“When I was a boy and I would see scary things in the news, my mother would say to me, “Look for the helpers. You will always find people who are helping.” ― Fred Rogers
We took the kids to a library fair this morning and they had the chance to talk to firefighters, EMTs, and policemen. Confession: when I was little I was actually pretty afraid of policemen. I associated policemen with getting in trouble so when we saw them at events like this, I always ducked behind my parents, afraid they would yell at me for littering or some other minor offense. In fairness, even now I still get a little uneasy around law enforcement. Don’t know why. Maybe I was a criminal in a past life.
I very, very much want the kids to feel comfortable asking people like this for help, though, so we’ve spent a lot of time talking about community helpers. For a while, Eva started to associate EMTs, doctors, and nurses with negative things like pain and having to be trapped at the hospital, so we actively started looking for them when we were out so we could be friendly or watch how they were helping people. Since Eva has her medical issues, there’s a good chance that she’ll need emergency help again and we might not be the ones driving her to the hospital next time so I want the kids to know that these are just people who are there to help us and make bad situations better.
I think it’s easy to use law enforcement as a vague threat with kids by saying things like, “if you don’t pick that up and throw it away the police are going to come and get you” or “do you want to crack your head open and have to go to the hospital?” After all, that’s sort of a linear thought process and we do want kids to be safe and act inside the law. The bad thing, though, is that it makes the good guys scary and then if something scary happens, they might not know who to turn to. So I’m trying hard to break that parental habit and we’ve also come up with a list of people (in this order) that the kids should turn to if they are scared, hurt, or in trouble:
(1) Us (the parents)
(2) Another adult in the family
(3) Another adult that is a family friend
(4) A policeman, EMT, security guard, or firefighter
(5) Someone who works in a store and wears a name badge
(6) A mom with kids
(7) A dad with kids
We’re also working on learning phone numbers and Eva knows that she can dial 9-1-1 if she needs help and we aren’t around. Did you know that you can use any old cell phone to call 9-1-1, even if it isn’t connected to a calling plan anymore? We’ve been keeping my flip phone charged and in a family spot just in case something happens and either we can’t find our cell phones (that happens a lot) or one of us is incapacitated while we have the kids and Eva has to make that phone call. I admit, I’m waiting for the day when she calls emergency services because she scraped her knee or she’s mad at me for taking away the fingerpaints…but maybe that’s just my fear of law enforcement talking. See, we’ve got to start them young!