When I asked to cut my firstborn’s umbilical cord, I vowed not only to be the coolest dad ever but also to shelter my son—and my future daughter—from any EMS public safety paranoia spillover that might try to creep its way into my personal family life at the end of each shift. As noble as my intentions were at the time, I didn’t realize it would be hard enough just trying to be a good parent, much less behaving like a normal human being after working in a 9-1-1 environment that I now believe human beings were never meant to be in for extended periods of time.
A critical component of parenting is to protect one’s offspring from harm, and if anyone is more aware of how dangerous this world can be, it is proctologists … I mean prehospital care providers. We don’t perceive the world like everybody else. When I took my kids to the play park and watched them climb the jungle gym, I couldn’t help but contemplate all the possibilities for gravitational trauma.
When I took them to the water park, I could only envision them flying through a tube of urine-blended water uninhibitedly supplied by 2,000 other incontinent children. Regardless of the happy places I’ve taken my children to play or have fun, odds are I probably ran a call there. Unlike Barney and his prehistoric friends who haven’t a clue about the potentiality for extinction, I always contemplated the worst-case scenario. Nonetheless, in the spirit of providing hope and happiness for my children, I let them watch Barney … every day … until sadly, our cable line was inexplicably cut.
Despite providing these small precious souls with an abundance of love, hope and laughter, all children are homicidal/suicidal maniacs. Once they find mobility and sugar, they seek ways to destroy themselves and anything that stands, crawls or slithers in their way—clueless to the merciless vulnerabilities flanking their every move. This is why every parent comes up with safety rules for their children to adhere to. Yes, these are the exact same rules or statements you vowed never to repeat—straight from your parent’s mouths:
- >> Don’t run with scissors;
- >> Don’t lick your sister;
- >> If you fall and break your leg, don’t come running to me;
- >> Don’t go play in the street or talk to strangers;
- >> Don’t ever touch anyone else ever again;
- >> Just because the dog smells yours doesn’t mean you should smell his;
- >> Be home before dark; and
- >> Do you want your face to freeze in that position?
Often, these rules contradicted each other or didn’t correspond to actions taken. My mother used to spank me as punishment for hitting other kids. Or there was the time she said, “S@&! Where did you learn such vulgar language?” “F--- if I know,” I would reply, resulting in more spanking.
Of course, there are those times when the wisdom of our age and experience failed to make an impression on our children’s behavior. Either that or we were feeling too helpless or tired to consider their feelings, opinions or insights to the point we resorted to the lowest form of rule enforcement and lame warning clichés: because I said so, when I was your age, I’m not going to tell you again, stop that or else, don’t get smart with me, stop crying or I will give you something to cry about, don’t look at me like that, I’ve had it up to here and do you want to be put in time out?
Paradoxically, if my children managed to hurt themselves despite my best efforts to provide a safe and secure environment void of moronic behavior, I instantaneously switched from my parental demeanor of, “Oh, my poor baby has a boo boo. Let me kiss it and make it better,” to that of a paramedic. “Suck it up, cupcake. It’s just a minor lac not even worthy of a 4x4. When was your last tetanus shot?”
My children are now in their early 20s, and as much as I thought I tried not to incorporate my overly protective EMS paranoia into their lives as they grew up, my son reminded me otherwise while visiting recently.
“Dad … seriously? You always did a scene survey prior to us entering the playground, announcing loudly to no one in particular, ‘The scene is safe.’ Even when you were enlightening me to the ways of life you always incorporated EMS into every scenario.”
“How so?” I defensively retorted, now shocked by this new revelation.
“I remember when I graduated from elementary school and how hard I thought it was until you reminded me, ‘Ya think sixth grade was hard? Try maintaining a driver’s compromised airway while he’s hanging upside down in a Toyota wrapped upside down around a bridge embankment 30’ above the ground at 3 a.m. with only a penlight to work with.’ Or the time I saw a dog climb on top of another dog and I asked you what he was doing. You replied, ‘the Heimlich.’ Or the time …”
“Do you want me to put you in time out?”
Until next time, stay safe. JEMS
This article originally appeared in July 2012 JEMS as “Young’ns of EMS: How the profession shapes your parenting skills.”