Monday, November 23, 2015

The Co-parenting Diaries: Surviving the Holidays

For the record, I'm a little bit of a Scrooge when it comes to Christmas.

Trust me, I love Jesus and presents just as much as the next girl, but the holidays have been a HUGE source of stress for me for almost ten years.

When I was 21, my parents separated for the final time, and my sisters and I were placed on the "pick which parent you love most" roller coaster which still hasn't stopped.

No matter how hard we try or how awesome our juggling skills have become-someone always loses.

It sucks.

As an adult child of divorce with two parents who are rarely ever able to find even an inch of common ground, I knew exactly how I did not want it to be for my daughter.

And for the most part, co-parenting with my daughter's dad is fairly easy compared to what I've seen/experienced on the other side of the tracks.

Are we perfect? Nope.

Do I want to kill him sometimes? More days than I don't.

But, for the most part, we are committed to setting aside our weapons differences for the sake of our daughter, especially when it comes to the holidays.

Are we always 100% amazing at doing this? Not at all.

Does someone still miss out? Most of the time. 

But, we have found a system that works well for us in our particular situation and I wanted to share a little bit about that.

So, first things first, I want to reiterate something I have said in other posts: Yes. I realize that everyone's co-parenting situation is unique.

I realize that sometimes there are circumstances that make co-parenting with your ex basically impossible. I also realize that some people who co-parent HAVE to go by what their parenting agreement says, because sometimes the best way for two people to survive co-parenting is to let a judge make the rules and to stick by those rules.

With that said, I am thankful that my ex-husband and I have chosen to do what's best for our daughter. We only use our parenting agreement as a basic guideline, and for the most part, we make our own schedule-esepcially during the holidays.

My ex-husband and I are both blessed with large families who live in the same town where we grew up and where we still live. Holidays have always been a big deal to both families.

Our daughter has been blessed with aunts, uncles, cousins, and grandparents that all love her SO much, and we are committed to nurturing those relationships for our daughter, especially during the holidays.

There is no reason that she should ever miss out on Thanksgivings and Christmases with both families, and we don't want her too.

Now, my holidays are a lot little more complicated than his since my parents are divorced, but for the most part he understands and works through this with me.

He knows that if I could just have ONE big Christmas, I would. But, unfortunately that is not the case.

So, I know you're probably asking, "How is this possible?"

Well, here are some tips that have worked well for us over the last three years.

1. Plan Early. 

It's the week of Thanksgiving and we're already planning Christmas parties around these parts. That's what happens when you have so many Christmases to go too, and only a few weeks to do it. I actually sat down yesterday and came up with a sample co-parenting calendar for how our December could possibly go.

In addition to the Christmas parties, I will be traveling the week before Christmas and we are in the process of implementing a slightly different permanent parenting plan, so these things have to be factored into how the month is most likely going to go.

After I got it all down on paper, I sent it to him. He will look over it, suggest changes or dates he would like to talk about and we will go from there.

For us, it's easier for us to visualize how our holidays are going to go if we can see it on paper and plan our Christmases with our families accordingly. I recommend this method of planning, because it does help to alleviate some of the stress.

2. Decide What You Can and Can't Live Without.

For instance, we both value Christmas morning with our daughter. This is something we both want her to experience at both of our homes, and so we alternate years so she can do that. This year, I get to wake up with her on Christmas morning, and then she will go with her dad and his family after 2:00 that day and she will spend Christmas night with him. Next year, we will switch. It works well for us, and it's really the only day we have set in stone. Everything else can be planned around our "normal" schedule.

Another example is that we also have very similar Thanksgiving traditions in our families. If it works out for her to do both, because one family is doing a luncheon and the other family is doing a dinner, she gets to do both. For us, it's important that she gets to have those memories and traditions with us whenever she can.

She isn't always going to be able to go to everything, and for us, that's okay.

Of course she is missed when she isn't there, but we have chosen to only do what we think is important for her and we realize that in doing so, we have to let some things go.

3. It's All About Compromise.

This goes hand in hand with number two. Remember when I said earlier that someone always loses? Well, guess what, sometimes that person is me.

For those of you who know me personally, you know that this is a tough pill for me to swallow.

As a chronic sufferer of "oldest child syndrome", I like to be right and I like to get my way. But, nothing puts you in your place quite like getting a divorce.

So, that's why you have to dedicate yourself to learning the art of compromise.

Do we always find our way to that middle ground? Hell, no. 

But, we try.

Every single day.

Yep. Even on the days when it feels like I'm the only one trying to find it, and I'm sure he has days where he feels exactly the same way.

I have had to learn to be okay with being the loser sometimes, so that my daughter can be the winner all the time.

Which brings me to my final point...

4. Focus On What's Important

I think for all of us as parents-divorced or still married-the most important thing is our children.

And as parents we know that we need to put our child's happiness and well-being above our own, and that is never more true than during the holidays.

That's why on our bad co-parenting days, I have to pour myself a glass of wine and give myself a stern talking too. I have to remind myself that it's not about me-it's about our daughter and I must always, always do what best for her.

Even when it requires me to bite my tongue or miss out sometimes.

My daughter did not chose this life.

We chose it for her.

And she should never feel like we are punishing her by putting her in the middle or dragging her through our bitterness-especially during the holidays.

If you are struggling with your ex this holiday season, please accept my gentle encouragement to step away from the situation, pray, and re-focus on what's really important: your kid(s).


I know I say this all the time, and I will continue to say it every time I write for this series: I AM NOT AN EXPERT!

I have really super awful co-parenting days just like everyone else. 

But, I refuse to let those days define me or what we are trying to accomplish as parents. 

Most days, I feel like we have come so far compared to where we used to be and for the most part I continue to see us moving forward, even on the days we take a few steps back. 

I think overall, any progress is progress.

And those moments when you and your ex can come to some sort of mutual understanding-especially in the area of co-parenting-needs to be celebrated. 

You may not have it all figured out, but as long as your trying daily to be the best parents you can be and putting the needs of your child first, then I'd say your doing pretty dang awesome in my book. 

And for the days you fall flat on your face, I give you the...

Bonus Tip!!

5. Keep Lots, and Lots of Wine On Hand

I feel like this one is pretty self explanatory.

If you're wondering, my favorite is Riverboat Red...the BIG bottle.

Happy Thanksgiving, ya'll!

Saturday, October 17, 2015

The Co-parenting Diaries: Dear Mamas

It's Saturday. The last day of the week.

The day we are supposed to breathe in and let out with a deep sigh of relief.

We survived. 

My Saturdays have been so full lately and the last six months have felt like a giant blur of the people I've seen and places I just had to be.

And if we are being honest, I have been starring at this empty Saturday on my calendar for a few months now.

I wanted to sleep in a little and make pancakes for my girl who unfortunately had to go to her dad's today.

I wanted to make it up to her.

The weeks upon weeks I've spent going and doing and being for others.

I wanted our few hours together this morning to be good hours together.

I wanted to remind her that she is-and always will be-my number one priority.

That even in the midst of the chaos that has been our life lately, she is still all that matters to this mama who has seemed far too busy these days.

But, that's not how this morning went at all.

Because, here's the truth, sweet mamas...

Sometimes the six year old decides to give you glimpses of her sixteen year old self way before you've even had your first cup of coffee.

Sometimes you lose your temper and say things you shouldn't.

Sometimes your threats feel empty and you struggle with how to follow through.

Sometimes there are still tears about leaving-about the transition from your house to his.

Sometimes there is begging and pleading to please, please, please stay with you, even though you've been doing this routine for almost four years.

Sometimes you have to stand your ground, even when it freaking sucks.

Sometimes you send them on their way knowing that the last conversation you had with them wasn't not a happy one.

Sometimes you cry, because all of this hurts-it still hurts.

Sometimes you find yourself still wondering if it ever gets any easier.

Sometimes beautifully empty Saturdays can leave you feeling incredibly alone and wishing for a do over.

Sometimes, sweet mamas, sometimes.

But, here's the other truth...

There is enough grace to cover bad Saturday mornings.

Grace that is as sweet as the cup of coffee you will finally get to have once your mouthy opinionated six year old makes her way out the door to her father. (Trust me, I have NO idea where she gets it.)

Grace that is big enough to fill the void of a quiet little apartment after all the noise of the hustle and bustle has left for the week.

Grace that takes your tear stained face and reminds you that you are enough and you will always be enough.

Grace that says there is no way that your child does not know how loved she truly is despite a life that did not go as planned.

Grace that will carry you straight through to next Wednesday when she finally comes back home.

Grace that gives us our second and third and fourth and seventy eighth chance to be better-not perfect-but better.

Just better.

So, this is for the hard days, single mamas.

The days when you feel alone and you would kill for a second pair of hands to hold you, to back you up, and to remind you that you are not completely ruining your child.

I am here to tell you, that you're not.

I promise. 

You want to know how I know?

Because His grace tells me so every single day.

So, chin up, sweet mamas.

Embrace your quiet Saturday.

And trust me, you are doing a great job-a really great job at the hardest, but most rewarding thing you will ever do.

Sure! It's a bad morning!

But a few bad mornings are so minor in the grand scheme of things.

I promise.

So, drink your coffee! And have that second cup!

Take a 30 minute shower, because you can!

Enjoy your day because it's still brand new!

And remember that His grace-His wonderful, merciful, amazing grace abounds even in the deepest of single parenting waters.

He's got this.

You've got this.

I promise. 

Friday, October 9, 2015

I Need You To Know

Many of you don't know me personally.

I write here in my quiet corner of the world telling my story and preaching my gospel of co-parenting, surviving divorce, and how I have successfully managed to not kill my ex-husband over the last three years.

These are my truths.

The pictures I know how to paint for you with my words and my advice.

But, this...this is entirely different.

Because this doesn't make any sense.

But, as I read through the notes of encouragement on her Go Fund Me page, I find myself completely overwhelmed by the outpouring of love and support from people who hardly know her, and I am gripped with this urgency to help you know her.

This woman who changed my life 28 years ago when my mother brought her home from the hospital one cold February day.

This woman who took me from only child to big sister in a matter of moments.

This woman who I have fought, cried, and laughed with for most of my life.

My sister.

I need you to know her.

I need you to understand the person who you are so graciously helping and praying over, because she is so much more than the sick heart with a rare genetic condition that rests inside her body.

I need you to see that the girl in the Facebook photos-the one everyone has been talking about for the last few weeks-is SO loved by SO many people.

But, especially by me.

The big sister who would move mountains for her to make her feel better and who would trade her places in a heartbeat.

A single, irregular heartbeat. 

So, if you'll humor me for a moment, I need to tell you about sister.

I need you to know that the day my mother brought her home from the hospital I ran around the house screaming.

Not out of excitement, but because I wanted my mother to take her back...out the wherever she had come from.

In my almost two year old mind, she was not welcome there that day-or any day.

And that wouldn't change for many years.

I need you to know that my worst fights have been with her.

Every single hair pulling, face slapping, and whisper screaming fight.

Our friends used to come over just for the sheer entertainment of watching us fight.

We were like a more girly version of Fight Club and we were the only two members.

True story.

I need you to know that if someone would have told my fifteen year old self that she would grow up to be one of my best friends, I would of laughed in their faces and then later had to eat my words.

Because she is more than one of my best friends.

She is my best friend.

She is the only one who has stood beside me through all of the highs and lows for the last almost 29 years.

She isn't afraid to tell me what I need to hear even if it isn't what I want to hear. She will put me in my place, and take me down a couple of notches, but she always has my back-even when I'm wrong.

That's true friendship.

That's once in a lifetime friendship.

I know this now.

I need you to know that she is the funniest and the most sarcastic person that I know.

She literally makes me laugh out loud every single day, and most of the time it's at myself.

I'm convinced that the eyeroll emoji was specifically invented for her and trust me, most days it isn't dramatic enough.

She is my comic relief in the middle of a world that wants me to take all of this way too seriously-and I love her for it.

I need you to know that she is the most amazing wife and mother.

No one loves her boys the way my sister loves her boys.

No one.

She put my mothering to shame every single day.

From homework to play dates to bouncing a collicky baby for 18 straight hours every single day-she is a superhero.

My superhero.


I need you to know that she's prays like our mother.

Our mother who truly believes in the power of prayer, and the power of loving people through prayer. If you've ever had the privilege of hearing our mother pray, then you know this to be true.

My sister is the same way.

She genuinely loves people through her prayers. Like really loves them.

And there isn't a day that goes by that I'm not thankful to have her in my prayer corner.

I need you to know that she teaches me daily about humility.

I can't even tell you the number of times she has said to me, "But, I never asked for this."

Not her illness, but the genuine outpouring of love and support she has received over the last few weeks.

She never asked for a Go Fund Me page or benefit softball tournament or little white bracelets with her name on them.

We are Phillips girls with Dickerson blood running through our veins.

Our family does not ask for help.

But, God had bigger plans for this mess and He is using it to teach all of us what it means to truly need help and how to accept it with a humble heart.

However, I think it has been more of a lesson for me than for her.

She has wept and prayed over the money that has been donated more than anyone else.

Her gratitude humbles me.

 Every single day.

I need you to know that even though her heart is sick, her spirit is stronger.

You know, I had someone tell me just last week that my sister needs to quit posting such "happy posts" on Facebook, because no one really believes she's sick.

But you know, that's the problem with an illness that is invisible to everyone on the outside-there will always be those who doubt you.

But, I would rather have people doubt her illness than doubt her faith.

Because it is her faith that allows her to give the glory to Him in the face of overwhelming odds.

It is her faith that will carry this work on to completion.

And if that's all the world ever sees, then so be it.


You know, I am aware that there is something so completely tragic about a beautiful, vibrant, 28 year old girl who has the heart of a 70 year old woman.

I have cried so many tears over this truth.

But, I am also aware that there are far worse things in this world, and that there are people with greater needs than ours.

However, in this life, we don't get to choose our valleys.

And while our valley may not seem as rocky or treacherous as the valleys others have been asked to walk through-it is still a valley.

A dark place that is full of uncertainty and void of light, but that is being used to shape us-to refine us into the people we have all been called to be.

He is teaching us lessons in this place.

He is softening our hearts rather than hardening them in this place.

And He is writing the most beautiful story in this place.

A story about faith and perseverance.

A story about trials by fire and peace that passes all understanding.

Yes, this story was ordained for my sister before she ever took her first breath-no matter how tragic it seems.

But, behind the story, there will always be a girl.

A girl who is a wife, mother, daughter, granddaughter, niece, cousin, friend, and sister.

A girl who is my sister.

And I will forever be grateful that I got to be apart of the story.

Her story.

Friday, September 4, 2015

An Open Letter To My 20's

"Growing up is losing some illusions, in order to acquire others."
~Virginia Woolf

I have been dreading my 30th birthday for over a year.

There is something that seems so grown up about being 30. 

Something that whispers about how I should have my life together by now and how I should totally have that retirement fund started. 

Something that mocks my credit card debt and my student loans (which I'm still accruing at 30).

Something that looks over the vast, beautiful landscape of the miles I've traveled through my 20's and says, "What the hell have you been doing for the last 10 years?!" 

Part of me wishes there was some magical potion you could drink on your 30th birthday that erases the past ten years of mistakes, returns your credit card balance to zero, and forgives all that student loan debt you'll probably be paying on until your 65.

But, the other part of me-the part of me that has been weathered and worn over the last ten years and who has watched herself grow up through each and every storm-wouldn't change a single thing about the last ten years for anything. 

Because over the last ten years:
  • I've watched myself go from spoiled child bride to an independent, driven woman who knows what it truly means to be grateful for every single penny you basically kill yourself to earn. 
  • I've given birth and realized just how much a tiny human can teach you about yourself, sleep deprivation, patience, and how little you care about the world's opinion when it comes to your crying baby in the middle of Wal-mart and the puke on your clothes.
  • I've fought tooth and nail for every single college credit I've earned. I've pretty much worked full-time and had to take care of another human being throughout my entire college career and I am here to tell you that I am better because of it. December 2016 cannot get here soon enough!
  • I found a career that I love and that is so completely different from anything I ever thought I wanted to do. I am living proof that it's completely okay if you don't know at 18 years old what you want to be when you grow up. 
  • I have known young love. The kind of love that is exciting and so full of promise, but is not strong enough to withstand the challenges that come with growing up.
  • I have known real heartbreak. The kind that still lingers years later, but makes you better, stronger, and wiser. 
  • I've learned that not all promises are based on truth and that all lies even the most beautiful ones always hurt. Always.  
  • I have come to know that for some things in this life you will never get an apology, and that part of growing up is learning to accept apologies your never going to get. 
  • I've struggled through my first three years of co-parenting and learned what it means to find common ground with someone you have so little in common with anymore, because it's just better that way. Trust me.  
  • I have found that honesty really is the best policy and I have come to prefer this no filter version of myself.
  • I have embraced the awkward, crazy, beautiful woman-girl who stares back at me from my mirror. I wouldn't trade the self-acceptance and self-confidence I now have for anything...not even another walk through my twenties. 
  • I have finally found a love that is good and true. A forever kind of love. A grace for this moment kind of love-the kind of love that makes me feel safe and accepted no matter what the days or years may bring. 
It's been a good run, and you know, I'm really proud of her-the woman I've become. 

I may not have it all together and my life may not appear to be as grown up as it's supposed to be, but that's okay. 

In my book, I still get another ten years. 

Because whether or not you can see it, I have done a lot of growing over the last ten years, and something tells me that my thirties are going to be the best years yet. 

I can't wait to watch my beautiful first grader grow into the brillant young woman I can already see her becoming. I can't wait to help her pick out her first dress for her first dance, and help her study for her driver's license. I can't wait to see what her hobbies will be in ten years or to help her start making decisions about college. 

I can't wait to marry the man of my dreams in 232 days. The man whose going to build dreams with me and make babies with me. The man whose going to love me through my best years that have been made possible by my crazy, reckless years. The man who has taught me more about God's grace and mercy than I ever knew was possible. The man who sees beauty and strength in me even when I can't see it myself. My forever love. My future. 

I can't wait for our life to start-me and him and her-all of us together. I can't wait to see how our family is going to grow and to experience all of the blessings I know are coming. I can't wait to weather storms with them, and cry with them. I can't wait to laugh with them, and experience the joy that will come from a family that is just ours. Me and him and her. 

I can't wait to see where my career takes me, and to see where each door He opens leads. 

I can't wait to finish school and finally get my degree.

I can't wait to finally write my book. THE book. The world should just start preparing now.

I can't wait. 

The next ten years is going to be amazing.

Just you wait and see. 

So, this post is for my twenties.

Thank you for all the lessons learned and all the memories made. 

Thank you for helping me find the woman I was always supposed to be. 

And thank you for bringing me to this place that isn't as hard as I thought it was going to be. 

Because today is less about what I'm going to miss about my twenties, and more about all the things I have to look forward to in my thirties. 

Tuesday, August 11, 2015

The Co-parenting Diaries: Sharing My Motherhood


Being a mother is learning about strengths you didn’t know you had, 
and dealing with fears you didn’t know existed. 
~Linda Wooten

There have been moments in our co-parenting journey that I have come to dread.

Moments that you know are coming, but they are still the moments when you are never fully braced for the impact.

You can coach yourself over and over up to these moments.

You can write pretty blog posts about how you should feel, but they never quite prepare you for how you are actually going to feel.

From the moment I gave her life 6 years and 4 months ago, she has been my calling.

The very purpose of my existence.

I never knew what it meant to love someone with every cell of my being until I held her for the very first time.

The power that comes with being the only person who can grow, nourish, and soothe a much smaller version of yourself is both terrifying and exhilarating.

It exhausts you and renews you all in the same breath.

It completes you in a way you that seems so incredibly impossible.

I have always considered it a privilege that God chose me above all the other woman who seem far more capable than me to be her mother.

I wear my title as her mother like a badge of honor.

When I hear her little voice calling out to me, I am reminded that my title has not only been my saving grace, but it is the one thing that got me through all of the sleepless nights, the entire year she cried any time we went anywhere, the sequestered weeks of potty training, the puking episodes in the car, and all the exhausted tears I shed in those first few years.

I wouldn't change that season of our lives for anything.

Those years were worth it.

They were so worth it. 

I am the one the who has put in countless hours.

The one who has invested my blood, sweat, and tears into her life.

And yet here we are.

Face to face with the moment I knew was coming, but I wished it never would.

A moment that was never quite part of the plan, but I think we can all agree that we are beyond Plan A and even Plan B at this point.

The moment when you ask me to let our daughter call her, "mom" and you-as usual-just expect me to accept it without a single ounce of fight.

It's funny how the promises you make in the beginning change when the feelings of the other party no longer become the priority. 

I mean, it's all okay, right?

We're all just flying by the seat of our pants and making up the rules as we go along, and that's why were here.

In this place.

This place where I am being asked to scoot over and not only share my place as her mother, but my title as well.

I smile and shake my head at you sitting there across the desk from me.

Here we are three years into this, and you still manage to surprise me.

And I'm trying my damnedest not to let this get the best of me.

I'm trying to remember the pretty words I've written and the prayers I've prayed for this woman.

I'm trying.

God, am I trying.

Because I want this to work and I want us to get this down.

I want us to be on the same page and I want everything to be fair.

I write about these things. I preach about these things. I coach others about these things.

I have spent enough time watching so many other people just like us get it wrong that I am determined with every ounce of my fragile being to get it right.

Because that's what's best for her.

This is how we are going to succeed at not messing her up more than we already have.

I know that blood doesn't necessarily make you a mother.

I know time, love, and investing in a child do.

I know so many people who have healthy, awesome relationships with their adoptive mother or stepmother.

I know this.

I know ALL of this.

So why does this hurt so much? 

Why does it feel like someone is stabbing me in the gut every single time she says it?

Why do I feel like some evil villian when I am the one who has been fighting for what's best for her for so long?

Oh yeah. 

It's because I'm human.

A real flesh and blood human with feelings.

 Feelings you forget about 100% of the time now.

Which is how you still manage to break my heart again and again, even though I keep trying to take that power away from you.

You will always know-better than anyone else-which knives cut the deepest. 

And so, I will figure out a way to be fine with this.

Not okay.

Just fine.

Because that's what's best.

And I will always be our daughter's number one champion for what's best.

Even if it's killing me. 

Friday, July 24, 2015

A New Chapter: The Beginning of My Happily Ever After

"With some, 
we're certain our hearts must have been acquainted,
long before we ever met them."
~Shakieb Orgunwall

To my oldest friends.

The ones who have been reading my story since the days of brand new motherhood.

The days when I wrote about things like family vacations, and recipes, and blog awards. 

The ones who have laughed and cried with me. 

The ones who have cheered for me and forgiven me.

The ones who have taken my brutal honesty in stride. 

I have been wanting to write this post for a few weeks now, but the words just would not come.

I cannot express this happiness I still do not believe is my own.

I keep wondering if I've somehow lost myself in a dream, but then he puts his arms around me and pulls me in for a furry kiss, and I am reminded that very real.

On June 13, 2015, the man of my dreams asked me to be his wife.

Was I surprised?

Not really.

We've been talking about it for a while and I knew it was coming.

But, I had no idea how he was planning to ask, and I am proud to say that the gorgeous ring on my finger was selected and designed by him and him alone.

Yeah. He'll try to tell you that he stinks at being romantic.

I, however, will tell you a completely different story.

Because, my dear friends, I can honestly say that I had no idea that love could ever be this sweet or this sincere, and he is teaching me every single day that it can be and it should be and it is.

It just is.

So, with this engagement, I feel a chapter of my life closing and a new one getting ready to begin, and I have a feeling that the girl I am in this new chapter is ten thousand times more ready for the journey ahead than the girl I was only a few chapters ago.

She has known young love and come to realize that it doesn't always grow up with you.

She has known passionate love and come to learn that more often than not, that kind of love is merely a disguise for ugly lies and even uglier truths.

And now that she is almost 30, she is finally getting to know true love-the kind of love that will withstand the test of time with a man who will only love you more as your crow's feet and laugh lines deepen, and as your body softens through the years with babies and a slowing metabolism that refuses to listen to your pleas.

The kind of love that chooses to love you right where you are-every single day-no exceptions.

The kind of love that doesn't care about the past, because the future is so much better.

The real kind. The good kind. The truest of true kind.

I don't think she ever believed it existed until now. 

I have never been full of so much purpose and drive as I am in this moment, and I know this is only a glimmer of all the wonderful things my Father has planned for me.

So, for my dear friends who have followed me from chapter to chapter, this is my thank you.

Thank you for walking this journey with me, and for secretly cheering for me every step of the way.

I want you to know that I've made it.

My story is finally on it's way to a happy ending-a beautiful ending.

And I can't wait to write every single word. 

Wednesday, July 15, 2015

The Short Season

"Childhood is a short season."
~Helen Hayes 

My earliest memories are from when I was 5 years old. 

I don't have any memories of carpet from when I started crawling or standing at the screen door in the evenings when I was two years old waiting patiently for my dad. 

No. Kindergarten is when my earliest concrete memories began and those are the memories that have stayed with me for almost 25 years. 

In kindergarten, I remember crying almost every. single. day. 

I remember the sticker chart where we were rewarded for memorizing our phone number, address, and birthday. 

I remember getting sent to the Principal's office after I kissed Matthew Crutchfield for the first time...on the back. 

I remember Jason Goodwin drooling on my desk at least once a week. I still have a phobia of spit to this day. 

I also remember how Mrs. Dulaney lead me to the Lord in the tiny down stairs office after my kindergarten teacher gave an extremely intimidating Bible study lesson on hell. 

I remember that the summer after kindergarten was when our favorite babysitter, Anna, started watching my sisters and I. 

I remember how much I adored her and how I would get up while it was still dark outside to sit on the couch and wait for her. 

I remember how awful my sisters and I were to her, but how she kept coming back year after year. 

I remember swimming in my Grandma's swimming pool and living in our swimming suits all summer long. I have no memories of real clothes or shoes or even actual baths. Just swim suits, bare feet, and shampooing our hair in the swimming pool each night. 

I remember the summer trips we always took with my mother, and how she'd brave our favorite theme park alone with only me, my sisters, and all of our cousins in tow. 

I remember the summer that the Disney movie Pocahontas came out, and how I spent the entire summer pretending that I was her by making forts in the woods and wearing the same green t-shirt and shorts almost every single day.  

I remember all of this and so much more. 

I had a great childhood free of hardship and heartache, and all of my memories are full of sweet innocence.

Unlike you, my darling daughter. 

No one asked me to make hard choices.

I didn't live in fear of disappointing one parent or the other.

I didn't have to watch my mom struggle with how to help me not to feel that way.

I didn't have to divide my time up between one parents house and the other. 

I didn't have to deal with different bedrooms, different toys, and different rules from one place to the next. 

I never had to tell my mom about how much easier my little life was when my parents were still together. 

I didn't cry when my dad picked me up on Sundays. 

I never felt like I was missing out on birthday parties or fun Sunday school activities. 

And unlike you, I got to go to my Grandma's house with the pool every single Sunday and I never knew what it was like to miss my cousins-my very best friends. 

And sometimes I wonder what childhood memories you will take with you? 

Will you remember all the hard things your daddy and I have asked you to go through? 

Will you remember all of your tears and fleeting moments at either place?

Will you remember the tremendous amount of pressure being put on you to grow up way too soon?

Will you?

Or will you also remember the way we loved you-fiercely-and how we fought to protect you the best we could? 

Will you remember the date nights with your daddy and the impromptu hotel stays we had together-just you and I? 

Will you remember how you loved to swim and how you had more pools to choose from than any of the other children you knew? 

Will you remember the first time you got flowers from a boy in your kindergarten class for your birthday?

Will you remember the Branson trips with Grandma Kelly and the summer you spent with your Noah?

Or will you remember the sleepovers with sweet Mya, because even I know you don't get to see her enough and the age gap just seems to be getting wider and wider with you two?

I wonder often about these things, my sweet girl. 

I want nothing more than for your childhood to be a happy one, and for the good memories to outweigh the bad.

Which is why I have fought so hard for your childhood and I will continue to fight for your childhood, because I know the world around you will make you grow up soon enough and all that will be left of your fleeting moment in childhood will be your memories.

So that's why I don't care that you still ask for my help sometimes, or that you still find your way to my bed when your scared.

Because I know that someday you won't ask me to read just one more book to you and that pajama parties and our "fancy" dinners where we dress up like princesses will be the last thing on your mind.

I know that eventually your American Girl dolls and all your beloved stuffed animals will take a back seat to your phone, your car, and your friends.

I know that there will come a day when you won't ask for girl nights with me and that I will someday spend my evenings without you while I wait for you to come home from dates and the movies with your friends.

I know all of this.

And I accept all of this.

But, for now, I want you to be 6 years old.

Just 6.

Whatever that looks like to you.

No matter how silly it may seem to them or how many times they may tell me that I need to let you grow up and that I need to treat you like a "big girl".

I hope you remember how I never listened.

Not one time.

Because when you're with me, I just let you be the child that some of them keep forgetting you still are.

And I know.

Trust me, I know. 

I know good and well that you will grow up far before you and I are ready for you too.

But I'm thankful that isn't today.

And I'm trusting it won't be tomorrow either. 
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