evident and honestly he is farther along in that area than I was at his age. I am proud of him and his accomplishments, and although I’m still persistent and will offer him suggestions if I think they will be helpful for him, I also can accept him just the way he is even if nothing about his approach to learning ever changes. Am I still trying? Yes, and I probably always will be, because that’s just the way I am. Today, though, I am trying for greater acceptance, understanding, and appreciation of the unique contributions each of my children will make in their lives.
From Melinda’s Facebook page
“I met you and Josh at the IAHE Convention in Indianapolis the end of May. I just wanted to THANK YOU for the break out sessions that you offered and for your book. My son has now officially been diagnosed with ADHD with Sensory Processing Disorder as I am reading your book I see so much of my son. Just change out the names and it’s like it’s his story. We are 10 days into homeschooling and we do have a lot to work through but I am praising God that out of 10 days, only 2 have been bad…the rest have all been good.”
I love my child’s high energy, enthusiasm, and joyful spirit. I don’t even mind that I will never have any family secrets, ever, because this innocent child will share our business with anyone within earshot and think nothing of it. Her openness reflects her optimism and her tendency to believe the best about others. This is another reason for clean living, because if you don’t have anything to hide then having a child spill the beans is no big deal.
My daughter’s activity level has often left me in open-mouthed amazement. To burn off energy, she will run up and down the stairs multiple times. She also likes to sprint around the block, and when we have inclement weather she will clear a pathway in the house so she can take off running and then slide across the floor in her socks. Like many individuals diagnosed with attention deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD) she needs to find outlets for her strong need for physical activity. Also true of many with ADHD, my daughter has had sleep difficulties and struggles to calm her body and mind so she can fall asleep.
Most of the time I not only accept my daughter’s differences, I delight in them. Over time I discovered that not all adults shared my appreciation for my wonderfully-spirited child. At homeschool group classes, I began to hear complaints about my daughter’s non-stop chattering and apparent inability to stop talking even when the teacher was attempting to give instructions. She was not deliberately rude or disrespectful, just uninhibited in sharing her thoughts. Every single one of them. This continual verbal stream was one of the ways her hyperactivity manifested, as if the words just built up inside her and had to come out or she would pop.
My daughter was also wigglier than most children her age, something I could easily accommodate during our homeschool day. It became problematic when we were out in public and she couldn’t sit still at a restaurant or stand quietly beside me during homeschool field trips. I remember a very patient AWANA instructor chuckling as he described how my daughter would slide back and forth on a bench while reciting her memorized verses. She moved around while she was learning the verses, and she moved around while recalling them. She was consistent, and fortunately had a leader who was able to enjoy having her in his group.
My daughter’s sensory processing difficulties along with her ADHD impulsivity made it a struggle for her to regulate herself to maintain the calm yet alert state that is optimal for learning. At one homeschool group gathering, I could see that she was talking continually and was starting to elicit clearly unappreciative glances from nearby adults. Not wanting to squelch her ebullience, I sought a way to help her quickly and unobtrusively so she would not be embarrassed. Scanning the table laden with potluck offerings, my gaze fell on a basket of dinner rolls. I quickly snatched one up and extended it to my daughter, asking if she needed a roll. I figured if she was chewing a roll it would give her a few seconds to take a break and maybe relax and slow down a little bit. I think it would have worked if my daughter had gone along with my plan, but instead she blurted out, “Hey! Are you just trying to get me to be quiet?” So much for subtlety.
At home my daughter could wiggle away as long as she was getting her schoolwork done. It’s distracting, though, when a child is in constant motion in a group setting. Have you ever noticed how distractible children always seem to find each other in a crowd, and then escalate the other’s behaviors? This happened often while we participated in homeschool group activities. One strategy I used to help my girl was our “meatball hug”. She would sit on my lap and pull her knees to her chin, and I would wrap my arms around her and gently squish her while rocking back and forth. She loved this, and it didn’t draw negative attention to her. Once she outgrew my lap, the meatball hug had to be more of a roll. Her father or I would give her arms and legs little squeezes as if we were kneading dough, or capture her between us to roll back and forth like a squeeze machine.
The need to calm down was not always apparent to my daughter, but she recognized our family code, “Do you need a roll?” as a signal to try and tone things down. Your family might find a different code and use other strategies to support your child. I personally will never hear the question “Do you need a roll?” without thinking of my wonderfully vibrant daughter who did, in fact, need some rolls now and then.
Motivation is such a wonderful thing. It gives us energy to pursue our goals. Motivation can urge us onward toward of a myriad of accomplishments. It makes us excited to achieve and keeps us on track and purposeful in our actions. When one is motivated, there is less need for external prompting because there is an inward drive and desire that needs no supplementation. If only we could bottle it up and pull out motivation to dole out as needed!
Homeschooling a motivated student is exciting and rewarding, providing a sense of the joy of teaching and affirming our efforts to help our children learn. If homeschooling is supposed to be a wonderful experience, why are so many of us lamenting the fact that our students not only do not eagerly pursue learning opportunities but appear downright unmotivated and reluctant to learn?
If a motivated student reassures us that we are successful teachers, then the converse is also true. A reluctant, unmotivated student can cause us to question our ability to teach our children well. This doubt can lead our thoughts down other paths, where we wonder if we are up to the calling of homeschooling and if we will somehow be holding our children back if we continue. Before you go too far in questioning your ability to homeschool, please allow me to share some of my experiences as a homeschooling mother of a very reluctant, unmotivated student.
I am not a high-energy, easily-excited mom. Nevertheless I worked hard to be enthusiastic when I presented lessons and I tried to make the work engaging and interesting for my children. Imagine my dismay when day after day I called my children to the table to begin our school work and without fail the first words out of my son’s mouth were, “How long is this going to take?”
He asked me that question no matter what the subject matter was, and in fact without even knowing which subject I was about to introduce. In response, I would plaster a smile on my face and try to exude exhilaration for the lesson. I tried to be funny. I worked at being more animated in my presentations. I used up a lot of energy, as if I were auditioning for the role of inspiring homeschool mom. Inwardly, I berated myself for my inability to stimulate a love of learning in my children.
I have always loved learning new things, and I had carefully selected my curriculum. Night after night I strained my brain to come up with something I could do or change that would eliminate the reluctance my son felt toward schoolwork. I was beginning to despair. I had a heart to homeschool my children, but I questioned whether I had the energy and ability to do the job for the long haul.
Then, one day, the circus came to town. Yes, I thought about running off to join it, but once again I didn’t seem to have the right skill set! I was already abysmal as a performer, judging by my child’s desire to get schoolwork over with as quickly and painlessly as possible despite my antics. So I took the children to see the circus, hoping that at last my son would be adequately engaged and intrigued by the novelty of the acts.
My son watched the tigers with great interest. He was so intent while watching the trapeze artists that I’m not sure he even blinked during their entire act. Just as clowns appeared in one circus ring and horses began trotting around a second ring, my son turned to me and said something that changed me forever.
“Mom,” he asked, “When can we go home? I’m bored.”
Of course he had told me on many prior occasions that he was bored. All this time I thought it was my fault for being inadequate as his teacher. Hearing him say he was bored at the circus astonished me and gave me a valuable insight that helped me realize more than ever that homeschooling was the best option for my family. When my child informed me that he was bored at a three-ring circus, at first I was just plain shocked. Once the shock wore off, a sense of great relief came over me because I realized that even if I chose to wear feathers and swing from a trapeze while teaching, this child would become bored within about 15 minutes!
The difficulty my son had with school was not because of any lack on my part as a homeschooler. Rather, it was the way he was wired that led him to be easily bored and inattentive. Once I realized that the attention and motivation challenges were essentially stemming from inside my son and were not due to my ineptness as his teacher, I was freed up to concentrate on ways to help him learn to motivate himself and deal with his frequent feelings of boredom. I began to focus less on critiquing myself and instead became more observant of my son.
I noticed that there were certain times of the day when my son was more alert, and that it did not always coincide with my own states of alertness. I observed that when he was physically active for a short burst of time he was then able to attend to his lessons for longer periods. My son showed me that when he was emotionally upset or over-excited about something that we tended to have less productive days and my attempts to push him usually backfired. As my self-doubt regarding my ability to teach my child receded, I was able to direct that mental energy into finding out what my son truly needed.
In addition to my great revelation at the circus, over time I became more and more convinced that homeschooling was ideal for a learner like my son. I could accommodate his needs and give him the attention he needed to stay on track and learn. Each year of homeschooling I was better equipped because of the previous year’s experiences. My son came to understand that even when I didn’t understand some of his challenges I would steadfastly believe he was capable of learning, and I would never give up.
There will always be people with more impressive credentials, but we do not need to compete with them. As homeschooling parents, we are more invested in our children than anyone else. We have the motivation to help our kids, year after year, to teach them and show them love. Homeschooling can be challenging, but it can instruct the teacher as well as the students as situations arise. In my case, I always tell people that with all the learning and motivation challenges I faced, my children made me be a better teacher than I wanted to have to be. In the end, though, I am a better teacher and mom because of the things I learned while homeschooling my children.
Do you have a child who can always pay attention, sit still, and comply with directions and requests? If so, you may not be able to identify strongly with this post. On the other hand, you may have other children someday or know of some who are similar to my son, Joshua. My son has always been an “outside the box” kind of thinker. He is so far outside the box that he doesn’t know the box exists. He thinks in terms of what is possible, rather than being limited to pre-existing established patterns. To say that Josh is a non-conformist would be a gross understatement. This kid doesn’t just march to the beat of his own drum; he marches to the beat of his own oboe or something. His creative thinking made his behavior unpredictable at times, which in turn made parenting him very challenging. Can you relate?
I am a pretty linear thinker, and although I’d like to think that my box is large I am definitely an “inside the box” kind of thinker. This was one of the challenges I faced in parenting Josh, because my own responses to situations were logical and predictable to anyone who knew me. Even though I tried I just could not anticipate how Josh would respond in many situations. Novel experiences were the most unpredictable, and I’m sure that even Josh did not know what he was going to say or do in advance much of the time.
For example, our local library had weekly story times for preschoolers, and Josh looked forward to attending each program. Josh tended to observe rather than take part with most of the activities, though. He sat on my lap and watched the other children sing songs and do the motions to finger plays. When the librarian read books, Josh would push forward to get a better view of the pictures, but he usually sat on his knees so he wasn’t blocking others’ views. For Josh, the true highlight of each week was the flannel board story.
The librarian would tell a familiar story, using the flannel board and various flannel pieces. Even though this was his favorite part of the 30 minute program, Josh could barely contain himself and wiggled and hopped around while the story was being told. With frequent reminders and prompts to sit down so that others could see, Josh waited for what he really liked best about the flannel board.
Each story seemed to spark ideas for a hundred others in Josh’s imagination, and our librarian was kind enough to give Josh free reign with the flannel board following the official story time. With or without participation by others, Josh would tell his original stories or take the existing story and give it multiple alternative plots and conclusions. Inevitably, Josh’s stories would include a battle of some sort. He could take the most peaceful setting and turn it into an epic battlefield.
Since Josh like flannel board stories so much, I bought him a huge set of Bible flannel board pieces. I thought it would be a great way for Josh to learn some Bible stories. He loved it! As my oldest child, I thought he might like to teach some of these stories to his younger sisters and it would be good practice for his oral language skills, too. Josh dutifully repeated the story I taught him, and then devoted his energy to expressing his creativity and imagination.
Another flannel board battle ensued each time the carefully organized Bible set was brought out for a new story. I am a Mom who likes things to be in their proper place, and the flannel board set had outlines of the pieces on each storage board which greatly appealed to my desire to have things organized. Josh, however, liked to select pieces for his stories willy-nilly and (gasp) even took pieces from different boards and stories that were not grouped to together. He even mixed up the Old and New Testament pieces. It was horrible! Okay, it is probably not that big a deal to most people, but it was a battle for me to give up my neatly arranged flannel board pieces so that Josh could express his God-given creativity.
Josh is now a young adult, but he still remembers the flannel board stories with great fondness. He remembers making up many adventurous tales and having a lot of flannel pieces to work with from our large Bible flannel set. His favorite, he recalls, was the time he put the kneeling Jesus figure behind a large clay jar on a table turned on its side to provide cover. From that position, Jesus proceeded to shoot stars at his disciples across the room. And so it went in the imagination of a young boy, who believed that Jesus could do anything including spraying stars wherever He wanted them to go.
Whereas some people lament their lack of creativity, Josh and other outside the box type of thinkers find they have to stifle their creative urges many times throughout the day. It was always a challenge for me to find good boundaries that allowed Josh to follow his many ideas that led him in a myriad of directions while redirecting him to get his school work completed. Getting the academic work done did take us longer on some days when Josh pursued some of his imaginative ideas, but I wouldn’t squelch the creativity of my son for anything.
There is a commercial advertising a credit card company that ends with the question, “What’s in your wallet?” While this is an interesting question, at my house I am more likely to hear, “Where is my wallet?”
Life with the distractible and disorganized can be discombobulating. I live with three family members who have been diagnosed with Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder (ADHD) and due to challenges with inattention and forgetfulness often items get lost or misplaced. Sometimes my kids will ask me if I’ve seen something that’s gone missing. Since I like things to be organized and put away in a logical place, there are times when I can locate the missing object because I put it away instead of leaving it out where it was dropped.
I have systems for cleaning and organizing. The problem is with implementation and cooperation from the rest of my family. I have a strong need for things to be put away where they belong so I can find them when I go looking for them. Just last night I pulled out all the ingredients to make a delicious smoothie, but when I went to get my smoothie maker only part of it was in the cupboard where I keep it. I had a blender base with the pitcher and a lid, but the ball on a stick part used to help move the mixture around in the pitcher was missing. I looked in all the places I could think of putting it, but only one place really made sense to me and that was to store all the smoothie maker parts in the same location. My husband came into the kitchen and joined me in the search for the missing part.
After looking in the same places I had looked, and striking out just as I had, my husband began looking in places that made no sense to me but just might contain the lost tool so they warranted a look. Even then we could not locate our smoothie tool, so we…looked in all the same places again! I’m not sure why we do this, as if the missing item that wasn’t there previously will somehow show up if we look again in the exact same place. This strategy was also unsuccessful, so we moved on to asking our children if they knew where the missing piece was hiding.
This is not generally a good strategy, either, because we are talking about distractible people who misplace things all the time and absentmindedly leave things in odd places. But it was worth a shot, since we had nothing else to go on at that point. Both children stated where they might have placed it, but neither actually remembered doing so and the item wasn’t where they suggested. This time, my husband decided to try substituting a silicon spatula in place of the missing tool, with the result that we had delicious smoothies with bits of a chopped spatula mixed in. I think I swallowed a piece.
Those types of lost items are frustrating and inconvenient, but not nearly as alarming as missing driver’s licenses, phones, or my personal nemesis the missing wallet. Not my wallet. Remember, I have a “wallet place” where my wallet lives and is predictably located when I need it. My daughter and husband have misplaced their wallets multiple times, though, and it sends me into a far greater panic than they experience. While my mind is racing with all the possibilities and security risks, they are unsystematically roaming the house looking in odd places for their wallets. Sometimes they leave the house for a minute and I realize they are checking the car to see if it’s there. Or maybe on the sidewalk, or in the grass, or…well, you get the idea.
My daughter will, at times like these, casually ask me if I’ve seen her wallet. She acts like it’s not really a big deal because it’s bound to turn up sooner or later, and she really believes that! Hunting for her wallet is like a treasure hunt and is only mildly irritating if she doesn’t find the wallet. I, on the hand, begin mentally listing all the items that will need to be replaced or cancelled.
My husband is more subtle about searching for his missing wallet or other items, and rarely asks me to help him look anymore. The reason he doesn’t bother seeking my assistance is because I’m not much help at finding whatever he has lost. I look in logical (to me) places where I would leave my wallet, for instance, and since I have a “wallet spot” I don’t have too many places to look.
Even when my husband doesn’t come out and say that he’s misplaced something of importance, I can recognize the signs. He enters a room scanning it like a secret service agent taking everything in at a glance. Then he moves around the room, picking up papers and small portable items while surreptitiously looking under and around them. He never panics, and never tells himself not to bother looking in strange places because he knows the missing item could be anywhere. While I fret about possible identity theft, my husband remains unruffled as he continues his quest for the missing wallet.
I no longer reach the panic stage as quickly as I used to, because more often than not my husband and daughter do find their missing wallets. Rather than berate themselves for having lost them, they congratulate themselves on another successful recovery. I would like to avoid the stress of “Where is my wallet?” but I do admire the resiliency of my family members who just don’t sweat it when these events happen. They take it in stride as casually as a driver stopping for a red light, doing what the situation calls for and moving on.
Speaking of moving on, I just heard my husband in the next room quietly asking himself, “Now where did I put my keys?”
I am quite confident that he will find his keys, no matter how strange a hiding spot they are in, because his experience and resiliency will win out. Keys, your time on the loose is limited. Give yourselves up! You will be found.
Have you ever been baffled or surprised by something your child says? You may be certain that you heard the words correctly, but they don’t make sense. Having children with learning struggles, I often found that I needed to clarify both what I said to my children and what they were communicating to me. With a combination of ADHD (attention deficit hyperactivity disorder) and auditory processing difficulties, communication was often a challenge. First, I had to obtain and keep my child’s attention long enough to convey a message. Then I had to determine if the message had been accurately received. If distractibility and impulsivity didn’t interfere, we could have a good conversation.
Children with learning disabilities often have unusual ways of expressing themselves. My son Josh had some word finding difficulties, so he would refer to the ankle as “that wrist part of your leg”. Likewise, the elbow might be “the knee of your arm.” Once when Josh wasn’t feeling well I asked him to describe his symptoms. He often used vague and nebulous words to tell me what he felt. I felt like a detective who needed to ask just the right questions to get my suspect to tell me what I needed to know.
One time, though, Josh told me his throat was sore and described what he was feeling in this way, “I feel as if my uvula has been acided off”. (I like the “uvula” part – true son of a speech therapist!) This description, although no doubt atypical for most children, painted a clear picture of the location and degree of Josh’s discomfort and indeed it turned out that Josh had strep throat. “Acided” may not be a real word, but it sure got the point across. Josh usually sailed through illnesses with little response to pain, so when he complained I knew it was serious.
When children are infants, we fret because they are not able to tell us what is wrong or where they hurt. We think how nice it will be when they are able to talk and tell us more exactly what they feel. If a child is a late talker, nonverbal, or has difficulty with expressive language we have to continue interpreting possible meanings to whatever communication attempts our child is able to produce.
My daughter Beckie was a big talker, and it was easy to tell that when she wanted “lunch fries” she meant “french fries” and that her “Valentime” was a “Valentine”. Since she had auditory processing issues, she said things the way she heard them and I continued in my role as communication detective to determine what Beckie was trying to convey. This was somewhat complicated by the fact that Beckie chattered a lot and was not always looking for a response but rather was processing her experiences by speaking out loud.
When she was a preschooler I noticed a frequently occurring phrase, “I need eleven!” Eleven what? I tried to figure out if she was trying to practice her counting skills, trying to collect something, or was just repeating something she had heard. But where had she heard it? Beckie was always a cuddle bunny, and was frequently snuggled up in my lap while we read books or talked. I tried to become aware of the context when she “needed eleven”, but couldn’t narrow it down. She said it contentedly when she was climbing onto my lap or getting a hug. She said it when she was physically hurt and when her feelings were hurt. When I asked her if she wanted to count to eleven together, she happily replied in the negative and wrapped her arms around me for a tight squeeze.
One day Beckie had been visiting one of her best friends for a play date, and I went to pick her up. She and her friend were sad to have to part ways, and the other child’s mother offered comfort by asking her son if he needed a lovin. I realized that “Do you need a lovin?” was a common phrase in that household, and in Beckie’s young mind had been translated into “Do you need eleven?” It had nothing to do with numbers, but had a strong connotation to comfort and the expression of affection. Since I had responded in ways she needed despite my lack of understanding about what she was saying, Beckie was inadvertently effective in her communication with me.
This is just one more reminder that love can make up for so many things. We all make mistakes with our children. We realize after the fact that we erred in our approach to teaching some students. We feel the pressures to convey the right amount of information at the right times while helping our struggling students develop skills to help them be successful. Our curriculum isn’t always a match for what we need. Our children may not be progressing at the rate we desire. We lose it. We yell, we apologize, and then catch ourselves being impatient again. We feel inadequate to meet all the needs we face on a daily basis. The stakes are so high.
You’ve heard it before but it bears repeating. What our children will remember the most is the relationship we have with them, not the specific things we deliberately taught or the strategies we used to help them learn. I blew it with my kids sometimes, and I knew it. I truly believe that my relationship with them is more important than any school subject and thus needed remediation before we could proceed with our official homeschooling. I find it very humbling, yet restorative, to apologize to my children when I have wronged them. They have always been very forgiving and amazingly resilient, a picture of God’s grace to me.
Showing grace and respect runs both ways in a relationship. It builds character and will outlast the school years as a child grows into an adult. Have you been focusing so much on getting the school work done that you’ve lost sight of the importance of relationship? Don’t let standards and benchmarks keep you from seeing the individual child who is right in front of you. Teaching a child is a great aspiration, and teaching in the context of a relationship is powerful. Children may not remember everything you’ve taught them, but they will remember you. Do you have the kind of relationship you want to become part of their lifelong memories? Let’s give our children lots of “elevens” and protect our relationships as they grow.