I do not remember learning what an emergency is. I remember learning to count and my ABCs. I remember the day I learned my parents had names other than Mom and Dad. I do not remember the day I learned what the word emergency meant. It was just one of those words that I thought everyone instinctively understood.  So, when teaching my children about what to do in the event of an emergency I made sure my children knew their address and phone number. From an early age they were instructed on how to call 911. We were prepared – right?

Home Alone

Leaving your children home alone for the first time is scary. But there comes a time when you realize the babysitter you hired is only a year older than your child. It happens around the age of 12 or 13. We had reached that moment and decided we could leave our children for short periods of time, half-hour, or an hour at the most. These trial runs had been successful. Our children, ages 12 and 7, seemed to handle life at home without us. We thought they were ready for something a little longer.

My husband and I were members of a couples bowling league. We were going to be gone two hours, at the most. We instructed them not to answer the door or go outside while we were gone. Having any friends over while we were gone was absolutely out of the question. I left the phone number of the bowling ally and instructed them to call if there was an emergency and nervously left the house.

The Big Emergency

We had been gone about an hour when over the loudspeaker I hear my name, “Please come to the desk. You have an emergency phone call.” My heart sank. I ran to the front desk. “Hello?”

“Mom, this is Jason.”

“Yes dear. I can tell that. Are you alright?”

“Yes, but Ben cut himself.”

“I’ll be right home.”

I run back to the lane where I could see the look of concern on everyone’s faces. My husband asked what was going on. We decided he should finish out the game. I gathered up my things and left. The fifteen-minute drive home seemed to take forever. Every stoplight turned red just as I approached. I was thinking to myself, we never should have left the kids alone. We will have to quit the bowling league. I’ll never go anywhere without my children again!

I pulled into the driveway, threw the car into park, and left it running. I ran into the house and find my sons in the downstairs bathroom. The oldest has a large bath-towel rapped around his left hand. Fully prepared to find a large gash and the towel filled with blood I carefully unwrap his hand. There is no blood. There is however a tiny, almost microscopic, red spot on his thumb.

Holding my son’s injured hand in my hands, I look into my son’s earnest eyes. “This doesn’t look so bad. What happened?”

The Learning Moment

I do not remember the explanation. It was something about making a sandwich. I was thinking, it’s not April Fool’s Day. They look serious, it’s kind-of cute how Jason took such good care of his older brother.

“Have you washed it off?” I ask.

“Yes.” They both nodded.

“Alright, stay here. I’ll be right back.”

Obviously there was a gap in their understanding of what an emergency is and this was the perfect opportunity for a learning moment. I went into the kitchen got a tumbler size glass out of the cupboard, returned to the bathroom and set it down beside the sink. “Do you see this glass?”

“Yes?” The boys were looking at me expectantly.

“I’m glad you called me. You did everything right but what you have, there on your finger, is not an emergency. If you fill this glass with blood, that’s an emergency. You should call me if you cannot stop the bleeding, or the towel is soaked in blood. If you fill a glass this big with blood you should call me and 911.”

I was proud of how the boys handled this emergency and I told them that. I told them I was proud of how they pulled together and took care of each other and, I was glad they had not called 911. We discussed the reason why and when 911 would be needed. I was glad they had remembered all the tools we taught them about how to clean a wound and use the phone.

We were exiting the bathroom when I asked, “What kind of knife where you using when you cut your finger?”

“Just a regular knife from the drawer,” answered my son. “You told us to use the sharp knives only when you were watching.”

“Good job!” I smiled.

Crisis Averted

Crisis averted, I went outside, put the car in the garage, turned it off and leaned back in the seat. They got all the ‘what’ to do right. Hopefully now they had a better understanding of when to do it and what action to take. Also, if they didn’t know it before, they knew it now, Mom and Dad will be there when they need us. Then I wonder, what else have I failed to define for my children? What else do they not instinctively understand? Is it possible to prepare them for everything?

I entered the house. The TV was blearing. No one was watching it. The boys were chasing each other through the house. The older brother had something younger brother wanted. Tears fill my eyes, not because the kitchen is a mess, but because someday I will miss all this.