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Parents First

by Chuck

I fly quite often and one of the things I really enjoy is watching the flight attendants on Southwest Airlines interact with passengers. Young Couple Walking Dog

The safety talk caught my attention as they talked about the oxygen masks.  The speech to parents was to put on their own mask before assisting their child.  Southwest attendants made it funny by saying, “if you happen to have more than one child sitting with you, pick your favorite.”

After the safety talk, attendants walked down the isle and checked with each parent to make sure they understood that they needed to put on their own mask first before helping their child.  Every parent nodded in agreement to the plan but I’m curious just how many of the parents would actually put their mask on first.

We love our kids and would do anything to keep them from getting hurt and so it seems unloving and cowardly to meet your own needs while your child is at risk.  Yet, the logic is, if you aren’t breathing, you won’t be able to help others breathe, so put the mask on.

I wonder how many times we as parents put our kids at risk because we don’t take care of our needs first.

This is hard for me to write because on a regular basis I see kids who are suffering because their parent put their own “wants” over their kids “needs.”  I have a friend who spent significant time in a bar growing up because it was more convenient for his mom who wanted to drink with her friends.  What I’m talking about isn’t about “wants” and convenience; it is about the things that help a parent survive.

What are these things for you?  For me, it includes a strong relationship with my wife.  Kids are very important but don’t come first.  I need time alone with my wife focused on growing our relationship.

Another thing is my spiritual growth, if I’m not spiritually growing, it will be hard for my kids to grow spiritually.

I need to be a provider for my family.  This includes working to put a roof over their heads and keep them fed.  This is an area with some subjectivity and requires balance.  Modeling a healthy work ethic is a key part of teaching your kids the value of work and the importance of people over things.

Finally, my health is important.  I need to make sure that I am physically rested, mentally alert, and talking care of myself physically.  I try to exercise at times which don’t interfere with family time but I also want my kids to know that it is a priority to me to be healthy.

It still feels kind of weird to be encouraging parents to spend less time with their kids but my hope is that as we carefully take the challenge of making sure we are “alive” so we can help them survive this world and its challenges.