Home > Family, Friends, Love, Parenting > You are doing great.

You are doing great.

Mark also, not shockingly, walked my youngest sister down the aisle on her wedding day.

Mark also, not shockingly, walked my youngest sister down the aisle on her wedding day.

A man named Mark formally taught my three younger siblings.

He was never formally my teacher, but I learned from him all the same.

He told my mom he’d never taught kids so compassionate as hers. It’s no fluke, he told her. It’s all of them! You are doing great, he said.

You are doing great.

Few people told my mom things like this, though they freely told her what they thought she was doing wrong.

But Mark? He went a step beyond seeing the good to saying it.

With his words, he was able to lift my mom.

I, witnessing her rising, understood better words’ power.

My mom and I once argued as we drove about how she was always singing my just-younger sister‘s praises. I demanded to know why didn’t she ever have anything nice to say about me.

“I tell people how smart and what a good writer you are all the time!” she argued.

“Okay, so assuming that’s true, why don’t you ever tell me?”

My mom didn’t have a quick answer for that. I think she assumed I already knew.

On Friday morning, someone told me I am doing great as a mom. “[Littler J] is such a sweetheart!” she continued.

I thought of Mark after I thanked her for her kindness. I thought of a stranger at the farmer’s market a week ago.

My older son straddled Littler J’s stroller and played with him while I waited to pay a vendor. Littler J giggled non-stop.

“Your boys are so sweet!” exclaimed a young woman passing by. I started to thank her as she concluded, “Good mom!”

I thought of my mom.

Mom, as I last saw her

My older son with Mom as I last saw her

I think it’s easy to assume others must inevitably understand how much we love them because of how intensely we feel that love.

We see them doing a great job and maybe assume they know what a great job we see they’re doing.

But sometimes they don’t. Sometimes they are so lost in what’s still undone that they forget to see what they’ve already done well.

Sometimes they need someone to remind them how marvelous they are and how magnificently they’ve done.

Sometimes they need to be lifted.

Sometimes it’s just an added boost.

Always, those loving words of witness are a blessing.

By the time my mom died, I knew how proud she was of me. I no longer questioned that like I did in the car one day many years before.

All the same, my heart soars when I run into strangers who remind me, by their words. “You’re Christine’s daughter, aren’t you? The one one who went to law school, right? She was so proud of you! So proud of all of you.”

I’ve heard this at least a half-dozen times since my mom died.

It’s lifted me every time.

Mama's generations

Christine’s kids, then and now


“You’re doing great.”

Such small but mighty words.

Words, man.


  1. January 17, 2016 at 1:03 pm

    You’re doing great! 🙂 Thank you. It’s so true, everything you are saying here. I’m so glad that you get to hear it! ~ and even better yet, receive it. Feel it, and remember your mom so fondly.

    • January 17, 2016 at 1:04 pm

      Thanks, Ka! I feel it. I feel keenly how well I’m doing along with all my mistakes, but I am still grateful for kind words of affirmation. I am grateful for you. (You are doing great!)

  2. January 17, 2016 at 1:05 pm

    You’re doing great! 😀 Love you, chica.

  3. January 17, 2016 at 1:13 pm

    I remember the pediatrician saying that to me (and my husband) that we were doing great and adjusting well to parenthood. “The baby looks great. You are guys are doing a good job. I’m impressed, especially as first time parents.”

    Not that I was asking for anyone to tell me that. I know deep down, I lacked what other women knew/and could do naturally as a momma. There was room for improvement. I was struggling (we were struggling) the first month because milk just didn’t come in for me and the whole nursing thing was a nightmare. And the pressure you feel to nurse is unbelievable. We were so exhausted and the doctor told us (in the beginning) that formula was fine and to just enjoy and bond with the baby.

    So, at that 3rd month check-up, before I really said much to the doctor… he looked our son over and said those words. I didn’t realize just how much we needed to hear. Really? Not that we thought we were doing badly, but we needed the encouragement. And those words stayed with me.

    My son is now 12. I still remember. They meant so much especially when I really needed to hear.

    • January 17, 2016 at 1:20 pm

      Yes, yes, yes. I had my second son at a hospital that had these terrible “YOU MUST BREASTFEED!” admonitions posted everywhere.

      I’d had serious challenges breastfeeding my older son and felt well equipped to face any challenges with Littler J with the same support that got me through the Li’l D challenges.

      But as I looked at those signs, I felt enraged on behalf of every mom who hadn’t already learned she could (probably) do it (and was still a fine mother if not). I felt horrified, knowing some moms would feel like terrible people for feeding their kids formula. New parents are often exhausted and scared. They need to be encouraged, not berated and terrified into thinking they’re failing if they do or don’t do any one thing right or wrong.

      When Littler J was about six weeks old, I met a doctor who said that these hospitals see huge numbers of dehydrated babies because–in part–of those stupid mandate posters.

      You know what makes breastfeeding easier? Support! Kind words! Resources! What doesn’t? Judgment and mandates!

      I am so thankful to read about your doctor. I wish more people understood how important those words can be to people who are struggling to adjust to a whole new world.

  4. January 17, 2016 at 2:54 pm

    I think all of us need those affirmations. More than the much more frequent criticism. I think (hope) that the positive words are more powerful too. A reminder to continue as we are, and that we are indeed ‘enough’.

    • January 17, 2016 at 7:16 pm

      Evolutionarily, we hold onto the negative far more tightly than the positive. There’s an excellent description of the benefits of this in the beginning of one of my books … but, of course, the scenarios it addresses are ones more like being out on the savannah. We’ve got this evolutionary impulses that drive us to hold onto things in ways that no longer benefit us as they once did. It takes many positive statements to counter one negative one, but it can be so common to hear negative, negative, negative, with very little positive to counter it. It’s hard to flourish in the face of so much “no,” and so much easier when overwhelmingly encouraged and nurtured, with “no” reserved for special situations instead of vice versa. Since reading about this bias, it’s become even more important to say positive words where warranted.

  5. January 17, 2016 at 3:34 pm

    Yes! It’s amazing what a few words strung together can do for someone’s soul/morale/confidence.

    • January 17, 2016 at 7:17 pm

      Truly! There’ve been times I, too, felt pulled back from the brink by a handful of words. 🙂

  6. January 17, 2016 at 11:54 pm

    Words, but good words 🙂

  7. January 18, 2016 at 3:38 am

    Simple words aren’t they? Yet we need them, need to hear them.

    You my friend, you are doing beautifully.

    • January 19, 2016 at 4:48 am

      I agree. We need to hear the good to help counter even a fraction of the negative we hear and see.

      Also, thank you. And ditto!

  8. January 18, 2016 at 5:23 am

    Wonderful post, Deb. You’re doing great here, too.

    Gotta go tell my son. But maybe I’ll wait till he’s awake!

  9. January 18, 2016 at 7:12 am

    I literally has shivers the whole read through. You’re right. Words really are so powerful, which is why it’s so important that we both hear and say these things to each other! Wonderful post 🙂

    • January 20, 2016 at 4:24 am

      Thank you so much for your kind words, which are a light to me! I hope you have a de-light-ful day full of understanding just how great you’re doing. ♥

  10. January 18, 2016 at 9:44 am

    YES – it IS so wonderful to hear that you’re doing great! And I think loved ones often don’t say it enough (similar to your mom’s comment). Words are so powerful!!

    • January 20, 2016 at 4:25 am

      I have a few friends who probably still think I oversay them, but I think they’re words worth saying! And saying again, and again. Each time adds a little stored warmth to get us through the coldest of times.

  11. January 18, 2016 at 10:44 am

    And now you’ve made me cry.
    Darn you, Closet Monster!

    • January 20, 2016 at 4:26 am

      I think this must be what the hashtag #SorryNotSorry is about.
      (Thank you! Also, I’d like to say, genuinely, you are doing great. I’m apt to elaborate more on this before long!)

  12. January 18, 2016 at 4:21 pm

    Words have such power, and this is such a great reminder, thank you!

  13. January 24, 2016 at 8:34 am

    Words are pretty powerful. They are the emotion behind the music we experience. Maybe it’s because I’m getting older but I’m attempting to be more cognizant of the effect of my words. They mean something and someone like you who has so much to say in such beautiful prose is amazing.

  1. January 17, 2016 at 4:50 pm

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