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January Message from Deb Green

Lessons Learned from My Parents

While winter break was a very busy time at PIC this year, I did have some time to visit my family in Bethlehem (yes, I travel to Bethlehem to celebrate Christmas!).
I am fortunate to still have my 94-year-old mother and 96-year-old father living independently in their own home of 65 years. As they shared their stories, I couldn’t help to make parallels in their lives as older adults and the world I see daily in our interactions with young children.

Not long ago, my mother hurt her hand and was sent to physical therapy where she created paper snowflakes as a therapeutic activity. While initially convinced that her over 80-year hiatus in snow flake production would leave her unable to cut a single flake, she persevered and created several. However, she lamented when none of her snowflake creations were among those displayed on the window in the therapy room. My mother was clearly hurt by being overlooked and then felt lousy about her abilities. 

Lesson learned: No matter what age, we ALL need to feel a sense of pride and accomplishment. We ALL need to feel acknowledged and feel that we matter.

An electronic chair was installed in my parent’s home to assist them in going up and down the steps. While my father began using it last year, my mother has yet to spend a second in that chair. She goes up and down the steps on her own, albeit quite slowly. When asked why she doesn’t use the chair to make her life a bit easier, she responds, “I can do it myself.”  

Lesson learned:  No matter what age, we ALL need to feel a sense of independence and we need to allow for the independence of others (even if we know we can accomplish a task faster, better, etc.). 

My father often moves along a 96-year-old timeline of his life with great ease and recalls tales of everything from growing up during the depression, his service in World War II, to the closing of the steel industry (and loss of his job security). During my recent visit I realized that he always recalls these stories with a glass-half-full attitude and shares the positive lessons he learned.

Lesson learned: No matter what age, we ALL need to learn to deal with adversity and develop skills in resilience. Developing a positive attitude leads to positive health benefits throughout life.

When I asked my father where he had recently driven (a story in itself), he responded that he and my mother went to a local park and sat on a bench at the edge of the creek. He told me that when he is there, he breathes easier and feels younger. This is the man who introduced me to my first national park when I was five and took me to every green space that he could find.

Lesson learned: No matter what age, we ALL need to find ways to connect with nature. The effects may be different for each of us, but are invaluable no matter the age.

I am surely not certain which attributes (or skills or genes) have led to such longevity of my own parents, but I do know that being with them reaffirms the important principles of our work with young children. I both hope and believe that the goals that guide us at PIC will lead to children leading happier, emotionally and physically healthier, and hopefully longer lives!

Happy New Year!