for my kids.

There are no experts when it pertains to parenting, but there are many who have been there, done that, and who certainly have plenty to say about it.

Being parents is the most fun my husband and I have ever had, but it’s also challenging. Oddly enough, it’s not been challenging in the way ‘everyone’ says it should be challenging. Our kids slept through the night right away – yes, all four of them – so we were never sleep-deprived and exhausted. We didn’t have colicky babies who cried all the time. We loved the newborn stage, we were not as fond of the toddlers who move around on their own but don’t actually communicate with you stage. We didn’t struggle to raise twins – it was nowhere near as difficult as everyone said it would be. Of course, we also waited until we were married a few years to have kids, we waited until we were good and ready, and we had a strong, solid marriage and work well as a team. I never felt overwhelmed as a new mom or a mom in general because my husband has never viewed parenting as ‘babysitting’ or ‘watching’ or ‘helping’ in any capacity. He views it as parenting – so he does what needs to be done without asking or needing instruction or without assuming anything is a mom’s job (except that having all the information in his brain at one time thing – he knows damn well that’s something I do so he doesn’t bother with remembering all dental dates, doctor appointments, performances, parent conferences, etc. He just looks at the calendar and asks what I need from him…and then calls me 17 times while he’s doing it to double-check this and that and everything in between).

The point I’m making is that life is only as difficult as you make it – and people have a disheartening tendency to make their lives difficult. Being a parent is difficult – it’s difficult to hurt for your kids, to worry for your kids, to stress all the time about whether you are doing a good job or screwing it up fantastically. I never sleep well when my kids aren’t all under the same roof. I never feel 100% comfortable when they are not with me. I never feel completely at ease unless we are all together. Being a parent has its challenges, but it is certainly nowhere near as difficult as the world will have you think.

With that said, there are a few things I’ve learned in life I want all four of my kids to know. They are life lessons perhaps I wish I’d known when I was younger – and they are the basic concepts that will always make their lives easier, simpler, and far happier.

No is a full sentence

You don’t owe anyone an explanation if your answer is no. Perhaps a, “No, thank you,” is more acceptable – but you’ll know if there ever comes a moment when No is all you need to say. You don’t have to say yes to anything. If it makes you uncomfortable, if it makes you nervous, if it’s not your style, if you simply are not interested…just say no.

We will never make you worry

Mommy and daddy will never, ever, ever make you worry. If you feel worried about us or about something, come to us right away and tell us. If you feel scared or uncomfortable or nervous, tell us. If it is within our power to change that or ease your fears, understand that we will do anything and everything to ease your fears. We will never, ever knowingly hurt you, worry you, or cause you any pain. Our job is to protect you, to love you, and to be your safe place, and nothing is more important. If you need us, we are always here. There is no call we won’t take, no question we won’t answer, and no conversation we won’t have.

Take nothing personally

As much as no one likes to hear this, it’s really not about you. The behavior of others is not worth taking personally because as much as they might say it is about you, it is about them. How they’re feeling, what they are going through, and how they feel on the inside. Unfortunately, not everyone has a happy, loving home with parents who not only love one another but also like and respect one another, who love their kids, who put their kids first, and who are teaching them how to properly handle what life throws their way. At the end of the day, the behavior of those around you always reflects their own feelings – and it honestly has nothing to do with you. Typically, those who are not treating you fairly are doing so because they are unhappy, envious, miserable, sad, stressed, worried, etc. It’s not you. It’s them.

How it feels is better than how it looks

One of the most important lessons in life that so many people forget – how something feels is far superior to how it looks on the outside. This is not to say that you cannot care about how things look on the outside – there is nothing wrong with having a life that is both beautiful on the outside and the inside. However, if you find yourself doing things only because it looks good despite not feeling good, you’re doing it all wrong. You will never live a happy, fulfilled life if you are too busy creating one that looks good more than it feels good. Happiness is homemade, kiddos. You have to be happy to be happy, you know? No one cares as much about your own life as you do – sorry, but it’s true. People are far too worried about their own lives to pay that much attention to the lives of others, and those who do seem more focused on your life than their own are only doing so because they are trying hard not to focus on their own life – and that’s exactly where their focus needs to be. Moral of the story – how life feels is so much more important.

Own your mistakes from the start

Mistakes are not bad things. They’re teaching tools…educators. No one has ever been perfect, and no one will ever be perfect. Everyone – and I do mean every single person on this planet – makes mistakes. The difference falls in the people who own their mistakes and the people who prefer to cast the blame onto others. When you make a mistake, apologize if it is necessary, and then do not do it again. Learn from your mistake. Own it. Don’t try to place blame. Just say, “I messed up. I am sorry, and I will learn from my mistakes,” and then go out and actually LEARN FROM YOUR MISTAKES. You will always find that people respect you far more when you own it rather than place blame, lie, or try to cover it up.

The people who love you, love you unconditionally

And I do mean unconditionally. Those who love you truly and honestly will not judge you. They will not be upset if your thinking differs from their own. They always respect you, your choices, and your life. They are there for you on your best days, your worst days, and all the days in between, and they will never make you feel unimportant, as if you don’t matter, or as if you are not good enough. If you are ever afraid of being honest with someone or of someone being upset with you when you turn down an invitation or say no to something, ask yourself why. If someone makes you feel as if you have to please them rather than please yourself, their love is conditional and they are not your people. Oh, and not everyone will be your people. That’s a good thing. You don’t want everyone to be your people. You want quality people…not quantity people.

Real love doesn’t hurt

When you find someone to love – and the Good Lord knows that you will find the most amazing person to love because your daddy taught you all so much about what to look for in a future husband (and what to be like as a future husband) – know that you will not worry, you will not hurt and you will not worry that there might come a day when they won’t want to be part of your life anymore. When love is real, you know it because you cannot imagine your life without that person and they never give you any reason to imagine life without them. Real love is not scary, hurtful, or worrisome.

Think before you speak

Few things in life are more important than this. Gossip is idle and unattractive – even though I don’t know a single person who hasn’t engaged in it. Unless you are comfortable with the words you speak being repeated, don’t say them aloud. It’s a simple, honest truth.

Everyone has an opinion, but few are worthwhile

Everyone has one, and everyone is entitled to theirs. However, please remember that while everyone is happy to share their opinion, you are not required to take it. Never take advice from someone doing less than you. Never take advice from someone you wouldn’t ask for advice from. If you cannot learn something worthwhile from someone, don’t worry about their opinions – those are typically the people who don’t even take their own advice.

There’s no room for envy

If ever you find yourself envious of someone else, it’s time to sit down and ask yourself tough questions. Why am I envious? What is it about this person that I envy? What is it about my own life that’s leaving me in a place I am not so secure with myself and what I’m going that I have room to envy? The simple truth is this – envy happens when you are not where you want to be in life. It’s a natural feeling, and it means it’s time to make some changes. If ever you feel envious, don’t let to turn to jealousy…let it motivate you. Motivation is a good thing. Figure out what it is you’re missing or you want, and then allow it to motivate you to reach bigger goals. There is no room for envy in life because there is room for everyone to have everything they want.

Seek friendships with depth

In the words of a very sweet friend who has so much depth and is such an amazing soul – there’s nothing wrong with people who don’t have much depth. They’re always up for a good time and you always have a good time with them despite the fact they have nothing meaningful to offer or say. But, it’s my advice that while you have friends like that in your life, it’s the people who have depth you should keep closest. Those are the best kinds of friendships and those are the best kinds of people. Those are your people.

You are perfectly imperfect

No one is perfect, but you, my sweet loves, are all so perfectly imperfect. You were made with so much love and so much happiness, and everything about you is exactly what you are meant to be. Sweet, kind Addison – you are so much like your daddy. You are quiet but thoughtful. You are filled with depth and wisdom. You are strong, but you are sharp and witty. You are hilarious, and you have the biggest servant’s heart – you’ll do anything for anyone without expecting or asking anything in return. You are a rare personality because you are already so confident and so sure of yourself, so intelligent, and you don’t seek approval because you know who you are and what you stand for. You are amazing, and you make us so proud.

Darling Ava, you are a fan favorite, my little lovebug. Everyone loves you so much because you are funny and sweet. You don’t care to fit in anywhere other than where you want to be, and you aren’t worried about what people think. Your sensitivity gets the best of you on occasion, but being sensitive is such a good thing. You have so much empathy, and you have so much kindness in your heart. I cannot wait for you to take over the world – you are the peacekeeper and the comedian, you have no patience for those who do not earn your respect, and you are not interested in whether people like you, and your confidence is amazing. You are so much like me when I was younger, and I don’t worry about you at all because I know who you are and how you feel.

Sweet, sweet Charlotte, our fierce and independent angel. You are a lot of your sisters. You are silly and sweet, you are oh-so confident, so intelligent, but such an empath with a big heart and so many feelings. You hurt when others hurt. You feel so much, and you are such a love. You have no problem showing your love, speaking your mind, and being who you are. You are a protector and a caregiver, and you are so, so smart. Your life will be so easy for you because you are so beautiful like both of your sisters, but also so sweet and you have such an amazing personality, but don’t take that for granted, and don’t let that define you. You may be naturally good at everything, but you should always keep learning, always keep being sweet, and always do your best.

Handsome, sweet Carter. Where do I even begin? Is there a person in life who loves more fiercely and more freely than you? Is there anyone more confident? Is there anyone less concerned with what anyone thinks? You are so much your father. You love so hard, so fierce, and you make it known every moment of every day. I know one day you probably won’t tell daddy and me every 30 second you love us, but I hope that day doesn’t come. You are such a love, and you are the funniest kid on the planet. You keep this family laughing, and you are naturally good at that. Never stop being so curious. Never stop asking questions (I mean, please stop asking me 7076077 question a day, but feel free to ask someone else the same questions). We cannot wait to tune into your weather reports everyday when you are an adult – you’re going to make the most amazing meteorologist, and you already have such a fan club.

Sweet babes, the world might seem so ugly and unkind right now – but it really is not. Do not allow it to make you become dark, jaded, and ugly. Life is only as difficult as you make it, and your daddy and I will not allow you to become the kind of people who look for anything other than joy. A grateful heart is a beautiful thing, and it is my hope you never lose yours. Let life be easy for you because you love it so much it loves you right back in return. I love you. We love you.

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