Parenting Pep Talk is a weekly series of guest posts all about encouraging other parents by sharing some of our happy moments, the advice that has worked for us and some positive words of encouragement.
Today’s post is from Debi Lewis, who is the mother of two daughters and blogs regularly at Swallow, My Sunshine. You can find her essays at Brain, Child Magazine; RoleReboot; Mamalode; The Mighty; Kveller; and on ChicagoNow. She tweets at @growthesunshine and is currently at work on a memoir about her younger daughter’s journey through medical mystery.
1) Tell us a little bit about you and your family
My husband and I are parents to two fantastic daughters, ages 13 and 10. The four of us really enjoy being together! These days, we are feeling grateful for the general good health that all of us are experiencing after years of managing our younger daughter’s complicated medical needs for many years. She is now healthy after surgery two years ago to untangle her aorta from her esophagus, which made it hard for her to swallow and eat for the previous eight years of her life. Now that our life is uncomplicated by all of the effort it took to feed her and maintain her shaky health, the four of us have a great time together cooking, baking, traveling, and watching both girls perform in local theatre. When we’re not all together, my husband is working at his job and I am managing a small web design consulting firm. The kids are finishing their last years in middle and elementary school, respectively, and we’re excited about them both moving up to new schools in the fall.
2) How would you describe your parenting style?
I am respectful of my daughters’ unique needs and personalities, and I expect the same from them. We’ve always tried to see them as human beings who need to learn practical matters from us but who have the capacity to teach us as well. As a result, I’ve come to see each of them as a source of lessons for myself even though I take my responsibility for taking care of them very seriously. We make as many decisions as we can by committee — things like how we’ll spend a free evening or where we’ll go on vacation — but they still know that some decisions will be made by me and their dad.
3) What’s your favourite thing about being a parent?
My favorite moments are the ones when I can see that they’ve figured out something about themselves without anyone’s help or guidance. I love seeing them become their own people! From the first moment my older daughter — who had been given only gender-neutral toys to play with as a baby — saw and fell in love with her first baby doll, I knew that she was a born nurturer, regardless of what I’d tried to show her. When my younger daughter climbed the “big kid” jungle gym on the playground at age 2, I could see that she was stubborn and determined and strong despite her health challenges. Now that they’re older, I have these moments with them as we read together or talk about the news. It’s wonderful to see them discovering these things about themselves!
4) What piece of advice have you been given that you found especially helpful?
The best piece of advice I ever received was “surrender.” This wasn’t a suggestion that I give up trying anything that was hard, but that I work to recognize the things that I could not control and stop arguing with the universe about them. This applies to so many things in parenting: the sleeplessness in the early months, the tantrums in the toddler years, the illness that our family faced with our younger daughter. Surrender didn’t mean stop trying to fix everything, but just to admit that some things were not in my power to change. Instead, I worked on changing my reaction to them. That was invaluable advice.
5) What one piece of encouraging advice would you give to a new parent?
All phases end. They may end differently depending on how you react to them, but they do end, one way or another. Your child WILL sleep through the night eventually, WILL be potty-trained someday, WILL go to school all day. You WILL get some time and space to yourself eventually. Try to remember that as you stumble blearily through another change of pants for your little one!
6) Can you share one of your favourite parenting moments?
Our walk to elementary school each day for the last nine years has been a beautiful ritual for me. We live about four blocks away, so it’s just long enough to have a good chat, and it’s an excuse to hold hands and observe the world around us with no distractions. When my younger daughter was in preschool, I had the walk alone with my older daughter; now that my older daughter has been in middle school, I’ve had the walk alone with my younger daughter. This time has been precious. My younger daughter is graduating from elementary school this year, and so it’s my last year of walking anyone to school. I will miss it terribly.
7) Anything else that you would like to share to encourage other parents?
Whenever I find communication with either daughter becoming difficult, I go back and reread How to Talk So Kids Will Listen and Listen So Kids Will Talk by Adele Faber and Elaine Mazlish. It has really helpful advice for every age from toddler to teenager. You can get it at Amazon.
I also have this piece of art by Brian Andreas hanging in my office, and it’s totally true.
Thank you Debi for sharing your positive parenting moments and the advice you have found helpful.
You can connect with Debi on the following social networks:
If you’d like to share some of your positive parenting moments on the Parenting Pep Talk, then let me know in the comments below and I’ll email you with more details.