Thursday, September 16, 2010

Tribute to My Dad's Storytelling

This is a speech I am giving today to a private audience.

This is the story of when I learned the importance of telling children stories.

When I was a little girl growing up in a small town in southern Indiana my dad was a volunteer fireman. When he went out on a call he would usually return home with a story that included a fire prevention moral. Did you know that a plugged in toaster can create a kitchen fire? Never throw water on a grease fire. It is important to keep your chimney clean. We would hear stories about the most ridiculous things people did to start fires. To this day I never leave a candle burning when I am not around.

There were times my dad came home without a story and only with a lesson. Use two fingers on infants that need CPR. Never ride on a motorcycle without a helmet. Always wear your seat belt.

Fast forward to when I am grown and have my own small child. My husband and I were lucky enough to be able to commute together for awhile. Our son was in the backseat during our morning drive when we saw smoke rising off of the road. I looked to the side of the road and saw a flipped car.

My father's stories came flooding back and took over my actions. I told my husband to stop the car and call 911. People are sometimes in shock during a crisis situation so you should assign someone to call 911. Get their attention by calling their name or pointing to them. Make sure they have a phone and tell them to call 911 before leaving to help.

I left my husband and son in the car and ran up to the flipped Saturn. I could see one person inside so I called out to see if there were more people inside the car. The woman replied that she was the only person. With an artificial calmness I assessed the situation and saw that she was stuck but not in immediate danger. She was responsive but could go into shock. She started to panic.

Do not move the injured person unless there is a chance the car might catch fire or become unstable. Keep them talking. She told me her name was Brie and she worked for Waukegan schools. Brie wanted to climb out the window but I stopped her. I kept reassuring her that the fire department was on the way. I almost came out of my calm and disassociated demeanor when she pulled out her bloody cell phone and we both realized she was bleeding.

My dad's stories were inside of me. Once the fire department gets there, get out of their way and let them do their job. A fire person came up with the jaws of life and I let Brie know that I was going to leave and let them get her out of the car. Someone else started talking to Brie and I left.

When I returned to my car my son told me that I had missed all of the firetrucks. My legs started to shake and my voice cracked when I let him know that I had seen them. I told my son, “When you are helping someone that is injured and the fire department arrives, you get out of their way and let them do their job.”

Without my dad's stories I wonder if I would have frozen when I saw the car wreck. Would I have stopped to help if I didn't have his rescue lessons allowing me to run on auto-pilot? I cannot know for sure but one thing I do know is that storytelling is an essential part of parenting and I am going to be one of 'those parents' that bore their children with stories.

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