Psychology Addict # 59 | Discussing Modern Caregiving.

in #psychology2 years ago (edited)

Modern Caregiving - BS.png

We were choosing which dessert to go for when Nora asked me: “So, what are you guys doing this Easter?” I told her we’d been invited to have lunch at Alice’s (a dear friend of mine). She winced. “What’s the matter?” I curiously asked. Nora said, “well Abi, I know you like her and all, so just let me inform you that I’ve decided not to visit them anymore”. Last time we were there Adrian went through my bags and came to the kitchen holding up my adult diaper while asking: “is this your nappy?”, Nora continued … “it was right after the surgery, you know”, “I don’t need those anymore. But, luckly it was only me and Alice there!”. Nora then shook her head in irritation and finally blurted: “well, that boy is just awful!”.

Adrian is Alice’s 8 year-old only child. He is a very handsome boy. In the rare occasion he and I spend time together we draw, colour and create illustrated stories. His bedroom is like a toy shop, planes hang from the ceiling, his beautiful desk has what seems to me a 1000 crayons. Gosh! It’s so lovely. That’s why I never know what to buy for him. So, when we went there last Easter Sunday, I just took a beautiful chocolate-bunny. It was all wrapped up in a transparent box decorated with a card, and an enormous green ribbon. Upon our arrival we left the shopping bags in the hallway and I was immediately ushered to the kitchen to catch up with the latest news.

It was a little while until Adrian came to greet me, and when he did, he was already holding the Easter bunny with half of its ears gone! The first thing he said to me was: “Is this for me?”. I thought of Nora and blushed. Then he asked louder: “Is this for me?” I replied with a meek “yyees.” His mum grabbed my shoulder and asked me: “oh! is it?” I nodded. She immediately turned to him to ask which one he liked the most: the white or the milk-chocolate ear. Then, she nudged him “Adrian, how do you say?”, He jumped and said: “Thank you Abi!”, with a smile so gorgeous that filled my heart with warmth.

Alice looked at me: “isn’t my baby all grown-up and good-looking Abi? He is really smart too.”

Compliments, Compliments & More Compliments.

Complemnts!= BS.png

Adrian is just one among a dozen children I have direct contact with whose parents and caregivers offer nothing but affection, rewards and compliments. Lots of it in fact: “You’re so clever!”, “here, it’s just a little gift”, “my world, aren’t you smart”. It goes on and on 🙁 I wonder if the reason why we flood children with adulation and admiration these days is to show that we “know better” than the previous generations. I know that Alice herself had a pretty strict upbringing. And Angie, a woman in her mid-60’s who has a complicated relationship with her 83 year-old mum once told me: “[…] I became a nurse, but my mum never said I was smart. You know, I was the only girl in the entire family who didn’t need a husband to get by. Well, she never said she loved me either. There is my mother for you.”

But, what modern parents and caregivers don’t seem to be aware of is that these sort of praises don’t necessarily build self-confidence or boost academic performance. When it comes to school-children’s performance, for example, showering them with “so bright”, “so clever”, not only might not help them, but it actually might cause them to under-perform. Over the past twenty years, a number of studies have come to this conclusion. Among the most prominent ones is that conducted by C. Mueller and C. Dweck 1.

The Study.

They gave a series of maths exercises to a group of 128 children, who subsequent to finishing the activities were complimented by the researchers with one single sentence. To some, the sentence was a praise on their intellect: “you did really well, you’re so clever!”; while others received a praise on their efforts: “you did really well, you must have worked very hard!”. Then they were asked by the researchers to try a different series of exercises, this time they were more challenging. Lo and behold! The children who were told they’re clever were anxious about failing, went for the maths problems that confirmed what they already knew and showed less determination when the tasks got harder. While those in the group that received a compliment on their efforts, were more willing and resilient. Also, when the numeric results they obtained were not the correct one they didn’t put it down to lack of intelligence, but rather to lack of effort. In the end they felt more committed.

Now, you may ask:

Abigail, are you suggesting that I never pay a compliment to my child, nephew or grandchild? Far from it! A child not only deserves to be complimented on, but ought to be rewarded when they do something that is very difficult for them: share their belongings or behave patiently. Like this they understand and accept that their activities (e.g. playing or reading) are goals that should be pursuit for their own right, and not simply as a means to gain praise.

Now you might have another question: “What do I do when they show me their artwork?. A good option is to ask questions about it. “Why did you use so much yellow?”, “Are you sure sharks have three eyes?”, “let’s check this one out together. Shall we?” Try to be observant and attentive, isn’t attention something we all want more than anything?

Attention more than a flood of compliments builds self-esteem, because it tells the child that he is worth your time, that he is worth being with.

No:The Forbidden Word.

NO = BS.png

A fellow Steemian told me through a comment last week about the strict school guidelines implemented by the school his sister teaches 6 year-olds: “one is not even supposed to say no to students.” Well, my 10 year-old nephew goes to one of those schools. A couple of years ago when I went to pick him up his teacher called me for a quick word. My nephew had done something. “[…] oh yeah he can be stubborn sometimes, but here we don’t focus on that. It’s all about the good things they do!”. I gasped! “So, when he left all the bathroom taps running didn’t you inform him that was wrong and not acceptable?” She said: “ow, there is nothing to worry about he is a good boy. He admitted it was his doing straight away! Plus, we don’t talk to our students like that here. We avoid that kind of approach in our school.”*

I understand the position educators find themselves in these days is a complex and delicate one. But, I also find it most troubling to witness naughty behaviour being undealt with, being completely disregarded as if it didn’t happen. Especially when it involves children who haven’t yet reached their teens. As you know, in general, complicated, uncontrollable teens don’t mysteriously emerge from nurtured, disciplined children 2. My nephew said he left the school’s bathroom taps running because he wanted to see what was going to happen. Then I asked him “what happened J.P?”, he said: “well, nothing really!” I shook my head and questioned. “Do you know that because of all the water the lady in charge of keeping the bathroom clean had extra work to do?”, ”do you like when you are given extra chores?”, ”I am sorry.”, he whispered. Then I told him with a smile ” it’s not to me you need to say sorry to, is it?” [The saga continued …].

Laying The Foundations.

In all honesty, I think it’s quite cool my nephew did that. He was daring, mischievous, he went on exploring, pushing boundaries. That is wonderful! Especially for his development as a person. But only if he also gets to understand that his actions have a knock on effect on his fellow human beings as well as on the environment he is part of. If he makes to his teenage years with only his good behaviour being rewarded and the naughty ones being dismissed how is he going to feel when he is confronted with something he’s done that affected others and disrupted the local order?

Confused and unprepared. To say the least.

A child who has never faced difficulties (e.g. you need to wait, ok?), awkward moments (e.g. who did it and why?), who never had to take responsibility for their wrongdoings (e.g. now it’s time to say sorry) finds very difficult to face the challenges of life with courage and calm. Understandably. After all, this is new terrain to him. It is like entering the unknown. The unknown is always intimidating, and for some people it can become a source of anxiety and fear. It’s widely known among psychologists that in order for someone to build strength and resilience towards something they need to be exposed to it. Gradually and consistently 3.

Childhood years then become the opportunity for this. For a no, every once in a while, for (limited) rules “Yep! It’s bed time, now!”, for challenges: “the toys you no longer play with, we’ll take to charity. All right?”, for emotional struggles: “I’m sorry sweetie, we can’t play right now. Mum is busy.” Of course, all communicated with respect and affection. In order to lay the foundations for his emotional resilience and psychological stability, in order to build the grounds upon which his self-esteem and sense of self-worth will be constructed, tools which deliver the basis for the development of a well-balanced personality.

Image source: Image source: 1, 2, 3.

Reference source:
1 Praise and intelligence can undermine children’s motivation and performance.

2 Trajectories of child externalizing problems between ages 3 and 10 years: Contributions of children's early effortful control, theory of mind, and parenting experiences.

3 Barker, M. Vossler, A. Langdridge, D. (2010) Understandying Couselling and Psychotherapy, London, Sage.


“It is easier to build strong children than to repair broken men.”
- Frederick Douglass.

The names and minute details about the individuals featuring in this post have been changed in order to protect their privacy.

Thank you my dear reader,
For taking the time to read my long post 😊


I am fully agreeing with this post, from A to Z. It looks like you were describing my way of educating my sons. In fact, I don't compliment anyone easily (you can ask @lamouthe, a compliment from my mouth is on the level of a super rare event). I am like that. However, I am personally someone who never give up and work hard to reach my goals. This is what I try to pass to the next generation: You managed! Great, the efforts you put in were worthy! As you said in your post ^^

And hopefully, all tasks that my sons will have to deal with, they will put a lot of effort in them to make them achieved. This, of course, the future will tell!

Finally, "no" has to be a word. I am teaching the meaning of this word to a bunch of (20 years old) students every year, at the university. No, you are not the king here and I am not your friend. Or: I will ignore anything you may say, at leats until you lear how to speak politely and respectfully with other humans. Of course, not all students are like that, but we always have 5-6 of them lying on the down side every year. This is really bad, IMO.

You managed! Great, the efforts you put in were worthy! As you said in your post ^^

Well, you did say in a previous comment: "I am doing a psychologist job without being one, sometimes" 😃

Through the approach you adopt as an educator and father you're doing a great favour to both your boys and your students. For the sake of their personal development! It is actually heart warming to read this :)

Autumn seems to be setting in around these quarters.
My favourite season of the year <3
I wish the family a wonderful, relaxing weekend!

My Dear Abigail,

(I agree with @owasco --not long at all)🌸

Once again you venture into territory that will give each of us much thought, about the way we were raised, the way we raise our children, and the way others raise their children. This ties in very well with your blog about punishment.

First of all, I must say how annoyed I am with Adrian's mother. Doesn't she understand that one of the most important lessons she can teach her child is the relationship to others? I think four or five siblings would come in handy here...they would do the job (perhaps brutally) the mother neglects.

Pets would come in handy also, pets that are respected and cared for, perhaps adopted from a shelter. Of course Adrian's manners are terrible. The whole principle behind manners is a respect and regard for others. Now I think of your blog on compassion--we are equipped by nature to care about others, but nature can't do the job alone. Adrian has to be taught how his behavior affects other people.

Which is why I love your advice to your nephew: “Do you know that because of all the water the lady in charge of keeping the bathroom clean had extra work to do?” It's our job as adults to cultivate the compassion/empathy with which nature has equipped a child.

On a personal basis: my parenting was deficient in so many areas, but my children never would have grabbed a bunny out of anyone's package :)

The Mueller and Dweck study is fascinating, although I feel for the poor children who were afraid to disappoint expectations. I wonder if they weren't as concerned about disappointing themselves, as disappointing the test administrators.

I do differ with you in one respect--when it comes to art. For a very young child, I think all art is "good". We've no idea what the child sees, what the child imagines. It is that imagination, that wandering through perception, that leads to discovery. And it's harmless--has no objective value. As the child ages, of course, creativity can be lauded in more realistic terms. Just my opinion :)

As always, an essay that will give all of us much to reflect on. Thank you, Abigail, for sharing your insight and helping us to grow.

With Affection and Respect,❤

Your New York friend,


@agmoore 😊 , my dearest!

So, as a mum and grandmother you see no harm in complimenting the child's work itself, right? I see and respect your point. Plus, this explains your observation very well.

As the child ages, of course, creativity can be lauded in more realistic terms.

Thank you ;) <3

I do think Mueller & Dweck's study is fascinating.

Excellent question about the children's concern towards disappointing themselves or the researchers! In PART II of that very study, the students were asked by the researchers to write a letter to students from a different school. They were asked to narrate their experience regarding the activity. Several children from the "clever group" lied and/or inflated their scores.

The researchers said that :

all it took to shake these children's confidence, to make them so insecure and unhappy that they lied, was one sentence of praise.

My nephew is a naughty little one. My mother says he is just like me in "boy's version". My mother tells me that after being sent to the "naughty corner" for a few minutes and she said: "Abigail, you can go and play now!", I would reply: "Now I am staying here forever!" 😩

But J.P is well-mannered and likable, which helps his socialization skills very much.

As for Adrian, people just end up avoiding him. For the reasons you already know. But, you will be pleased to know he's got 2 cats for his birthday last July! :D

Thank you my dear, for this incredibly thorough feedback, and for pointing out aspects that add to my understanding towards the upbringing of children.

The temperature is dropping here and I am very much looking forward to autumn. Much love to you from cloudy Portugal <3 :*

Oh, yes, dear Abigail, you understand me perfectly 🌟. The very young child's work, endorsed, supported, encouraged. I would not presume to understand what children see, what they imagine from their naive perspective--would not want to curb an exploring intellect. People sometimes spend a lifetime trying to get back the spontaneity in art that was stifled by 'education'. However, to falsely proclaim talent where none exists--that is foolish and even cruel.

I recognize your stubborn self in me. I would not sit down to dinner once because my mother wanted my brother to sit at the head of the table. Many instances of rebellion, which I think overall has served me well :)

I'm worried about those cats! If he's that thoughtless and she's that obliging...hope the cats are OK.

I don't think I could expand your understanding, but thank you for being courteous in saying that. Your pieces stay with me and influence the way I view many situations.

Another great piece.

Friday and I'm ready for a quiet weekend...unseasonably warm and sunny today.

Enjoy autumn 🍂--the season for reflection.

Regards and Affection,

Your friend, AG

Thank you for this amazing post! You are totally right. Education is difficult because every child is differnet. My chlidren learned both the same "rules" in our family. My son was glad about his "freedom" and my daughter thought we don't care about her because of the few rules we had. How can teachers act with many more individuals in the right way? And how can they follow their own ideas of education? They have to follow the ideological way that is "en vogue". It doesn't depend on what children need for their lives.
A plant grows stronger and healthier when it had some time with no water, with a storm or something like that, with what (?) they have to deal with, so they get stronger...

Sorry for my English, i don't have the time for translation... Greetings and a big thank you for this post. It makes me glad to see that there are other people who can think by themselves and asking questions.... Kadna

Hello @kadna :)

Thank you very much for stopping by! There is no need to apologize. Your English is perfectly clear!

Educators surely find themselves in a delicate situation. One, that I can only imagine to be honest. But this is why children need to develop a sense of collaboration & awareness towards others as well as their environment. Because, in no place other than their own home, will they be treatment in a way that specifically suits who they are.

It makes me very happy to hear that you as a caregiver and educator approves of the ideas communicated through this post. Your position further supports all the findings from psychological research :)

All the best to you & take care!

Thank you very much - investing so much time in a comment!

All the best to you & take care!

Copy and paste hehe ;-) Same to you! Kadna

It's not so terribly long! That study with the math problems is very interesting. A slight change in wording.
All three of my children responded to different parenting styles. The first was so easy! It was enough to just say a short word about negative behavior, and she never did it again, but to a fault - now she shorts herself in order to please others. So this was her nature from the beginning.
When the second one came along and expressing displeasure alone was not enough to stop the unwanted behavior, I had to add discipline, which I was not good at. I know there were parents who thought I was too soft on him, but he is today one of the most compassionate, considerate and kind people I know, also to a fault - he just told me last night that he speaks so little because he is afraid to offend. Was it something I said or did that made him afraid to speak up?
The third was the worst of them all. She lied, she stole, she bullied, I got a call from the school one day when she was in third grade that she had put her hands around the neck of a fellow student and squeezed. They made my whole family go to therapy for this! Talk about punishment. But, that was the end of her bad behavior. She has turned out to be a warrior for good too, with a teensy anger management problem.
Parenting styles have to work for the parent as well. If one is not comfortable being "mean", perhaps because their childhood was so full of cruelty, then discipline is difficult. I am one of these.
I'd have liked your nephew at least to have been told it's not OK to go through anyone else's stuff though. It doesn't seem anything like this was said. Is it possible Alice is uncomfortable with saying a critical comment to her son in front of you? I know my choices were impacted by whoever was present, I considered what THAT adult would like me to do before I did anything. Those were the times I made my worst mistakes too.
No way about that school! How did anyone get through their days? That sounds like the hardest place in the world to teach kids, never saying no? How is that possible? How can a child go into the world never having been told "no"?
Lots to think about in here. Thanks.

Adrian & Alice are not family. She is a good friend. And what you said is a very valid point "she might not have wanted to say anything because I was there". Maybe for the very reason that I'm not family (?). Although, because Adrian had done a similar things to Nora (a common friend of ours) I thought to myself that he has never been challenged about going through guests' bags. But, who knows!

Now, about the school!! That is family! My nephew is the one who likes leaving tapps running 🙄 and that is where I put my nose in! His parents where very disappointed with the school's approach too. But, J.P knows better now :)

It was very interesting reading about how different from one another your children were, and how they all turned out to be kind, loving people <3 But, that is not mystery there, is it? Overall they were all loved, disciplined and cared for.

The point you made about parenting styles having to work for the parent as well is an extremely important one! Thank you for bringing it up. I agree with this. That is why it's paramount for parents to be brave enough to open their eyes to their children's little flaws (as you seem to have been with your third child). Otherwise, they can end up being controlled by their own children. I have seen a few cases like this.

Thank you @owasco, for this lovely, insightful comment.
Take care <3

It's always my pleasure to visit your posts. I actually look forward to Thursdays!

❤ :)

Hi Ms. Abi, how are you doing? hope you're having a lovely Sunday..

i was just imagining you and my daughter Alex sitting in a room and having good and fun time with each other as well ,same with Adrian. I would be more than happy to see Alex with you.. well behaved and listening hehe. My reactions while reading this were like , oh? yeah this one's right! , i will definitely try this one.. oh yeah that is why... hmmm. I have always been learning from you Miss Abi , on the approaches.. i agree that to compliment kids are really good , but i also realized and rewind my memories if i am more of giving compliment or attention ? to my kids.. and in the end i totally agree with you when my kids got my attention , i don't see them in bad mood , crashing things or anything unwanted for me.. and with the NO! yes! it's necessary to say no to my kids too , and i even told Alex's teacher that it is okay for her to discipline Alex ( but oh no! the problem is.. up until now , i am still inside the classroom with Alex plus Freia ( my youngest) with us as well , so we're always 3 learning from day care center 😅😥

Hello dear @zephalexia :)

It's always so wonderful to hear from you. I would love to talk, play and do some other activities with Alex :D (I thought she would be a little calmer by now!). I am very pleased this post has helped you to reflect a little about your "dose" of praise vs. attention towards the minis <3 It sounds to me you are a very attentive and thoughtful towards the minis.

Lots of love to you and all the family :* :)

Awesome piece again dear Abbey.

But, what modern parents and caregivers don’t seem to be aware of is that these sort of praises don’t necessarily build self-confidence or boost academic performance.

I was about to say this before I saw it. In my opinion, it is better we compliment kids based on their achievements and performance not based on their endowment and their abilities. This will make them to work towards bettering their bests.

Sometimes, kids that enjoy the "best of caregiving" end up not being able to assume responsibilities when they grow up. I may be wrong, but this is my reason of saying this. Warriors are not made by patting them on the back, but by making them pass through challenges.

I remember something that happened a while ago. I went to my friend's house and it happened that his junior niece that just finished from secondary school came visiting. The niece was raised with a "silver spoon". I passed the night at my friend's house. The next morning, we were to have akamu (maize pudding) for breakfast. To my shock, she didn't know how to make akamu, which is among the easiest Nigerian foods. I was the one that later made the akamu for breakfast.

For the sake of the future of kids, some privileges should be given with limits and caution. Kids may not like the word "no", but for their own sake, there are times you should use it and be strict with it (that's my opinion though).

Nice piece Abbey. Much love from Nigeria.

PS: have you taken akamu before?

I do agree with you when it comes to "best caregiving" and assuming responsibilities Sammi.

Of course, I have no doubt that parents have the best intentions towards their child's development when they do everything for them, and place no boundaries during their upbringing. This is why I think it's important to communicate to them the possible negative outcomes of this. Thank you for illustrating this very point with a personal story. Examples like this are ubiquitous!

As for akamu, I have never tried Sammi. I have just looked it up on google. Images of it and how to make it. It seems pretty straight forward and I like that it takes corn starch rather than flour :D

Thank you my dear Nigerian friend.
For your constant & invaluable support! <3
Lots and lots of love to you all the way from PT :*

I think that research on this sort of thing is highly beneficial to society. The results arent really all that intuitive for a lot of people. In a lot of cases parents of previous generations over disciplined their kids and as a result the next generation now doesnt discipline their kids at all, thinking that this is better. But both have negative consequences in different ways, so balance becomes extremely important as you pointed out. I think you did a good job showing that praising a child for their characteristics (I.e. cleverness, looks...etc) rather then their behavior (I.e. working hard...etc) isnt beneficial. The subtle difference between saying "you're clever" vs "you must have worked hard" teaches the child that their behavior effects the outcome of their life. People cant change a characteristic but can change a behavior. They can do more of a good behavior and less of a not so good one. That was a really great article on an interesting subject. Well done!

I watched a video on an interview with a researcher and author who discusses his research on how this scenario and similar ones play out in the long run. I found it so interesting and have been meaning to read his book. I'll post the video in case you are interested but don't feel obligated to watch it. I know that it can be a pain in the ass when people give you a video to watch or article to read - "oh great more work for me to do..." lololol but if you're interested in more research on the subject its there and the interview is really good in my opinion. The interviewee is author of the book "the coddling of the American mind." I haven't read it yet but plan to eventually.

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Oh my goodness @leaky20 I love ALL THINGS Jonathan Haidt 😍 Of course I am going to watch that video.

I know that it can be a pain in the ass when people give you a video to watch or article to read - "oh great more work for me to do..." lololol

So true!! Can you please tell this to my mother and half of my friends :D? BUT, you have proved to be very good at recommending worth-watching material. Please accept this star @leaky20 : ✨ I only really pay attention to suggestions coming from star holders :P

I agree with you about the importance and relevance of Dweck & Mueller's study. Subtle changes in the upbringing of a child that can do so much for them. The points you made about changing behavious vs. characteristics are spot on. And I think that are actually pretty empowering both for the parent and the child! :)

Have a nice rest of the day @leaky20
All the best to you two and the doggies.

I'm a star holder now yaaaasssss!!! I've made it!! Lol

If you do watch it (again, no rush and no obligation) let me know what you thought of it.
Take care

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@leaky20, thank you very much for suggesting that video. It's excellent! It reinforced so many of the thoughts and notions I have had in mind for quite a while now, which can all be summed up in Haidt's following quote:

We're going to smooth the path, we're going to prepare the path for you. Not you for the path of life. That's a good way to damage them for life."

Being Haidt, I had high expectations for the video. And, of course, they were totally met! :)

Thank you so very much @leaky20, once again.
I wish you guys a wonderful week ahead!

I will :D

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I've heard about this approach and as a teacher do not approve of indiscriminate praise, there has to be a good reason. I agree that gushing unmerited wonder at a simple line drawn on a piece of paper could easily make a child lazy and still expect admiration.
It's all about BALANCE and being encouraging while being truthful,then another person can trust your judgement.
An interesting article.
Thank you.

Hello @justjoy (what a lovely user name!) :)

I’m so pleased to hear you found this post interesting. Especially ecause you’re a teacher! Thank you for taking the time to let me know this. The rationale presented by developmental psychologists is similar to yours: “it makes a child lazy.” It is largely argued that the child can easily fall into the belief: Well, if I’m already a the best. Why try harder?

It’s true! It’s about balance! :)

Thank you once again for stopping by,


But, what modern parents and caregivers don’t seem to be aware of is that these sort of praises don’t necessarily build self-confidence or boost academic performance.

Also this attitude makes everything more difficult for both the kid and everyone related to it's environment. As my both parent are teachers and i have been many times in their schools, i have witnessed first handed cases like that.

Just imagine parents harassing the teachers because their kid is supposed to be an Einstein and there is no chance to fail a test. Somebody else has to take the blame. Also, the kids can't understand and accept when they are wrong and that's natural as they never listened to the No word.

This is mostly happen in younger ages and later on these kids grow up having a lot of problems or creating a lot of problems. That of course isn't the rule, there are exceptions. The parents need to understand that following this logic they only bring harm both to their beloved children and society.

Oh my Gosh! Look who is here :D So nice to see you around @filotasriza3 !

Of course, I do appreciate how complex it must be for educators like your parents. But, I have never taken to time to see this whole scenario from their perspective :

Just imagine parents harassing the teachers because their kid is supposed to be an Einstein and there is no chance to fail a test. Somebody else has to take the blame.

How tricky this must be to deal with!😕

Thank you for taking the time to discuss this here. It's yet another very relevant angle to address this issue from. Like you said, there are exceptions indeed. But from where I stand, they seem to be less and less. I just have concerns about the kind of society this "phenomenon" might create :/

Thank you my dear for stopping by and writing one of you (always) insightful comments :)

 2 years ago Reveal Comment