I've given back to my community for many years now, volunteering to help organizations in need. My oldest daughter, now 12, began giving back to her community at 9 years old. She entered a sleep study for a local children's hospital, testing whether a child wakes up more quickly to a mother's voice than a smoke alarm.
I know that she entered because she saw how much I volunteer. She heard for years how important I believe it is to give back. There was probably an element of wanting to please her mother.
She's inherited my fear of fires and sometimes can't fall asleep for her worry. And I swear I've never mentioned it. It's in her nature, not from my nurture.
That evening, her excitement faded as the reality of the project dawned on her.
The electrodes attached to her, the need to fall asleep in a strange place.
The fear of "even though I know this is pretend, it feels real."
She had to simulate escaping from the room in order to get the alarm to turn off. Four times over two nights.
She cried. I hugged her, told her we could leave.
She said, "I don't want to leave. But I want to leave."
I understood. The reality of putting a child through this simulation became clear to me as bedtime drew near. We agreed that if she couldn't fall asleep by midnight, we would leave.
But she did fall asleep. All four times, over two nights.
The time it took her to get out?
Simulation 1: 12 seconds (my voice)
Simulation 2: 15 seconds (my voice)
Simulation 3: 8 seconds (my voice)
Simulation 4: 52 seconds (the smoke alarm)
I felt heartened by her results, but realize in writing this that we’ve done nothing since to discuss fire safety. We’re even in a new home now, a much bigger home, and I haven’t once had a conversation with her or her sister about what to do if a fire did happen. With her these days, I think more about safety in the community or on the Internet. I’ve forgotten about the fundamental importance of fire safety. After all, what are the odds? Low, I’m sure. But that doesn’t really matter if it happened to us. I wouldn’t care anything about odds.
And October being fire safety month? Maybe it’s time to change that.
Missy Bedell is a wife, mother of two, and a community volunteer. She plans to get more proactive about fire safety this month.
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