Parenting is like firefighting

Parent Connection

September 16, 2010 

Over my years of writing Parent Connection I have occasionally paralleled parenting to firefighting. I had the privilege of volunteering as a firefighter in my community and have fond memories of my time down at Station 52.

Volunteering to serve your community by answering the call to those in need brings about much satisfaction, and at times, real joy.

The vast majority of emergency personnel folks will tell you that they truly love their jobs -- volunteer or career. The job is more of a way of life and isn't just "work."

So it is with parenting. Oh, I'm sure many of you are thinking, "Uh, I could use a little more joy and a lot less challenge right now in dealing with my kids."

I hear you. Even though firefighters and parents generally choose these roles, sometimes in life we simply get more than we bargained for.

"Mom, where is my other shoe? I can't find it and I'm late for practice." Mom wonders if little Susie will be looking for that other shoe while running late for her wedding one day.

"Hey Dad, I'm sorry about plowing over the mailbox in your new ride last night. Don't worry -- I rubbed off the scratches, uh, sorta. Can you pass the ketchup?"

Man, not-so-little Bradley doesn't even bother to explain why he was an hour past curfew last night.

Then there are those circumstances that absolutely break your heart. Perhaps it's your 17-year-old daughter with the sheepish face sitting next to her very pale boyfriend with "something we need to tell you."

Then there's the day you are looking for the stapler in your son's bottom desk drawer and there it is. That baggie of something just can't be pot. Or at least you thought so.

How can parents handle the unexpected, whether a minor call or one that mirrors a 5-alarm inferno?

I think the first step is preparation. Just as firefighters take courses, train and prepare to respond to a wide variety of emergencies, you as parent can do the same.

Know your child's habits and tendencies and how you are prepared or not prepared to handle it.

Don't find yourself completely caught off guard. As a volunteer years ago I always had my gear ready to go, but there was that evening our district had a roaring house fire and I couldn't find my car keys.

Talk about being frustrated. That only happened once.

Likewise, don't get caught unprepared when a major situation happens within your family. Mom and dad should never appear as if they have no clue how to handle a crisis, or as in my case with the misplaced keys, can't even show up.

Have you ever watched a movie, TV show or actually seen a real fire scene in which all of the firefighters were scrambling around like a mom with four kids caught on the beach with an approaching thunderstorm?

Not likely, because impulsively rushing around helps no one.

Take a breath, gather yourself, and take on the emergency calls of parenting while fully in control, even when your pounding heart is telling you otherwise.

Bryan Greeson, a nationally certified School Psychologist, serves as the Director of Special Services in York School District One. E-mail him at

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