All posts by sarah

Cooperative and Non-Compliant

Sitting around a table.
I know my child can be infuriating.
“That sounds… Accurate.” I say.
“That has been my experience as well. I have found a few ways to navigate that type of situation.”
But then the word “defiant” comes up.
“Let me ask you a question… If you ask him to bring you a pencil from across the room, does he refuse? What if you ask him to sweep the floor? Put away a toy? Or is he refusing to do specific things?”

They agree that he is a very helpful child.
I agree that he is non-compliant.

What is the difference between compliance and cooperation?
What is the difference between defiance and non-compliance?

He is laughing and refusing to put away the balls in the gym.
“It is time to put away the balls” is not a thing he is responsive to.
“The custodian needs to wash the floors now. He has a schedule he needs to follow to keep the center clean.” has him hustling.

He is not getting ready to leave.
“It is time to go.” is not a thing he is responsive to.
“The store closes at 8PM and if we do not get there on time we will not be able to buy Wren’s toothpaste.” He moves quickly.

He is not helping take care of the house.
“We need to clean up.” is not a thing he is responsive to.
“When you look at this room, do you feel like you can find the things you want to find? Do you feel peaceful and calm or do you feel chaotic?” he agrees that things are harder to find, and that he does not feel calm. “Let’s play I spy. What is the first thing you see when you look at the floor? Crayons? Okay. Let’s go on a scavenger hunt for all of the crayons. Here’s a bin to put them in.” He begins cleaning.

After years of explaining everything that I required of him, I can now often say “I am really tired and can’t think of how to explain this to you right now. Can you please just do what I am asking you to do and I will explain later when I have more energy?” And he says “Okay!” in a chipper voice and pitches in.

He trusts that I am asking him to be cooperative, not compliant. That I have reasons for the things that I ask.

There are all different kinds of people in the world. We can focus on making them be the same. Or we can raise our non-compliant children to be cooperative and logical. At eleven I am able to ask him to explain why he thinks a person is asking him to do something. And I’m able to ask him to troubleshoot his ideas. I’m able to ask him to come up with more explanations. Can he come up with a necessary and positive explanation for what he is being asked to do?

Sometimes he’s able to come up with more reasons than I am. Some good, some bad. Sometimes he’s able to come up with better solutions than I am.

Children who are labeled defiant are not always defiant adults.

Childhood traits mature. Children turn into adults.

Adults who are able to troubleshoot. To look at huge complicated situations and break them apart to see how things are working or failing. Adults who are able to discuss things with other people who cannot immediately share the same point of view. To re-orient themselves to a person who sees things in drastically different ways. To understand why and how they look at things differently.

I was a defiant child. I’d stomp my foot and become obstinate.

I just needed to grow.

Not all the logic that is obvious to an adult is obvious to a two year old.
But five year olds can understand a lot more than a two year old.
And eight year olds can understand even more.
An eleven year old has a lot more experience than an eight year old.

He’s eleven. He’s a bright kid. But some parts of life we just need to experience. Some parts of our brain just need to mature and grow.

Faith in the goodness of his heart and the power of example is what keeps me calm.

He needs time. And experience.

Fairness, Equality, and the Balance of Parenting Children of Different Age Groups

We’ve been having a lot of different conversations lately about what is fair, what is equal and when equal is not fair. About levels of need, ability, maturity and responsibility. And about how a life where everyone participates is a good life. And a life where a few people participate is still better than a life where everyone points at the other kids and says “YOU MUST GO FIRST.”

For example…

I agree to wash all the dishes. But. I have a few requirements.

1- The dishes must be rinsed (swished not pre-washed).
2- The dishes must be sorted by type into the three bins we have. Plates on the bottom. Bowls in the middle. Utensils in the caddy. Glasses on top. Pots and pans in the sink.
3- Everyone needs to help me dry them and put them away.

I asked my kids “Is this equal?” Are we all doing an equal part of the work? Is Wren doing the same amount of work as I am? Is this fair? Is this fair to you, Isaac (11)? Alexander (8), Keenie (6)? What about me? Is it fair to me?

No. It’s not fair to me. It’s an agreement, though. I agree. I am willing. I am accepting more responsibility because I work quickly, know how to conserve water (we have a well and a septic system), and it is a job that I enjoy doing.

But. My agreement to wash all of the dishes has conditions. If I have to wash dishes with crusted on mashed potato, if I have to wash disorganized dishes, or if I have to pause to let a rack of dishes dry at the end… It takes up too much of my life. I never agreed to do that. I always rinse my dishes out because I am the one who washes them. I always dry and put away the dishes I wash because I need the space to put more dishes. I always organize the dishes into the different bins because I know it is easiest to wash the plates first. Then the glasses. Then the bowls. Then the other larger things that I can balance over the smaller things. I don’t wash a small load of dishes. I wash a LOT of dishes. And when I am done the drying area is a spectacular mountain that doesn’t shift or slide or hold water that needs to drain in order for a dish to dry.

If I say “Okay, everyone needs to help now!” and the only one who helps is Wren (2)… Is that fair? Do I have all of the help that I need to accomplish this task that the whole family appreciates the benefits of? What if only Isaac helps? Is it fair to Isaac? Is it fair to me? Is it fair to Alexander and Keenie?

If one person helps, we are both shouldering responsibility and can take pride in our work. We get to do more as a family than if I am the only one doing the work.

Is it more important to us that no one who works gets to participate in fun stuff? (punitive) or is it more important to us that we get to participate in fun stuff after we take care of the responsibilities of the house?

Are Alexander and Keenie more likely to join me and clean or are they more likely to join Isaac and play if Isaac is playing? What about if Isaac and Alexander both choose to help me? Is Keenie more likely to start helping?

Are we responsible for our siblings, or are we responsible for ourselves?

Will I have more time and energy to say “yes” to changes and requests if I am washing a mountain of dishes, or if I have a mountain of helpers?

I do not feel it is fair to ask my children to participate equally in life. They are still learning. I have grace to give there. Is it fair for them to not participate at all, though?

What agreements can we make with each other to make this all work? How can we focus more on what is fair participation and less on what we “want” to do? Because honestly I DO prefer to read a book and run around outside. I like to climb the mulberry tree and shake its branches far more than I like to sweep the floor.

I never agreed to be She Who Takes Care of All The Things. Everyone wants things that require our life together to be functional. So we’re troubleshooting that now. And will likely troubleshoot it again in the future. There doesn’t have to be a single agreement that we follow blindly to the end of time. Things change as the seasons do.

What I am NOT okay with is what my kids have been taught. That while mommy cleans they are entertained. No. Nope. No way. Not even a little bit. That idea is cancelled.

Editing My Inner Narrative

Often it isn’t the world outside of my head that causes me the most grief.
Often it is the world inside my head.
I’m learning to edit my inner narrative.
The constant soundtrack that plays across my days and that often acts to shape my reactions rather than laying a foundation for mindful response.

Where did my soundtrack come from?

It feels like instinct. Some of it is, certainly. But often the soundtrack itself is a repetition of things that I heard other people say to me when I was a child. Things that other people have said about children before I even had children of my own. Things that people say about their kids NOW. Funny memes that feel like commiseration but that replay in moments where I need something more calm and maybe a little less relatable.

Yes. I am tired. And Yes. My child is not sleeping currently because of some growth spurt or developmental leap (or both) that makes her wake up trying to latch onto my nose a million times a night.

The words I choose to use across the day to describe my tiredness to myself.. Matter.
The words I choose to use to describe my tiredness to others.. Matter.

Sometimes venting feels like a release.
Sometimes venting is more like fanning a fire.

Wren did not sleep last night.
I am tired.
Wren is having a hard time sleeping because she is growing.
She needs more support at night now. More help sleeping.
Wren is having a hard time during the day, too. Because she is tired, too.
She does not want to be put down.
I need to make sure that I am getting food in my belly.
I need to make sure that I am taking my vitamins.
I need to make sure that I have the caffeine that helps me during the day.
And I need to make sure that I do not have any coffee after 4PM because if I do, I will not get the sleep that I need and that I am able to get.

It is accurate.
And it doesn’t fuel my anger and frustration. (Which sometimes DO need an outlet before they burst.)

Sometimes I need to vent.
Sometimes I need to find my calm.

Sometimes I can listen to others vent and find humor in shared frustration.
Other times I absorb too much of what I read and hear.

I don’t believe in ignoring feelings or repressing them. They find a way out.
I am getting better at lovingly acknowledging my own frustrations and helping myself make peace with them as a place we are all passing through.


Keenie is standing on a bathmat in the dining room pretending the floor is lava. She is gesticulating wildly at… something… in the classroom and demanding that Wren bring it to her.

“Keenie, what do you want Wren to bring to you?” I ask.
“Keenie. Wren is two years old. She is a baby. I don’t think she knows what you want her to get for you.”
“BUT I AM POINTING AT IT!” she says. jabbing her finger in the air in the direction of… The middle of the room somewhere.

Keenie will be six next Friday.
Wren just turned two.

“Keenie… Can you see what I am pointing at?” I ask. I focus really hard and point as best as I can to a chair. From where I am crouched it is a straight line from my eyes to my fingertip to the chair. From where Keenie is standing I appear to be pointing to a water bottle.

“When you point you have to use words to tell the person what you are pointing at.” I say.

She starts to describe yellow paper.

“Keenie. Does Wren know her colors yet?” I ask.

Wren, being a toddler, is dancing around grabbing everything she can see that looks like paper. She doesn’t seem at all bothered that her sister is becoming increasingly pissed off.

“Oh! Right! Wren thinks your robe is yellow! But it’s blue.” Keenie says, her tension melting a bit.

I move over to be behind her and I point at the chair again. Lining my finger tip up with her eye instead of mine.

“Is it the chair?” she asks.

“Yes!” I say. “See, I had to move to where you were and point that way. When you are pointing from where you are standing, I see something completely different. Just like you saw the water bottle before when I was pointing at the chair.

Keenie will be six. She hasn’t learned about all the different perspectives that we see things from yet. When she points her eyes and mind are fixated on the thing she sees, and it is OBVIOUS. So obvious that it is frustrating that everyone around her can’t see it as clearly as she can.

This is something adults struggle with, as well.

How Moving My Garbage Can Helped Me Become More Calm

When we first moved here the garbage can was in the perfect location. In a cranny between two sections of the counter. I keep my cutting board on one side and a bowl of fruit on the other. It lived there for months.

Last month I moved it across the kitchen.

The new location is less convenient. It’s near the passage from the kitchen to the dining room and is away from all of of counters.

But it is a change that has helped me become more calm.

Often we feel as if we are stuck in unchangeable patterns. We move through reacting instead of mindfully responding the way we want to. The way we practice inside our heads over and over. The way our parenting idols seem to respond. A thing happens. Before we know it we are defaulting to the things that we want so much to change.

The full day after I moved my garbage can I kept walking over to its old spot. Spinning around and going to where it had moved. Habit. Pattern.

It told me I was on autopilot.

It gave me a chance to slow down and remind myself of the things that I wanted to change. To do dozens of mini resets across the situations in which I was becoming grumpy.

While making dinner.
While cleaning up.
While getting ready to wind down at the end of the day.

I gave myself a thing to recite.

“Even changing a simple thing is hard and takes time.
I have moved my garbage can. It will take time to remember.
I want to also move my mind and heart back to a better place.
That will take time to remember.
I am frustrated.
I will respond, I will not react.”

Today I was whirling through my kitchen in the middle of washing dishes. Making lunch. I’ve adapted to the new location of my garbage can.

And when my six and seven year olds came running into the kitchen to resolve a fight, I found that I’ve also reoriented myself to where I want my heart and mind to be.

I am responding again.
Not reacting.

Grocery Store Pep Talk

I pull in to a spot next to the cart return. Put the van in park. Sit for a moment to take a deep breath. Then I turn the keys in the ignition. I feel the resistance of the keys. I have to hit that sweet spot of pushing slightly while I turn them. I used to struggle with that as a new driver, it always felt like I’d turn too hard and snap something off. Now it feels normal like breathing. I feel the van go still and quiet beneath me. I breathe out and hold my breath that way for a moment. Then I breathe in and it feels like relief.

Hey you.
Yeah you.
I’m talking to you, self.
This here’s a pep talk.
You’re about to walk into a grocery store with four kids.
You’re not going to get an A+. You’re not gonna ace the quiz. You’re not going to be that unnoticeable girl in the hallways that never gets in trouble and that speed-walks between classes. You’re not going to unlock your locker on that first try.

You’re gonna be more like that kid that drops her books. That stands in front of the combination lock spinning it the wrong way half a dozen times and missing the sweet spot between “unlocked” and “try again”. Over and over. You’re going to bump into the kid that is always in a bad mood. And he may yell at you.


This isn’t school anymore.
And you’re not the kid.
You’re the full grown adult.
And you’ve got four little people in tow.

Look at them, self.
They’re HAPPY.
And they’re gonna act like happy kids.

Remember that time that one of them dropped a container of blueberries in the frozen foods section and blueberries went everywhere? That may happen. Or the time one of them cut in front of four people pushing shopping carts like he was dodging the defense to slam dunk a basketball? And he hugged a watermelon because he was SO excited to see it? That may happen.

And you’re gonna do what a grownup freaking does.

You’re gonna keep your calm. You’re gonna remind them of the rules. You’re gonna make hand-holding chains and you’re gonna play peekaboo with the toddler while you recite your grocery list from memory (The five year old wanted to hold it and it blew away in a gust of wind while you were reminding everyone that we don’t run after things in parking lots.) You’re gonna MAKE IT INTO A RHYME so that your kids will repeat it too. And you’re probably going to butcher it. Because no one really rhymes that well on the fly. Unless they’re famous for freestyle or really good at improv. You? You’re going to be distracted by runaway children that want to shake bags of tortilla chips victoriously in the air while you cringe and wonder how many will survive.

People will look. That’s what people do. They look at things that stand out. And I don’t think there’s really any way to not stand out when you have gleeful happy creatures with you.

Your cheeks may turn bright red. Maybe the two year old will start talking loudly about poop in her pants. (Which she may or may not have.) Maybe the five year old will randomly repeat anatomy facts, forgetting for a moment that such things are private conversations. Maybe your eleven year old will try to be helpful by playing with the toddler and he’ll forget that tag is not a grocery store game. Maybe your seven year old will be so excited to see someone with a shirt that he loves that he’ll forget that we don’t hug perfect strangers just because we love their clothes.

Some people may be like the grumpy grouches that believe children must be whipped into shape. And you’re going to feel deeply ashamed. Because being scolded always makes people feel that way. They’re going to believe that you should spank some sense into the two year old who has feelings about having to say goodbye to the giant bag of chocolate candies. And the sippy cup that she already has at home.

Some people, though. Some people are gonna look at you and see a mama who’s being patient. Who is repeating the rules calmly. And they’ll see kids that are trying hard to follow them. Not because their mama’s mad. But because they want so hard to do the right thing and remember how things are done. Some people are going to notice that your toddler wants to be held while you push the cart. And instead of being grumpy about your decreased ability to steer the stupid thing, they’ll smile at your kids and wait for you to do your thing.

You’ve gotta make a choice right now, self. Are you going to be one of the mean people that expect children to take up the amount of space allotted to a single adult shopper?

Or are you going to be the you that you try so hard to be all the time? The you that believes your kids are trying hard. And that learning does not usually look like doing things perfect on the first try?

Make that choice, self. And walk in with your head held high and your wits about you.

And only.. ONLY make eye contact with the people that are smiling.

That’s how you’re gonna get through this, self. Okay? And… Go.

Not Everyone is Nice, Toughening Up a Child

Not everyone will be nice to them, you know. Not everyone will treat kids kindly. Toughen them up!

No thank you.

Today my five year old daughter came to me and said matter-of-factly “I do not think he is a nice man.” “Why do you think that?” I asked. “He told me and Isaac and Alexander to go away.” she answered. “Did he ask nicely?” I ask. “Nope.” she said. She is not bothered. Just matter of fact. “He said to go away. We were watching him.” “He is here to do a job.” I say. “Not everyone likes being watched while they work.” “Oh.” she says. “Not everyone knows how to ask kids things nicely. They think kids only listen if they use a firm voice. You know, the voice I use to ask our dog to get away from the garbage when he doesn’t listen to please?” “Oh!” she says. (I have taken to getting down to my dog’s eye level when he is sniffing at the garbage can, and patiently asking him to go to his bed. At the end of it when he is staring into my eyes with doggie love and enjoying the attention I say firmly “Bed. Now.” and he goes. Good boy.) “Kids are not dogs, though. Kids understand words, right?” Silly question.

She is five. She is not bothered by people being rude to her. She recognizes it as not okay. But she also recognizes it as being more about them than about her. This is a skill that I still have not fully mastered at thirty-seven.

I haven’t toughened her up. But somehow she has become tough. Tough, like resilient. Tough, like compassionate. Not tough in the way that accepts that this is how things are. Tough in a way that says the world could be much better than it is. Tough in a way that tries to be better.

Oh. Yes. Sometimes people are mean. Sometimes they make bad guesses. Or don’t string together words in the right ways. Sometimes people say things that are not okay. Sometimes people do things that are not okay. People are bad guessers. And not everyone has someone to teach them the things that they are supposed to learn as children.

Toughening up a child is about teaching them to reject poor treatment, not accept poor treatment.

If someone is not treating you well, walk away. Seek help. If they won’t let you walk away, fight. Be loud. Be noisy. Raise hell.

It’s a hard thing to explain to a child. Why adults are polite to other adults but not so much to children. We’re supposed to be teaching children how to be, not treating them as lesser beings until they guess how to be polite to us.

Word-Like Things and Being Open to Communication. 

Wren points at a water bottle.  

Usually she wants to drink. 

I pick it up and open it. She looks inside. Bobs in excitement.  Then points to one of the other water bottles. She babbles with word-like things. 

Being deaf makes me good with word-like things. I am accustomed to trying to arrange what little I can hear with what little I can see on the lips, and making sense of everything as it filters through context. 

One path would see me annoyed. Drink. Here. I opened this for you. Why do you want another one? 

This path, though. I hear a hiss in her word-like things. A “sh” like lispy slurry to her babble. 

“This?” I say. I point. 

“Da!” She says, enthustically in Russian. 

I open that bottle. “Empty.” I say. There is no water in it. She says “dee” or “tee” or something completely different.  “Empty. ” I repeat. 

She points to another bottle. We talk about empty, about full, about red and blue and black and purple. About this and that.  (And yes, we have a LOT of water bottles. We are a very thirsty family of six.)

She isn’t thirsty. She is communicating. She is learning to make and organize sounds. She is practicing communication.

Happy Mothers Day!

Yesterday it was pouring. 

Today the sun is shining. 
I’m snuggled under a mountain of blankets while a toddler in a red knit sweater climbs all over me and kneads my mama-belly with her scritchy scratchy hands that are ungentle in a very toddler kind of way. Not unkind. Just lost in the sensation and entirely unaware of any unpleasantless experienced by the person on the receiving end. 
Wren is thirteen months, fourteen days. Thirteen and a half months. Close enough to fourteen months, apparently, for her to plow headfirst into the restless sleeplessness that that month has always marked for me. Nursh nursh nursh climb climb crawl. All. Night. Long. 
I handed her to Alex as soon as it seemed close enough to morning to be more fair and less unkind. And he took her from me for as long as one can take a toddler going through a growth spurt. 
He returned her with an apologetic accompaniment of coffee, which I sipped as she warmed her freezing cold hands against my skin. Toddler hands are somehow always a totally different temperature from the rest of their sweaty little bodies. 
Motherhood is a practice in tolerating extremes that somehow average out over time and become nostalgic memories. At least this is what I have come to believe. 
My ten year old shows up with one of the orange partitioned kids plates. He has made me eggs. With a chocolate chip smiley face on them, and a side of saltines. He’s still experimenting with flavor combinations. Some are interesting. Some are… experimental. Chocolate on eggs is not a flavor combo I would have ever otherwise thought to try. 
The toddler steals my saltines, turns them into bed crumbs for me. 
Yesterday it rained. (And watered my garden)

Today it is sunny. (And feels beautiful.)
Today it is the sweet overbearing well intentioned lovely kind of mother’s day that children create on their own. 
Keenie will gift me dandelions and other wildflowers picked without stems. 
Alexander will crush me with the wiggling hugs of an almost seven year old boy.
Wren will shower me with crumbs.  
And I will look back on the remarkable love and delight my own mother showed us all over the years as we appreciated her in the way that only children can appreciate mothers. 
Happy Mother’s Day, Mumsy. We shall visit you soon so you can have flashbacks to when the lot of us were small wiggly people intent on populating your head with… remarkable stories. <3

Mother, Martyr

I’m barefoot and braless in the kitchen. Hair a mess, teeth unbrushed, my glasses smudged with egg. A thirteen month old is balanced on my hip while I dip pieces of bread into eggs and drop them on a sizzling frying pan to make golden brown french toast.

I go through the motions of retrieving a towel, a bowl. Filling it with water and some spoons. I lower Wren onto the towel and try to load the dishwasher. Wren is fussing at my legs, pulling on my jeans while standing on her tiptoes. I pull her up onto my hip and she reaches for the running water of the sink.

I adjust the water so it isn’t quite so scalding, dip my hand into it to make sure it’s okay for her, then let her hold her little hands under the stream.

Mother, martyr? We’re told over and over to not lose ourselves to motherhood. To not give in to the demands our children make. To not become martyrs. All these different lines are suggested, and everyone has an idea for where they should be drawn.

I’ve been thinking a lot the idea of motherhood being martyrdom lately. About all the things you MUST do to avoid losing yourself, your relationship, and the respect of those around you. I’ve been thinking a lot about feminism and choice.

“Am I doing this of my own free will?”

I catch myself asking that question and erupt into laughter. Wren startles, looks at me, pats my face with dripping hands. Her face is giddy as my laughter rocks both of our bodies. Soon she is laughing, too.

I kiss her nose. Yes. Yes, I am doing this of my own free will.

Sometimes I’m not, though.

Sometimes the “should” and “must” and “YOU HAVE TO” and “BAD MOTHER” and all those things sneak in and start robbing me of my choice. My mind fills up with all the words of other people and my schedule fills up with all the things that everyone thinks I should be doing. Sometimes I prickle at the touch of the child who hugs my legs or who crawls into my bed before the sunrise.

Sometimes when I am packing lunch for my partner I am focused on what he might expect of me, rather than the fact that it has been a mutual choice of ours. And that I can fail if I need to fail. I can shove in a peanut butter and jelly sandwich and he can eat it or pack his own damned lunch.

That isn’t my reaction to my children, though. Or to my partner. I love the hugs. I love the snuggles. I enjoy packing lunches and helping my not-so-little family save toward not-so-little dreams.

Do I really hate this, or do I hate that it’s a thing added to a list of things that I have to do in order to earn an A+ in parenting? To get my 4.0 GPA in life? To be On Top of Things and Have The Perfect Balance?

I give rides to friends who need them. There are extra seats in my messy van. I sweep books off to the side. Introduce my friends to the heap of crumbs. I should have the van sparkling clean and I should hand them a cup of freshly brewed organic something and be a good hostess while I drive them to whatever place I am driving them to. Instead I’m frazzled and check again to make sure no one is allergic to peanuts. Because some portion of the crumbs are from peanut butter crackers that my children used as confetti at some point in the past.

I’ve given myself permission to fail. To be imperfect. Not the hidden sort of imperfect, either. I’m not ashamed. Although I do need to make a date with my father in law’s shop vac soon for my own sanity if not the sanity of those that get rides in my poor crumbly Minerva the Minivan.

Most days I have bonus kids here. Neighbor kids. Friends kids. And then, in the spaces where I spend parts of my week? Wren spent time sitting on the lap of a friend exploring her necklaces. Bigger kids carry Wren around and help her join their games. Friends help my kids put their shoes back on, and tie their laces.

I’m not a martyr.
I’m not alone.
I’m not perfect.
I refuse to make that a goal.
I refuse to hold anyone else to that standard.

That’s where I find happiness in life. By working hard at all of the things, and by understanding that they are not going to be perfect. But that I will get better at all of them as time passes. I will have more space for things as my children grow. I will grow back into myself.

Where I’m at today? It’s fine. I choose to be here. And choice is a delicious and wonderful thing.

It keeps me from becoming one of those people who throws up their hands and declares the world incompetent. It keeps me from steeping in my own bitterness.

I will not allow the pace of life to make me resent the people who are most important to me. If something needs changing, I will find a way to change it. If something is temporary I will find a way through it. If something is worded in a way that makes me feel taken for granted I will ask that other words be used. Or that more help is offered.

Giving grace makes it easier to receive grace.
Giving help makes it easier to accept help.
Accepting help makes it easier to know how to give help.
Giving love makes it easier to feel love.

Am I okay with this?
If I’m not okay with this, I can say no.
And if I am? I can say yes.
And be really truly okay with it.
Can I offer help?
If I can’t, I don’t.
And if I can, I do.
And really truly mean it.

I am not, and will not be a martyr. There’s no need.
No one’s grading us at life.
And if they are?
They don’t understand what life truly is.