“Are you ready?”
This was the question that was asked more and more frequently before I was about to become a parent for the first time, now more than 10 years ago. I never really knew what the true basis of that question meant. Ready for no more sleep? Ready for diapers? Ready for no more hot meals? Ready for becoming a soccer dad? Nobody really knows what “ready” is, but those of us who have been there (I can now count myself at least partially in that category) kind of know what “ready” is. And we weren’t.
However, “ready”, to me, has taken on a new meeting these days, and it is regards to safety. No, this isn’t about childproofing your house. Childproofing is good, but while it usually succeeds in keeping the chemicals and bad stuff away from junior, it also usually succeeds in keeping it away from the parents, too. No, this is about the changing in mental shift that is required in order to keep your kids safe.
The purpose of this is not to breed what we sometimes call Nervous Parent Syndrome. No, you should not smother your child and never let them out of your sight. However, for first time parents, they have generally been only in charge of their own health, safety, happiness and schedule for the past 10 or so years (some more, some less). The mental shift I speak of is the one that occurs when you realize that you are now actually 100% responsible for somebody else’s health and well being.
As an emergency responder, I have seen some things that I would never care to see again, but probably will. When it comes to children, with very few exceptions, the emergency is the fault of the set of eyes that was responsible for them at that time. Think about how you interact (or don’t) with your little ones, as I describe:
- The 9 month old in the high chair. Dad had put some cheerios and blueberries on the tray, and then ran upstairs to check email. When he returned, the baby was in respiratory arrest, having choked.
- The 18 month old in the back seat, who found a skittle back there, somehow. Mom never heard him choke as she was driving down the road, Bluetooth in her ear.
- The 9 year old who was playing outside by himself on some backyard equipment that had not been maintained well. He got wrapped up in the rope ladder, and was essentially stangled.
- The minivan, designed to hold 7, but was holding 12, including 3 in that cargo space between the last seat and the tailgate, that was hit from behind at 4pm one afternoon by a drunk driver, killing all 3 in the cargo area, and one more in the last row of seats.
You’ve heard some of the others, no doubt. Leaving the child in the bath to answer the phone or get a towel, falling out of a tree, run over in their own driveway. All of these tragedies can be more readily avoided once parents and caregivers realize that their pace and their ritual NEEDS to change. Quite simply, we need to do things differently when we are parents, and approach each instance from a standpoint of “what can they get into if I step out”.
Pee with the door open, bring your laptop to the table if you must work while they eat, and put your tie on by the high chair. I’m not saying don’t let them out of your sight….. but you should know what they are doing at all times.