This week I had a chance to visit with friends who are new parents.  Their baby is just now old enough to comfortably take on short outings.  Watching them you could tell they were totally into being parents and the needs of their child.  Our visit brought back a lot of memories when my sons were the same age.  To my horror it also brought back all the mistakes I’d made, and a few times I’d narrowly averted major mistakes. 

 

I don’t think any parent ‘wants’ to make mistakes, most go to extremes to care for their children and keep them safe.  Yet, in times where fear, anger, surprise, and other strong emotions are present we often react without full thought.  It’s easy to get caught in the moment.  It’s much more difficult to anticipate such moments and set the tone in advance for when certain things occur.

 

I don’t think any parent ‘wants’ to make mistakes, most go to extremes to care for their children and keep them safe.  Yet, in times where fear, anger, surprise, and other strong emotions are present we often react without full thought.  It’s easy to get caught in the moment.  It’s much more difficult to anticipate such moments and set the tone in advance for when certain things occur.

 

During the police academy, military training, life guard training, and most other types of training I had where events or accidents are likely to happen, the best advice ever offered was to give advance thought to what you’d do when/if certain events happened.  “What would I do if I was on patrol and someone walked up to my car, and then pulled a gun?”  “What would I do if I was sitting in a restaurant and gunmen robbed the place?”

 

During the police academy, military training, life guard training, and most other types of training I had where events or accidents are likely to happen, the best advice ever offered was to give advance thought to what you’d do when/if certain events happened.  “What would I do if I was on patrol and someone walked up to my car, and then pulled a gun?”  “What would I do if I was sitting in a restaurant and gunmen robbed the place?” 

 

The theory is, that if you have already anticipated such events, and if you’d already thought out the most logical/correct response, then when such an event happened you’d fall back on your thoughts in the same way you fall back on training, instinctively and naturally.  This really works and I could provide you with dozens of such examples which happened to me personally, but I really wanted to share just one:

 

The theory is, that if you have already anticipated such events, and if you’d already thought out the most logical/correct response, then when such an event happened you’d fall back on your thoughts in the same way you fall back on training, instinctively and naturally.  This really works and I could provide you with dozens of such examples which happened to me personally, but I really wanted to share just one:

 

For many years we lived on a small ranch in Umpqua Oregon.  It was normal for kids as young as ten years old to operate farm machinery and vehicles.  I was probably more cautious than most, but my middle son was often asked to move vehicles around the property as necessary.

 

For many years we lived on a small ranch in Umpqua Oregon.  It was normal for kids as young as ten years old to operate farm machinery and vehicles.  I was probably more cautious than most, but my middle son was often asked to move vehicles around the property as necessary.  

One such time my young son, only 2 years old, was in the shop building helping me when I asked my son to move our 1 ton dually to the front of the shop so we could load an order.  He’d done this many times before, but watching him out the window I became uneasy and I noticed my 2 year old in the part of the shop right where I asked my son to park in front of.  I walked over and picked him up, and moved back to the other side of the shop and watched through the window.

 

Everything seemed to be going fine, he was just a few feet from stopping the truck where I’d asked when all of a sudden the truck leaped forward, crashed through the wall of my shop where my youngest had just been playing, and came to rest half in, and half out of the shop.  His foot had hit the gas instead of the brake.  My middle son looked petrified.  I slowly walked over to the truck window kicking boards and ceiling tiles out of my way and said “Son, turn the key off.”  The big diesel engine stopped and the silence was deafening.

 

Everything seemed to be going fine, he was just a few feet from stopping the truck where I’d asked when all of a sudden the truck leaped forward, crashed through the wall of my shop where my youngest had just been playing, and came to rest half in, and half out of the shop.  His foot had hit the gas instead of the brake.  My middle son looked petrified.  I slowly walked over to the truck window kicking boards and ceiling tiles out of my way and said “Son, turn the key off.”  The big diesel engine stopped and the silence was deafening.

This was one of the moments I’d anticipated.  I reached through the window and put my hand on his shoulder, squeezed, and said:  “This is my fault and my responsibility, you didn’t do anything wrong.  Take your brother in the house and start dinner and I’ll be in after I clean this up..”

I’m sure he was still in shock, after all he’d just crashed a big truck through my workshop, took out several heavy wood working machines, and both the shop and truck were heavily damaged.  But a calm voice, reassurance, and no anger allowed a potentially volatile situation to be defused before it started.  Hopefully it would save him from bad dreams and apprehension in the future.  More, the truck was now standing exactly where my youngest had been playing before I picked him up seconds before.  I’ve had many sleepless nights thinking about what could have happened.

As I watched my two sons walking across the property to the house I allowed myself to breath and it was only then I realized I was really shaking.  The truck and shop were nothing.. my two sons being alive and unharmed was everything.  Standing there in the rubble of my shop with a busted up truck I felt like the luckiest man in the world.  Looking at my watch I realized that was about to change when the wife got home so I quickly backed the truck out, cleaned up the debris, put a tarp over the opening, and went in to help start dinner.

 

My son went on to handle volatile situations and emergencies quite well.  He survived two combat tours in Iraq, was married and became the father of her two children, and now teaches calculus at a local high school.  My youngest heads off to the university early next year.  Setting the tone, in advance, for such times is something we can all do.  You never know when it’s going to prevent your life from changing in the worst ways, or help your life change in positive ways.  Set the tone now.

 

Our children learn from our examples, even how to handle emergencies.  Sometimes they learn from us what not to do, other times they learn what’s best to do.  We can help achieve the latter by taking a bit of time and thinking through what you’d do “if..”  And trust me on this, there will be a lot of “if’s” during the time you raise your children.

My son went on to handle volatile situations and emergencies quite well.  He survived two combat tours in Iraq, was married and became the father of her two children, and now teaches calculus at a local high school.  My youngest heads off to the university early next year.  Setting the tone, in advance, for such times is something we can all do.  You never know when it’s going to prevent your life from changing in the worst ways, or help your life change in positive ways.  Set the tone now.

 

Until next time..      

 

Operation Iraqi Freedom