Last week my daughter’s teacher asked me to come talk to her class in reference to career day. At first, I was a little hesitant. I have spoken many times to groups from all walks of life in my 12 years in the fire service, but talking to my own child’s class seemed difficult. I try not to embarrass my kids in front of their friends and so far I am a “cool” dad in my kid’s eyes. I’m sure that will change here shortly…
Public speaking is not my strong suit, so understandably I was a little leery about miss-speaking or not knowing the answer to a question when asked. None the less I agreed to speak. My daughter had no idea I was coming. It was her teacher’s idea to surprise her with my visit.
The day of the talk came and I showed up to the classroom with my firefighting gear in hand. For some reason kids love to see the structure firefighting outfit. As I entered the room I saw the class, of around 18-20 children sitting in a semicircle, near the front of the classroom I could see feel excitement and anticipation.
My daughter is in an advanced third grade class. Little did I know that the kids, with the teacher’s help created a list of hard-hitting questions to ask me during my talk. They were not shy at all, which in turn helped me to feel more comfortable.
Most of the questions were the positive type like “What do you like most about your career?” That’s a pretty easy one. I like helping people who are truly having an emergency. We either help them have a better day or at least a not as bad as it could be day. There are times that no matter what we do, we cannot help. Then there is the “brotherhood” and team mentality of the fire department that makes you push yourself harder and farther than you would otherwise with others standing beside you cheering you on.
I won’t bore you with the details of my talk, but there was a question that was asked that stuck in my head. “What are some things about your career that you do not like?” With my younger children’s birthdays on the horizon, this question burned in my soul. My mind immediately flashed to all the missed birthdays, missed first words, missed first steps. Then there are the holidays, where we are cutting patients out of cars instead of watching fireworks at a BBQ, eating pizza instead of turkey, responding to a structure fire because someone forgot to water their Christmas tree and the lights shorted and caught it on fire. Then there is treating patients of a multi-vehicle collision where someone had too much to drink at a New Year’s party.
Most people do not realize that we are gone from our home and family for a third of our career. Which for me is the hardest part. Many times in the past my daughter would call me, once she figured out how to speed dial my cell phone, crying because she missed me and wanted me to tuck her in. I have been doing this job for 12 plus years now, and the more I do it the harder it is on my family life. We are not able to leave our work at the door like most people. The images we see stick with us and can lead to depression or even worse PTSD. The stressful calls and interrupted sleep lead to short tempers and health problems. The average life expectancy is age 55 for most firefighters, along with a statistic of firefighters being three times more likely to divorce. Those are tough odds.
With all that said, I truly love the job… I’m just not a fan of all the extra garbage that comes along with it.
One of the last questions asked was “What is something that pushes you when you are in a bad situation?” My reply to that is my wife and kids!!! I will fight and push until there is no air in my lungs to return to the embrace of my family.
I really enjoyed the opportunity to speak with these children about being committed to a career and sharing my knowledge. It always amazes me how the questions asked can trigger such thought and consideration.