Should I enforce this punishment or am I being mean?

(55 Posts)
flossieraptor Wed 01-May-13 16:14:51

I'm not sure what to do.

DS has just done his DofE camping weekend. He got back on Sunday about 12 and had a massive strop at me because I had had the temerity to leave the house and he didn't have his key and hadn't called ahead. Hung up on me. He had to wait 15 minutes and was in a strop. We had bought him all new stuff (walking shoes etc.). He had all day SUnday to recover, ate a huge dinner, said he was shattered etc. On Monday morning he refused to get out of bed, declared he had a temp, he didn't. then he said it was just that his muscles were aching. I told him that while I sympathised, he should still go to school. He refused point blank to get out of bed. I said I would dock him a week of his pocket money if he didn't go. He said he didn't care and didn't go.

Am I being mean? My mother always made me go to school unless I was actually ill.

For background, he is not my son, he is my DH's nephew who has been with us for 3 years.

worldgonecrazy Wed 01-May-13 16:21:22

I think if you genuinely think you are in the right, then you need to stick to your guns, otherwise it is a line that has been crossed and will be again.

I also come from a family where we had to go to school unless we were ill - a bit like as an adult you have to go to work unless you're ill or immoral enough to skive.

SwishSwoshSwoosh Wed 01-May-13 16:24:25

I think that is pretty mild! How old is he? For not going to school I would ground I think, if you are sure he is well.

flossieraptor Wed 01-May-13 16:25:52

I think what I'm struggling with is that he did seem like he really couldn't get out of bed so maybe he was ill. He said he had a headache but of course he could have taken 2 paracetamol and been ok. I have quite a strong work ethic and would never take a day off. To be fair, he has not had a day off school in 3 years but neither should a perfectly healthy, 15 year old boy.

It's also difficult because he was previously brought up in a very 'soft' home and I always been cast as the disciplinarian, which I'm not at all really.

flossieraptor Wed 01-May-13 16:31:15

He was absolutely fine that evening (I was not in as I had an overnight work trip) and went off the next day without a problem. I haven't mentioned it since I got back. He will probably start making plans for his pocket money.

It's getting harder to know what to do especially now he's 15 and taller than me. Grounding is not an attractive option for me as I really want him to go out and socialise as much as possible. He has no interest in parties or drinking and only plays a bit of football after school.

Losing money is what hurts with him.

I'm most annoyed about him hanging up on me. I loathe that kind of casual rudeness.

Cerisier Wed 01-May-13 17:42:55

It sounds like he was exhausted. At least he is fine now. I have let DD1 17 stay off twice when she has been too tired to stand up after D of E weekends. I felt she needed sleep more than she needed school.

The hanging up on the phone is very rude. I would be very cross about this. Was it a one off or has he done it before?

I would stick with the punishment to start with- but due to the rudeness of hanging up rather than the staying in bed. If one of my teens did this and then apologised profusely I think I would accept the apology and after half an hour would reduce the punishment in acknowledgment. Of course if they ever did it again there would be fireworks.

PigletJohn Wed 01-May-13 17:50:33

I expect he was a bit tired.

Certainly don't back down on the pocket money or you will teach him (1) it's OK and (2) you don't mean what you say.

If I was his mum I would have given him some paracetamol and the benefit of the doubt if he hasn't had a day off sick in 3 years. I think sometimes they do get exhausted at that age because they are in a growth spurt, my 15 year old DS was very similar when he came back from a school trip. Luckily it was the Easter holidays and he had two duvet days to recover.
The rudeness is different, I think it depends whether it was out of character or not? If a one off I would explain I found it rude and upsetting and leave it at that. If he has form then I would stick with a fine.

PigletJohn Wed 01-May-13 17:53:45


If instead of a weekend, it had been a 3-day exercise, or a week, he would have been expected to get up and pull his weight on the third and subsequent days. A 17-year old is quite capable of doing a day's work after a late night or a hard day.

He's lucky he's not an army cadet or recruit.

flossieraptor Wed 01-May-13 18:44:13

It's the second time he has hung up on me. The other time too he was locked out and annoyed when I said we would be ten minutes and while I was explaining he hung up. Very rude indeed.

I was fuming while I was away but I suppose I feel bad because he was feeling bad and it would have been a huge effort to get up and get going. But life is a huge effort sometimes and at 15 I think he could have done it.

I feel bad because I'm not his mother and during the past three years it has been a struggle. Even now we have more of a working relationship than any kind of closer bond. I don't know. WHen it's bad it's bad, but when it's good it's good.

flossieraptor Wed 01-May-13 18:44:45

Also, we were thinking of taking him skiing, but I'm not going to do that if he's going to wimp out on day 3 because of muscle ache.

Actually DS2 (15) had been on a skiing trip. Six days of skiing plus two 26 hour coach journeys. He kept his energy up while it mattered but when he got home he went to bed for two days grin.

I guess I would be more indulgent because I am his mum. If you don't have that relationship I can see it would irritate.
Did he apologise for the hanging up?

flossieraptor Wed 01-May-13 19:29:36

"I guess I would be more indulgent because I am his mum. If you don't have that relationship I can see it would irritate".

This is what worries me, secret. He doesn't have parents, although is very close to granny who brought him up. I really try to be loving towards him and I am of course very fond of him.

He didn't apologise, no. But he was certainly looking sheepish when I got back, I think if I had still seemed cross he would have apologised then.

Maryz Wed 01-May-13 22:12:34

dd did something similar last weekend.

She hiked 30 km, mostly uphill, on mountainous tracks, carrying all her kit, tent and food. She hardly slept because it was below freezing where she camped.

Initially I said she had to go to school, but I gave in when I saw her on Monday morning and took her in at lunchtime.

She was shattered, blistered, aching all over and still a bit shivery.

It's bloody tough, these hiking overnighters. He will have been unreasonably exhausted when he got home (dd burst into tears when she took her socks off and saw her feet). He will have been sore on Monday.

I would try to negotiate.

Maryz Wed 01-May-13 22:15:45

How far did he go, by the way? And was he camping?

Because dd basically did 9 hours of walking plus some climbing, carrying a load, with little food and pretty much no sleep.

Which is very different from a ski holiday - no matter how strenuous, you stop for lunch and tea and get to sleep in a bed.

flossieraptor Thu 02-May-13 09:05:31

He walked 12 km carrying a not very heavy rucksack and camped for one night.

I'm so useless with sanctions. When I said it I thought he would get up, because he really can't afford to lose that money with the plans he has. When he didn't I started to think he was actually feeling as bad as he said.

I think I might talk to him about his rudeness on the phone, say I was disappointed it happened again after we discussed it last time but say I realise he felt very tired I am not docking his £ if he does a chore (have something in mind he offered to do for money).

mrsjay Thu 02-May-13 09:13:10

I think you should stick with what you said I know you were probably unreasonable to dock his money ,
I am a stubborn cow I wouldnt budge if I had said something like that to the DDs
I know D o E is important to them DH was a leader for years but he always said to them go home get a good nights sleep because you have school in the morning if it was a termtime weekend,

I think your compromise and chat with him sounds reasonable but say what you mean and mean what you say

Chopchopbusybusy Thu 02-May-13 09:22:12

I'd go ahead with docking his pocket money. If you are happy to allow him a chance to earn it back anyway then it's not such a huge punishment. A 12k walk is really not enough to make him that exhausted.
When DD was doing her D of E the organisers always said at the end of the weekend that school next day was not optional.

Maryz Thu 02-May-13 09:52:02

Ah, 12 km [pah]

dd did nearly three times that, finishing on top of a mountain.

To be fair, when they stopped to camp for the night, they met a group of boys doing our DoE equivalent who had hiked 10k with day-packs (their tents and dinner had been delivered by the school, so they only had packed lunch and their personal gear).

She thought they were wimps grin in the way only a 16 year old girl can.

I hate it when I make threads that I don't really want to enforce. It really annoys me.

Maryz Thu 02-May-13 09:52:51

threats, not threads, obvs hmm

flossieraptor Thu 02-May-13 09:57:11

MaryZ He was back by 1pm on the Sunday and had the whole day to relax. He had walked 6km each day and quite frankly I've done double that and I'm not exactly solid muscle. He says he didn't get much sleep because the tent leaked and his bag got wet but as it didn't rain hmm I think he just means there was a little bit of condensation.

I was kind to him in the morning, made him a cup of tea and offered to drive him to school, so it's not like I was an utter cow. I was worried too because when he lived with his granny she once gave him a day off school because he had argued with some friends and couldn't face them, some friends and he didn't go back for 3 months. In fact, he left the school without ever returning. That was ages ago though, before I got my hands on him grin

My parents never apologised to us and it's not that they weren't kind good people, it just wasn't done, so it does kind of stick in my craw a bit to back down.

I worry that our relationship is becoming very transactional though. I dole out his money and buy clothes etc. plus do all the boundary setting.

Hm, so now I'm thinking I will dock it.

chocoluvva Thu 02-May-13 10:00:34

You think he was being lazy on Monday morning? Missing school will have consequences - homework to catch up with etc. The way I see it - being lazy or not having much drive or self-discipline is a personality flaw rather than doing something 'bad', or 'immoral'. He wasn't being disobedient as such or doing something that would hurt anyone except himself.

Docking pocket money is not a sustainable sanction. I think you're right to let him have the money for a chore and focus on the hanging up on you instead. Hard for it is to watch, staying in bed is disrespecting himself, unlike his rudeness to you which is disrespecting you and therefore unacceptable.

chocoluvva Thu 02-May-13 10:00:50

15 is a hard age!

flossieraptor Thu 02-May-13 10:17:48

Chocaluvva I quite agree that not getting out of bed was lazy but I suppose I see it that we are training him to overcome these flaws. A big part of our task when we took on DN was to boost his self-esteem, because he had been brought up not to do things if he didn't want to and had ended up refusing school and getting quite depressed and dependent on computer games. By making him do things he now has more faith in himself.

I refused to call in sick for him though so he may face consequences at school.

I know 15 is a hard age, and I am also mindful that his family situation may compound this, that's my eternal dilemma.

Maryz Thu 02-May-13 10:30:08

"I worry that our relationship is becoming very transactional though. I dole out his money and buy clothes etc. plus do all the boundary setting"

This perfectly describes much parent/teenager relationship hmm.

I must say, his weekend doesn't sound very tough. Not compared to what our lot have to do. So I no longer feel sorry for him.

So I've changed my mind grin. Inform him asap that you are still docking his pocket money because he hung up on you and because he didn't go to school. But you admire him for doing the DoE and understand he was very tired and that he has plans for the money, so (be very understanding and sympathetic here), he is welcome to earn it back by [insert not too onerous a task, or he won't do it].

That way, you aren't the bitch from hell, he gets his money, he does a chore you want done.

Compromise and win-win, hopefully. That would work with ds2. Unfortunately with ds1 it would have earned a "fuck off, I don't need your money I can steal some ", so it depends on him I quess.

SachaF Thu 02-May-13 10:32:24

D of E is supposed to be extra curricular. One of the stipulations of expeditions was that they could not be done during term time so they did not affect schooling and required more effort from participants than if it were instead of schooling. (note, I have not led D of E expeditions for 7 years.)
By taking a day off of school he has made part of the expedition (the recovery) easier on himself and effectively made the expedition only part extra curricular.
I'd have loved a duvet day after an expedition! In fact, that is why we tended to schedule them (silver/gold) in school holidays and not just long weekends. If all the group ended up having a duvet day then perhaps a word with the leader regards scheduling would be appropriate (however, you can't please all the people all the time).

Roshbegosh Thu 02-May-13 10:35:21

Yes, stand firm ,dock the money, he is being pathetic

mistlethrush Thu 02-May-13 10:39:39

DS walked 7 miles when he was four.. then another couple in the afternoon. And, yes, he was carrying his rucksack too grin

chocoluvva Thu 02-May-13 10:40:55

Ah - "ended up refusing school and getting quite depressed and dependent on computer games" that makes it different.

Lots of praise for doing the DofE expedition. (My DD did bronze when she was 14 - started doing silver but bailed out of doing the practice expedition so didn't finish). Praise and confidence building for anything relevant wherever possible. Remind him how things used to be for him and how much progress he's made since and how he doesn't want to go back to that. Tell him you're proud of his achievements and happy for him.

I still think that docking pocket money is not a long term strategy.

Roshbegosh Thu 02-May-13 10:44:32

Maybe not, but doing what you say you will do is. Clear boundaries. Behaviour .. Consequences.

Maryz Thu 02-May-13 10:46:00

Oh, and in the future (I have learned this through bitter experience) beware of threatening punishment when cross.

It's better to say "If you don't go to school there will be a consequence, I'm not sure what it is but we will discuss it tonight". Give yourself space and time to think.

ds2 is very good natured, generally, but we had a massive row about an ipod the other day. With hindsight I was wrong to take it and hide while he was in the shower blush, but I didn't think it through.

choco is right about the encouragement - he has come a long way

flossieraptor Thu 02-May-13 10:50:41

beware of threatening punishment when cross

I am going to add this to my golden rules grin. Along with, always remember what you're trying to achieve...

MaryZ has come a long way hasn't he!

chocoluvva Thu 02-May-13 10:51:07

I agree roshbegosh. As the OP has said she's going to dock the pocket money on this occasion I think she's doing the right thing, but a 15YO boy who regularly has no money at all is just impractical. And risks going down the route of "because you've committed X transgression no pocket money this week" What then happens if he commits a second transgression that week? Before you know it the 'offender' has nothing more to lose and therefore no incentive to behave well, as they perceive it.

mummytime Thu 02-May-13 11:25:26

When my DS did it: he forgot both his walking boots and sleeping bag, so did it in school shoes, and had no sleeping bag. A farmer had also blocked the path very thoroughly about 1/2 mile for the start, which meant they all added hours to their route finding (a few groups needed that particular crossing point on their routes). However he still made school on the Monday with no issues.
DD does hers this weekend.

The rudeness when he got home I personally see as more understandable, as he was probably: dehydrated, very low blood sugar as well as tired.

I would discuss the whole thing with him when you have calmed down. If it was just the practise one, discuss what you can do after the full expedition (maybe hide a sugary drink incase you are late back?).
Also discuss how any future job or college course will need him to attend and be punctual.

If you gave him a punishment, then stick to it. If you feel guilty give him a chance to earn some money back.

lljkk Thu 02-May-13 11:53:52

Stand firm with docking the money, I have so BTDT with DC. I am bracing myself for it again after DD has a weekend of "glamping" with Guides in June. She will be a wreck come the Monday, despite her assurances otherwise.

the only thing I might do different is dock just part of the pocket money, like 20% for each day missed, or half, or something like that. Not sure I'd take a whole week's worth. I expect mine to soldier on, too.

flossieraptor Thu 02-May-13 19:06:56

OK, I will do it!

There are loads of jobs I can get him to do as well. He is very good with little DS so bath time and babysitting duties would probably work.

flow4 Tue 07-May-13 05:00:02

I don't think there's any way any of us can judge whether or not he was 'really' unwell or exhausted. 12km doesn't seem much for a 15yo, but we don't know his personal fitness level, and all kinds of other factors could have been at play, including lack of sleep, dehydration, heat effects, a virus... If this was the only occasion in 3 years, he's obviously not lazy or taking the mick... I'd have given him the benefit of the doubt.

Also, I want to challenge the old adage "Never back down". Personally, I think this is a disastrous rule for parenting teens. Consistency is important, but you need to be consistently fair and measured, not consistently right! Unless you are as infallible as the pope, you will parent better, and gain more respect, if you acknowledge when you realise you have made a mistake or over-reacted.

Even tho they claim we are irrelevant I think we are our teens most influential teachers, and IMO, when we insist on unfair punishments just because we've said them in the heat of the moment, we are teaching teens stubbornness and unreasonableness. sad I want my teens to learn to compromise and admit when they're wrong, so I think I have to model that, and show them how it's done. smile

nooka Tue 07-May-13 05:21:02

I agree flow. I think it's important not to cave, but reflection and calm negotiation are skills every teen needs and as parents we need to model that.

Also sometimes it is the conversation after the storm that really helps with the relationship, so sitting down and saying 'let's talk this through' can be very positive.

I think I'd try a 'lets talk about this weekend' approach and aim for your dn being able to manage a you not being there when he got home situation better next time, as it sounds like that was the bigger flash point.

Being shattered and achy after an expedition seems par for the course really!

flow4 Tue 07-May-13 07:08:40

This is bugging me flossie: I think there may be something else going on under the surface that it would be worth understanding...

You say the two times he's been rude to you like this have both been when he's been locked out. I wonder if that's triggering some kind of fear in him? Fear that you're rejecting him or you're never going to let him back in again? Given his experience, that wouldn't be surprising, and IME, fear often underpins bad teenage behaviour.

I also wonder whether it may have been some kind of self-sabotage. My DS1 quite often follows a positive achievement with bad behaviour. It's as if he can't take praise, or perhaps is afraid it won't come, so creates a kind of 'diversion'. It's a very effective tactic: it often works with me, and it sounds like it's worked with you, because instead of celebrating his success on the expedition, and praising or even rewarding him, you're focussed on his bad behaviour, and you've punished him. sad (There's no implied criticism here at all: I would almost certainly have done the same). He has (perhaps, potentially, if my hunch is right) successfully engineered a situation where he's 'proved' to himself that he's sh*t, life is sh*t, nothing is worth the effort because he'll mess it up anyway... Or any number of other negative 'myths' about himself. sad

I offer these suggestions not as excuses, but as explanations that might help you to help him to understand his own responses, and therefore better control his behaviour. smile

mamateur Thu 09-May-13 13:47:50

Flow, I don't know. I did give him the benefit of the doubt on the illness as there was nothing else I could do. A mother could undoubtedly have pushed it more, but I don't really have the benefit of that proximity, if you know what I mean. I have not enforced the punishment. I still could because we haven't sort out his pocket money for this month yet but my general feeling is that the moment has passed. He definitely knows how I feel about rudeness and knows it will have consequences.

I don't think he engineers situations like this - he gets recurrent rude rage in lots of different scenarios. I will bear it in mind though. I have sometimes, in quieter moments with him, tried to explain the idea that we do things that are driven by underlying thoughts we are not even aware of. For example, he cannot be in the same room as MIL and me together (well, I can't either, but that's different grin). We talked about this and I always say that everything I do, I do because I think it is the best thing for him, or at the very least, for all of us.

He just loses his temper.

We had a nice evening last night, watched a film. We are planning holidays. I try to build on the positive and focus on his education. If he leaves us with good qualifications, as he certainly should do (bright boy) I will feel I have done well.

mamateur Thu 09-May-13 13:48:07

Sorry Mamateur = flossie

chocoluvva Thu 09-May-13 14:41:18

Another thought - do you think something embarrassing or upsetting happened on the expedition which made him want to avoid school for as long as possible? (unlikely, but it just occurred to me)

QueenQueenie Thu 09-May-13 16:19:48

15 year old boys (ime) can switch from being near adults to toddlers in the blink of an eye. With my ds1 real rudeness and bad behaviour is 99% of the time linked to low blood sugar. He was very likely tired and hungry when he was rude on the 'phone and being "locked out" was the last straw.

You sound like you are really doing so much for him and taking in and taking on a teenager is a huge responsibility and challenge. I know nothing about his story and how he has come to live with you but I think needs a lot of thinking about in terms of his emotional needs alongside all the practical things. Being a 15yo boy is really tough I think. If you've had a difficult start and aren't living with your parents that is a huge additional burden. You're absolutely right that he needs clear and firm boundaries but he also needs lots of warmth and empathy.

I think a proper talk and the chance to explore his feelings about what happened would be good and the chance to earn back the lost money a good idea too.

I know you are upset that the phone rudeness has happened before.. but we don't all learn from our mistakes without making more.

mamateur Thu 09-May-13 17:17:13

He was full of beans that night, told me everything that had happened on the trip, so I don't think there was a problem. that was my first thought, actually. He went in the next day no problem.

Queenie, he definitely could have been hungry.

Basically, he goes through phases of being all lippy and then I take him to task over it and we have a phase of better behaviour. Like all of them I suppose. Our situation is a bit extreme so I tend to think that everything that happens is because of it, but most of it sounds pretty normal.

Maryz Thu 09-May-13 19:36:00

Flow might have a point about the self-sabateuring thing - almost as though he is saying "I've just done something good, let's see if you notice", in the way only a teenage boy can [sigh].

Your problems with him do seem to be becoming more and more "normal" with every post smile. Many of the things he does are the same as teenage boys in every home in the country. And I also think you under-estimate yourself in the way you manage him. You say "A mother could undoubtedly have pushed it more", but you know many of us probably couldn't. If a 15 year old refuses to get out of bed, the last thing an adult should do is physically force them.

Also, you think we all know how to manage our kids because we have had them from day one, but the interesting thing about 13/14/15+ year olds is that they suddenly lurch into different personalities. We all think we can guide them, but in fact they tend to go their own way at this stage, and I suspect many parents are just as flummoxed and confused by their teenager's behaviour as you are.

You should look forward to the day when your own son is 15 and you suddenly look at him one day and think "where on earth did this man come from, I hardly know him". Just think all the practice you will have under your belt by then. His teenage years will be a doddle.

flow4 Thu 09-May-13 21:25:11

^^ What Mary said. Definitely. smile

I remember telling you once before that you under-estimate your care for him and worry unnecessarily that you don't 'love' him... Many teenagers become unlovable, at least for a while, and it's only the history or memory of past love that keeps us mothers hanging on in there, I often think... You are hanging on in there without this memory, which is pretty impressive.

mamateur Thu 09-May-13 21:43:02

Thanks for your kind words, yes, DS will have no chance as I will have written the book on teens by then!

It's massively reassuring to know the physical distance between us is not so strange Maryz. He is a very good kid and I have high hopes for him. I think there are anger issues that could be dealt with but how do you get a 15 year old into therapy? You don't. He is happy though, good friends and healthy guinea pigs. The rudeness stuff will be hard to stamp out completely (DH is still very rude - never been told off in his life, can you imagine. Two men from the same stable grin).

Isthiscorrect Fri 10-May-13 04:13:35

I realize most 15 yo's are ruled by money, and I do think this issue is about the rudeness. School will obviously deal with missed work etc ( our school sets loads of work on the first day back, it encourages the students to come in). But regarding the rudeness I would have, and have done on occasion, had ds write me a detailed letter of apology. He hates wriiting, it takes time, doesn't cost anything and it does make him think. Just my 2 penny worth. Also at 15 you might want to think about moving up to a monthly allowance for budgeting practice.
Fwiw I think you sound like every other mother of teenagers. It's hard and reasonable to question yourself. Keep up the good work and don't be too hard on yourself.

mamateur Fri 10-May-13 08:29:31

I think I need to relax really. The first two years were so intense - a depressed, angry, confused 12-13 year old, a partner who against all expectation stepped back and left me to it and the granny who undermined me and sided against me with him. The problem was always more about the circumstances than DN who has pretty much risen to every challenge and listened more than anyone else in his family. Now granny is more distant (new man on the scene) and I no longer need DP as much because I have it pretty much covered. I am going to make big changes this year, now he is a bit older and we can share some interests.

Maryz Fri 10-May-13 08:38:29

That sounds wonderfully positive smile.

You know, you are really fantastic - and I too remember the post where you worried you didn't love him. You must love him, and I suspect he loves you very much too (in a sort of teenager one step forward, one step back, slightly embarrassed way grin), because he didn't have to change to fit in with your way of living. He could have told you to fuck off at any time and just gone back to Granny, there is absolutely nothing you could have done.

The fact that he is hanging in there and thriving is a testament to him being basically a great kid, and you being a fantastic mum to him.

Maryz Fri 10-May-13 08:39:19

Oh, and I think 13 to 15 (possibly 16) are the hardest years.

If they are still relatively human at 16, it is all pretty much plain sailing from there.

mamateur Fri 10-May-13 08:59:54

My parents still blanche when they talk about 'me at 15'. I remember it felt like solid PMT.

Thanks for your post Maryz, I think he does know I'm on his side smile

chocoluvva Fri 10-May-13 10:30:47

mamateur I haven't read any of your other threads but I'm really impressed that he's doing the DofE.

And I completely agree with Maryz about 13-15/16 being the most difficult stage.

I take my hat off to you for taking in your DN - I was anxious about the possibility of having to have my DN (16) for just the weekends in term time! blush

I know how difficult it is when other adults are undermining too - just awful. You can't say anything in front of DN. He will increasingly appreciate the support you've given him as he gets older.

mamateur Fri 10-May-13 13:59:48

Chocca if I may boast, for his DofE he's learning Spanish (tutor every week) as the skill and doing the scuba diving course as at the physical activity. So much more than I would have done at his age!

chocoluvva Fri 10-May-13 15:02:10

That's very impressive.

(I don't know if I'd have been up for DofE at the age of 17 either. The physical activity would have had to be table tennis and the skill would have had to be driving-my-mum-mad-with-worry!)

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