Back in November I remember slugging into a couch to watch the Thanksgiving Day Parade with my son.
My favorite three year old was fascinated and loved watching the balloons and floats come down the road. (Mostly because he is easily amused by bright and shiny things… just like his father).
“Look pal,” I said to him when I spotted what appeared to be a fire truck. “Here comes a firefighter float!”
“Like you, daddy?” he asked. “That float has your firefighter friends?”
“Sort of… maybe… we’ll see when it gets closer… just wait, buddy.”
And then there it was…
in all its glory. The Local Heroes Helping Everyday Float to honor our nation’s first responders.
“Hey daddy! That fireman is getting that cat!”
Sure enough… featured prominently on the float was a beautiful rendition of the ol’ cat-stuck-in-a-tree stereotype.
Did they have to use that theme to highlight our work for millions of people to see? They couldn’t have come up with anything better than that? Anything cooler than a stupid cat in a tree?
“That’s what you do, daddy? You help cats?”
My son wasn’t asking to be a smart ass… he’s not old enough for that yet. His image of what I do at work centers around driving a big truck with the loud siren. Then I make water go through the hose. Then I go into the fire and put out the fire somehow. My son already knew some of the basics of what I do, but he clearly had a little more research to complete before he could pass a Fire I test.
“Well, not really…. Firefighters don’t actually get cats down from trees.”
“Nobody helps that cat?” My kid was disappointed. He was actually upset that a poor little pussycat might be stuck in the tree forever.
And then it hit me…
as dumb as it sounds this was actually a great way to help my three year old son understand what daddy does what he goes to work. (Sorta).
“Well… Firefighters help everybody. We help everything. Anyone that needs help can call a firefighter. Even cats. So yeah, firefighters will get that cat down.”
No more disappointment. And once again – firefighters are awesome
I really didn’t want to talk down about firefighting. I would love to tell my son that firefighters have to use their training to advance an attack line through intense heat and limited visibility towards the seat of a fire while a truck company performs ventilation during a well coordinated, aggressive interior attack. I’d love for him to know that firefighters stabilize critical patients entrapped in their car during lengthy extrications. The problem is he wouldn’t get it.
Firefighters help people
He can wrap his fingers around that basic concept and understand it. He gets it.
Paramedics fix boo boos. They make people feel better when they have a tummy ache. These are basic concepts that he gets. He doesn’t need to comprehend how a paramedic has to analyze the electrical activity of a patient’s heart to determine which medication to administer. He doesn’t need to understand that police officers have an in depth understanding of the law and how to apply investigative techniques to crime scenes. They simply help people and make sure everyone behaves the right way.
Simple concepts; ultra simple concepts that even a three year old can understand .
Some might argue that I’m “talking down” about these professions to my son. My theory – and my hope – is that I am actuality talking these professions up; instilling within him an understanding of public service and public safety that is deeply routed in compassion and a core desire to provide help whenever help is needed.
Life is simple for my three year old and that’s how he likes it. Sometime in the near future he’ll start to understand the complexity of certain things and that’s when he’ll learn more about the intricacies of public safety. Until then he’ll be happy knowing daddy works at a fire station… waiting for someone to call him for help.
Solution: Knowing that simplifications can be a compliment, and just might help someone to understand what we do, if only in a simpler way.