Don’t get me wrong! I don’t want another baby. My kids are great, but I love where we all are right now. You know, if it’s not broke… Anyway, I should start by telling you I might just be wired to appreciate differences. As a kid, I had an uncle who was a quadriplegic due to a diving accident. Although his mind was “with-it,” he definitely looked different with his bulky wheelchair, water canteen tucked by his side and Tide bottle by his leg (yes, for pee). I loved and lived to ride on the back of his wheelchair, help him get whatever he couldn’t reach, fill his water canteen, really anything he needed. Love overcame our differences.

After high school, I studies special education and worked with multiple and severely handicapped elementary children. I later moved on to work with less medically involved, more learning disabled children at the middle school level. Many of these “special” kids were often defined by their differences. This is not a positive feeling for adults, never mind kids. My experience helping my uncle in a non-handicapped world never left me. I found my career as an educator more about finding strengths on which to build rather than highlighting what makes us different.

My career morphed into work-from-home mom after my sixth child was born and my second husband built our beautiful new home in the woods. Now, between substitute teaching for two local schools, I work to educate American families about a cultural exchange and live-in child care program which is dedicated to appreciating cultural and social differences on a global scale. I organize social and cultural events for young people from all over the world who have come to live with host families near me. Supporting these dynamic families, au pairs and my students allows me to meet many people from different walks of life, including their kids.

So how do I appreciate every age and stage? It might help that I have had six kids. I mean, practice does make perfect, or at least improvement. Actually, time goes by fast and they never stay in one stage for very long. Having six of them divides my time, so I never have too much time to dedicate to worry. I encourage each of them to do everything they can for themselves and to take every opportunity life throws them. I never take myself or them too seriously. That’s not to say we have no rules, but just looking at my six kids is living proof that each of us is different. No one solution works for everybody. Life is experience and I have had forty-five years to learn, some. Time is a great teacher. Let them be themselves, be yourself and enjoy the ride!

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