Helping kid launch? (Update)

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Laura Ingalls
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Helping kid launch? (Update)

Post by Laura Ingalls »

Update:
I have made myself a concerted effort to not try and “help” or interfere so much.

Three weeks into the school year it seems to be going pretty good. DS moved into an apartment with one friend not two. I still haven’t seen it. :x He reports that they have been cooking at home and using the rice cooker and the crockpot ;)

He likes school and has been getting up in the morning. Still plenty moody but less angsty. I suspect that his high school girlfriend is adjusting to college too and not calling him all upset. All in all going pretty well.

This really a more of a parenting question than a question about my work and learning. Though parenting is work and you do keep learning as you do it. :lol:

DH and I have a child (oldest of two) that is a fresh high school graduate. He just registered for a technical program at a local college. The whole program takes 24 months for an associate degree (his stated goal) and there is a diploma if you complete the first year.

We completely the FAFSA process and he was eligible for what I thought was quite a bit of aid. We elected to take the Pell Grant and work study. He needs to secure his work study job but it looks like it is about a 6 hour a week time commitment and yield him about $250 of spendable money per month. The Pell grant should cover tuition, books, and tool for this semester. Next semester there are a lot of tools and I suspect that same amount next semester will not cover those same expenses.

DS wants to move in with two friends in a three bedroom apartment near campus. I general I think it sounds like a fine idea. It would shorten the round trip distance from 50 miles to probably less than 5. My question is regards to finances.

DS brain is not wired the same way about money as either or his parents (or his younger brother). He vapes and uses weed and loves to eat out with his friends. These are all habits I have zero interest in subsidizing. We told him that we would let him continue to drive one of our cars and I would pay his cell bill (current plan fourth person is “free” dropping him would necessarily be a savings). We would also cover health insurance while he was in school.

His expenses that aren’t covered at the present are rent, associated utilities, food consumed someplace other my house, toiletries/clean supplies (yeah right)/laundry, gas for his car, clothes (not a priority or money suck) any entertainment, and his earlier mentioned habits.

We have ~$17k in a 529. I think the shortfall should be about $600 per month for the duration (minus weed and vape) plus $1500 of tools. I am questioning what the “right” amount of help to give him is. He has been expected to save half of his income from his various part time jobs. He has never accomplished this.

33 years ago I started my higher level ed experience at the same college and lived at home driving an old car of my parents’. The key difference was my parents both worked full time and were definitely still in the accumulation stage and I got zero aid and payed all my tuition and books from earning from my part time job. Before everyone gets all higher ed is so much more expensive than it was 30 years ago both entry level high school kid wages and tuition are exactly 4x what they were in 1987. I think he needs more skin in the game and be more financially mindful.

OTOH I want this to be a successful experience. I think he picked something he has an aptitude for. I am less convinced he is organized enough and has his mental health ducks in a row well enough to get this to work out. He does tend to get easily overwhelmed and I would prefer him not to have too many balls in the air at once.

Not sure what approach would be most helpful?
Last edited by Laura Ingalls on Fri Sep 11, 2020 11:18 am, edited 2 times in total.

Miss Lonelyhearts
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Re: Helping kid launch?

Post by Miss Lonelyhearts »

I think you nailed it in your last paragraph. Help him address his mental health issues and get sufficiently organized to succeed in this program. The right amount to help him will be revealed when you’re satisfied that the money won’t be wasted (he drops out) or spent self-medicating with nicotine, THC, or food.

If he doesn’t have a diagnosis, might he benefit from one? This can seem scary (stigma) but the nominal purpose of mental health treatment is to address the unaddressed issue and help the patient lead the most successful life possible. Depression and anxiety are endemic among members of his generation, and kids often have more flexible attitudes towards treatment than their parents.

What you lay things out rationally (as you’ve done here), how does he respond?

Laura Ingalls
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Re: Helping kid launch?

Post by Laura Ingalls »

@mislonely hearts
Thanks for the thoughtful response

He has been resistant to mental health support. I encouraged it and modeled the behavior in seeking help for myself too.

For the record I don’t see any self medicating with food. He just avoids meals with his family and I suspect vapes enough to suppress his hunger sometimes. He just fritters money away on it that I think would have been better squirreled away for winter especially when there is perfectly good food at home.

Alphaville
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Re: Helping kid launch?

Post by Alphaville »

friend of mine used to say:

“you mean you’re not in therapy? what’s your excuse?

JamesR
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Re: Helping kid launch?

Post by JamesR »

When I graduated HS I did everything I could to leave my parents place, such that I picked a university in another city altogether.

In retrospect I would have been far better served by staying at my parents and attending the local college for the first year, before transferring to a better university for the degree I desired. I did get somewhat overwhelmed on my own, although that was partly due to the poor choice of degree (I chose a degree that my dad wanted me to take, rather than one that I personally chose for myself). The other aspect was the sheer amount of freedom lead me to make the mistake of skipping classes early on when it was simple/boring stuff and then get stuck playing catchup later.

Most students probably do go a bit off the rails in the first year, and then a portion will drop out, and another portion will get serious and turn things around.

It might be worth it if he keeps working a part-time job while going to school, if he's not going to live with you. Or he could just go into debt like most people do.

horsewoman
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Re: Helping kid launch?

Post by horsewoman »

This is a hard one, and something DH and I are already talking about, even though our kid is not even close to leave the nest age-wise.

Our family deals with aspergers and ADHD so I can relate to things like self medication and unhealthy behaviours in general.

Since my kid is young yet I can't really give any practibale tips, but I did read something a while ago that set off a few light bulbs. Seemingly, people with ADHD are considerably lagging behind when it comes to maturity.
If one types in "maturity" in the search at additudemag plenty of articles come up:

https://www.additudemag.com/grow-up-alr ... to-mature/
A Question of Maturity

Betsy’s story is typical of many young adults with ADHD. The maturation process is slower for young adults with ADHD and it’s not linear, says Kathleen Nadeau, Ph.D., Director of Chesapeake Psychological Services of Maryland and co-author of Understanding Girls With ADHD. There’s a lot of up and down, back and forth. It’s slow, but that doesn’t mean they’re never going to get there. Sometimes they don’t until they’re 35 or 40 years old, which was the case for Betsy. “I don’t think I really reached adulthood until I was forty” she admits. But Betsy didn’t realize that the reason my be partly neurobiological.

The brain’s frontal lobes, which are involved in ADHD, continue to mature until we reach age 35. In practical terms, this means that people with ADHD can expect some lessening of their symptoms over time. Many will not match the emotional maturity of a 21-year-old until their late 30’s. So while most people graduating from college take time to adjust to adult life, people with ADHD need more time, more family support, and more professional help.

IDK if this applies to your son, but I see those patterns in my daughter and husband. Being aware of that helps me a lot to understand how they tick (me being on the other end of the spectrum in that regard) and that they often can't help making what I consider hairbrained desicions, because of how their brain is wired. I am less jugdgy, which in turn makes it more likely that they will talk to me before acting. And I stay a lot more patient when things go south now and then due to bad desicions.

ertyu
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Re: Helping kid launch?

Post by ertyu »

Disclaimer: @horsewoman has cautioned that this post isn't up to standard. I have let it stand in case it helps you change and shift perspective from your son to yourself. If you find what is written below to be unhelpful, please disregard it in entirety.

OP, you come across well-intentioned but also very helicopter-y and hover-y. But there comes a time in each person's life where you need to let them make their own mistakes. Your son seems like an OK kid with an OK plan, and with a typical set of late teenage/young adult issues. Let him be. I agree with structuring your help for him in a way that doesn't encourage his vaping but, let go and let him sort it out. It is very possible that he will struggle. It is very possible that he drops out (though from your post, it doesn't sound like he will, it sounds more like your helicopter hen anxiety is in overdrive). Even if he does struggle and drop out, it's not the end of the world. People pick themselves up, learn, start again, change plans, try options that don't work out, spend some time meandering... in general, I would say you should look into helping yourself deal with letting your no-longer-child go rather than suppressing that anxiety and dealing with it by focusing on fixing or straightening out his life. Or "helping him launch" in your own words.
Last edited by ertyu on Fri Jul 24, 2020 6:14 am, edited 2 times in total.

horsewoman
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Re: Helping kid launch?

Post by horsewoman »

@ertyu - remember, in this space we strife to "discuss ideas, not people". Maybe you want to re-read your post with that in mind.

Alphaville
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Re: Helping kid launch?

Post by Alphaville »

imo the issue of eating out is not about food but about pleasure+status. you get a dopamine rush from engineered food and you have a little social display while being served: neurotransmitter win.

nicotine has always been a self-medicarion against anxiety and depression and it helps with focus. great pair with caffeine.

weed... hard to say because it’s so different for everyone. perhaps against anxiety?

anyway, i’m not a mind reader, but adhd doesn’t have to be the only cause, or a cause at all, maybe could be just a symptom. maybe he feels either lack of meaning or “low status” and compensates for this stress with pleasurable social activities? please hear me out with this hypothesis a moment.

i’m not a fan of jordan peterson as a political philosopher, but i’ve seen his talks and would hire him as a therapist for some specific purposes. his “12 rules for life” maybe a starting point for something?

peterson tends to oversimplify neurotransmitters (like everyone is a lobster to him) but regardless of fine-grain accuracy, i do see some larger truth about his idea that we use pleasure (“dopamine”) to compensate for chronic stress (“low serotonin” he calls it). he correlates serotonin level with social status.

maybe your kid’s reluctance to accept counseling could be related to self-perceived status: to accept one needs “fixing” requires the humility to accept one’s problems, and that is not a good status display, which causes more stress/resistance.

but maybe he’s “right” in that it’s not a medical issue, per se?

anyway i almost cringe saying this, but check perhaps jordan peterson. ignore his politics hahahaha (or not, up to you). but my point is that his psychology, while simplistic, might effectively help a fairly normal but otherwise stressed out young person to find their footing in life with simple advice about self-respect and meaning and associations and that sort of thing.

proceed with care and tact of course... i don’t find peterson to be a good philosopher, and a naturally more eccentric or sensitive or complicated person might be damaged by a forced diet of “12 rules for life” as a cure-all. in other words... read with a grain of salt? in other words still, he could be helpful at some level, but i’d be careful with it at the same time :D

maybe just a starting point... to start looking at stresses and compensation/coping mechanisms. teenagers are status-seeking animals after all :D

Laura Ingalls
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Re: Helping kid launch?

Post by Laura Ingalls »

Thanks for the discussion even ertyu :mrgreen:. This is the part that is frustrating is that I am being helicoptery. I like to plan and optimize. It required a significant amount of planning to arrange our financial lives so that he had a Pell Grant in the first place.

I never was told how to manage my money from my parents because I think they recognized I was at least as good at as them by 18. My dad always said I would never be a smoker because I was too cheap.

He has been a good employee at his part time jobs. He also was late for class 14 times in an 8 week stretch before k-12 education went dead. I worry about the addiction as DH as a family were it pops up fairly often. DH has a sibling whose addiction is going to get him even if he can can maintain sobriety (the physical damage is done).

We have had two positive conversation that didn’t devolved to yelling this week. He seems to be “getting” it more often.

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Dream of Freedom
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Re: Helping kid launch?

Post by Dream of Freedom »

I'm not a father yet so maybe you should take what I say with a grain of salt. But I would simply explain that spending less gives you a lot more flexibility in what you do to make a living and what you have to put up with when you don't have to chase the almighty dollar all the time.

I would say that vaping is his choice but though it might be cool now when he is 40 he'll be addicted and no one will think it makes him look cool anymore.

Peanut
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Re: Helping kid launch?

Post by Peanut »

Hard to say having just a snapshot, but if you’re trying to figure out what approach would work best for your son I’d first reflect and assess what has or hasn’t worked in the past, as far as encouraging habits and behaviors that are good for him.

It struck me that you wrote that he is expected to save half his pay but has never met this expectation. What have the consequences of falling short been?

It seems to me one can try to mother tough or mother soft but trying to do both at once only gets you the downsides of each. I want him to learn to make the right decisions//I want to make sure he succeeds—are opposing approaches.

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Sclass
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Re: Helping kid launch?

Post by Sclass »

Any of his buddies in the same program? This could be a positive.

I’d be tempted to make him live at home and give him gas money. But I don’t know all your details like is it an easy 50 miles on a highway or congested streets?

Your guy sounds like he still needs some helicoptering for a year. It’s only a year.

saving-10-years
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Re: Helping kid launch?

Post by saving-10-years »

Can I just pitch in on a COVID-related question, in case it has not factored into discussions with your son? Would he want to/would you expect to have him at home if the teaching became suddenly online and/or infection spiked at the college. This is not just a helicotery issue but a financial consideration also.

Just managed to barter some of DS's accommodation costs down from his final year. His contract was until 1st Sept 2020 so we always knew he would likely be paying over the summer when he was not living in his shared house. With COVID effectively closing campus he has been home since mid-March (no return after Easter break) so was paying rent and bills for unused accommodation for an additional three months. He could have returned to Uni - we discussed it - however all teaching was online and there were not social meetings. This is likely to be somewhat the case for new students in 2020/21 too. Had he returned DS would have been in the shared house pretty much 24/7 - in a shared household where - following the usual pattern of shared student accommodation - hygeine has never been a priority.

Miss Lonelyhearts
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Re: Helping kid launch?

Post by Miss Lonelyhearts »

Regarding helicoptering. I take horsewoman’s point to heart. (Cf jacob/coaches- play the ball, not the (hu)man.) I also assume erytu was making a sincere contribution. But helicoptering isn’t the vibe I’m getting here. Rather it’s concern that a child’s path may not be the healthiest, how to connect and offer help in a way that actually helps. One path seems obvious to the parent, but it doesn’t click with the child. At what point in the chain is communication breaking down? Seems more like just being a regular parent to me 8-)

I mentioned self-medicating with food partly for the same reasons Alphaville laid out. Since food is available at home, it’s something beyond just calories that he’s getting via eating out. You mentioned you, husband, and other son are basically on the same page w/r/t to money. Might your oldest feel a bit of a black sheep or otherwise conspicuous at the family dinner table? Possible S-type in a family of iNtuitives?

14 tardies — in high school this was my literal textbook definition of passive aggressive. Did he hate school but feel forbidden to say so? Going from trad liberal arts HS curriculum to hands on could be a very positive change.

Letting kids fall and make their own choices. Sure, but an 18-year-old has a potential decade (2 decades according to horsewoman’s article ???) of brain development left. Somewhat like the “perfect” retirement plan is spending your last dollar on the last day of your life, the “perfect” parenting plan is dispensing your last ounce of parental wisdom on the last day your kid is still a kid. In practice, this entails a gradual tapering over years (and in practice, kids will always feel a bit of a kid around their parents). Throwing them out of the nest may work for some, but my unscientific view is that more will suffer and bear wounds from the fall.
I encouraged it and modeled the behavior in seeking help for myself too.
Hats off. It’s more than a lot of parents will do.
The key difference was my parents both worked full time and were definitely still in the accumulation stage and I got zero aid and payed all my tuition and books from earning from my part time job.
Yes and — another key difference imo — you’re you. He’s him. :P

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Re: Helping kid launch?

Post by jacob »

Laura Ingalls wrote:
Thu Jul 23, 2020 5:29 pm
We have ~$17k in a 529. I think the shortfall should be about $600 per month for the duration (minus weed and vape) plus $1500 of tools. I am questioning what the “right” amount of help to give him is. He has been expected to save half of his income from his various part time jobs. He has never accomplished this.

[...]

OTOH I want this to be a successful experience. [...]
I'd pay for the tools and half a year of $600, that is 1500+6*600=$5100. The 6 months is to give him time to find a job to cover the shortfall. If he can't hack that, he can move back home again and make a better plan.

Caveat: I'm likely just projecting [my] Scandinavian parenting principles. Parenting principles vary a lot around the world and it's probably best to follow the local culture for the sake of yourself (the parents) and the children (because they also talk to each other). However, the Scandinavian approach has a very strong social pressure to move out and become independent within a few years of finishing HS (secondary education). If you still live at home with your parents when you're older than 21, say, people wonder what's wrong with you. Conversely, in southern Europe, it's perfectly normal to live at home until you get married around age 30. But back to Northern Europe ...

The young adults are given a lot of lee way to make their own mistakes and most of them are expected to make mistakes. I'm not sure if it's still the case, but the government grants even had an extra year of pay-outs for what was called a "fjumre aar" (trans. blooper year) that allowed for the student having started on the wrong track.

Essentially, this period is considered the first time where young adults are allowed to make their own [consequential] mistakes and making mistakes is considered a way of learning. The parents may step in to ensure that those mistakes are not too catastrophic. They can advise that their child is about to do something stupid, but nobody expects perfection or that the child actually follows the advice. This is also the time when the young adult, only recently a teenager, might begin to realize that their parents might actually know a thing or two about life.

The time it takes for an individual to get from the teenager through the young adult stage to actual adult can vary a lot. As can the number of do-overs. Some don't become fully capable of adulting until they're around 30 and finally realize that they better get their shit together because all their friends have done so and it's getting embarrassing. Others get things right early on. We tend to think that adults are all fully developed humans, but adults mature at different rates too.

Add: In terms of "raising adults" or children for that matter, I've found it useful/effective to engage them in the style of a Hegelian dialectic at a level that is one level (but never more) above their current level. That means provide a counterpoint to their point AND a framework for a potential resolution that they can ponder. For example, for moral development, if someone was arguing that right/wrong is only determined by the existence of punishment, I'd ask how they'd decide if there was no one around to punish and maybe it would be better to simply be "nice". Someone arguing "law and order" would be asked "who makes the laws and enforces the order"? Ditto Kegan. Ditto Wheaton. And so on... respect the Wheaton levels. Someone who just moved out is most likely not ready to accept a perfect/highly developed path.

In short, maybe think of successful in terms of "what doesn't kill you makes you stronger"? One can learn from failure too but if parents do not allow such failures to happen through either imposing their own planning or covering the consequences, there's no learning. Following plans and doing what they're told has been the children's lot throughout the school system. However, this does not result in any insight about decision-making, no way to evaluate decisions, no wisdom, because they've never had to do that. It's been done for them. The next stage is about decisions, consequences, and responsibility. My point is that they have to learn this on their own. At some point, they have to fly solo. You can provide a plane and a parachute, but eventually you have to let go of the controls.

Alphaville
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Re: Helping kid launch?

Post by Alphaville »

but oftentimes, what doesn’t kill you leaves you damaged.

i like nietzsche, and he’s misquoted 99.9% of the time on this. he never said that “makes me stronger” was a default. he said that one should live in such a way as to be able to say “what doesn’t kill me makes me stronger.” which is an aspirational statement, not a statement of fact for all.

and he ended his days mentally ill and paralyzed and aphasic from unknown causes, syphillis was suspected at a time, so i don’t know how that worked out for him. i love his writing, but with a fat pinch of salt.

in reality, early errors can compound themselves and land one in a bad situation. sure, some people can find their way after some youthful experimentation, others get a girl pregnant at 16, others in a drunk driving accident, others end up incarcerated over a dumb mistake or a lack of control in their behavior. if habits matter, they matter more for the young.

while learning through trial and error can happen, it’s a very random way to learn, and can take a big toll. in the path of evolution there are a myriad deaths. learning through learning... is better for humans.

dysfunction arises from an inability to cope with stress. the history of addiction in the family may trace back to genetics or to intergenerational trauma, but it’s there regardless. missing a year because you changed college majors is one thing, missing a decade because you spent it drinking is another. yes, everyone can find their way in life—unless they step on a landmine.

i’d look to impart healthy stress-coping mechanisms rather than overprotect or require compliance with narrow sets of expectations about money. “adulting” is even taught in courses these days.

and yes, progressive independence is extremely important, and learning from consequences is important, but the overwhelmed can’t process what’s happening to them and can go off the deep end. ideally you want to learn without being overwhelmed (helicopter parents can be overwhelming too btw).

healthy stress-coping mechanisms and built-in redundancies allow learning from experience and save young lives.

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Re: Helping kid launch?

Post by 7Wannabe5 »

It's interesting how this thread makes use of both "launch" and "helicopter" in metaphors.

I just finished reading "Life is in the Transitions: Mastering Change at Any Age" by Bruce Feiler. Two main points he makes are that both major and minor life transitions are happening more frequently and are less likely to follow predictable, linear narrative model. IOW, it is no longer the case (if it ever was) that at age 18 we launch on an upward linear trajectory which peaks at mid-life and then declines. However, when the author asked the hundreds of people of all different ages whom he interviewed/surveyed to describe the "shape" that would best describe their lives, those who were primarily motivated by Agency usually described a more linear shape. Those individuals who were more motivated by Belonging were more likely to choose a circular or closed boundary type shape; for instance, a bowl or a house. Those who were more motivated by Cause were more likely to choose a symbolic shape such as a light bulb, cross or a globe.

Obviously, most of us on this forum would be primarily motivated by Agency, with life shape best self-described as "like a stock market chart" or in my case, "like the path of a terrier bounding off on circular adventures, but then returning to main trail", but that doesn't mean we will give birth to offspring who are similarly oriented. Therefore, first step might be asking your son this question regarding the shape of his life.

Frita
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Re: Helping kid launch?

Post by Frita »

Your son is fortunate to have a caring mama. I can tell this is stressful. If I had a magicwand, I would give it to you.

One of the most striking things about having children is that they are their own people, not miniature versions of us. As parents we can nurture, model, and influence to some degree. That is all. We cannot mold them into what we want. It is interesting to watch, and sometimes it is painful. There is nothing like having kids to learn we are not in control.

Transitions seem to be a time of questioning. How has your relationship been with your son? What has worked and not worked? (I sense that he’s a bit of a rebel based on the refusal to follow your expectation of saving 50% of his part-time earnings, high number of tardies in his senior year, and the vaping/MJ use.) What is his vision of the future? How does he envision getting there? What supports does he think he needs? To whom can he reach out? What role would he like you to have? What boundaries do you need to maintain/establish as he enters his young adult phase?

ertyu
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Re: Helping kid launch?

Post by ertyu »

Disclaimer: another one of those. Would be not at all offended if OP decides it's unhelpful and they'd rather skip.

Rebel is right. He's sensing he's being told how to run his life rather than asked, "how will you make sure you have enough savings for X occasion? oh, you don't think that's likely to happen? well, I worry that if it happens it would be the financial responsibility of me and your father to pick up the slack and we may not have the ability." OP is trying to manage is life, he's trying to be his own person and come out from under her slipper. It doesn't matter if the advice is in and of itself good. What matters is that other people don't respect your right to make decisions about your own life and do not respect you as a separate, adult person -- yes, even if he seems terribly young and not adult to you right now, and even if he legitimately lacks skills. You can inform about what you are and are not willing to help with and stick to those boundaries, but it's not your life to optimize. Let off already.

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