Saturday, May 2, 2009

Get Down Or I'm Outta Here!

Do your kids ever worry about you? Do they ever think that you might do something on the dangerous side that could lead to your demise? Do they keep an eye out for you to be sure that you’ll live forever? The answers, of course, are YES, YES, and YES!!

Your kids are always concerned that you might disappear someday. After all, it happens in our society all of the time, sometimes through divorce, separation, and even the death of a parent. Your kids want you to live forever and to never leave them alone in what can be a cold and cruel world to a parentless child.

I had the opportunity to experience the deep level of concern that a child has with regard to the possibility of losing a parent.

A few years ago, I decided to engage in the annual spring ritual of climbing on a 20-foot ladder, precariously leaning against the house, to clean out the gutters. I coaxed my oldest son to help (he was 13-years-old at the time).

While I made the laborious climb to the top of the ladder to rid the gutters of the winter’s deposits, my son’s job was to pick up the debris after I tossed it to the ground. With the ladder in place, the lawn debris bags ready to go, and my son and I fully prepared for the task at hand, we were ready to go ….. or at least I thought that we were ready to go!

As I started to climb the ladder, my son asked my how high I had planned to go. At first, I thought that he was joking. When I realized that he was serious, I told him that I would need to climb to the top, so that I could reach the gutters. He expressed concern that it was too high and perhaps we should save the task for another day.

Assuming that he was merely attempting to disengage from an assigned chore (a daily ritual for most 13-year-olds!!), I told him that it would be no problem climbing to the top. I further reminded him to get ready to collect the debris.

As I got to about the 3rd step of the 20-step ladder, my son asked me to come back down for a moment. With exasperation setting in, I climbed back down. He told me that his friends’ dads hire a company to clean their gutters. He thought that it might be a good idea for us to do this, as well. I told him that it was silly to pay somebody else money to complete a task that the two of us could easily do.

Still not catching on to his true concern, I started to climb the ladder again. As I reached the 5th step this time, he asked if he could go into the house for a glass of water. I told him to hurry, as the first load of debris would soon be crashing to the ground. My son disappeared and he didn’t return. I climbed to the top and emptied the first gutter area. Before I moved the ladder to the next position, I went into the house to retrieve my son.

When I found my son upstairs in his room, he asked me if I could get his sister or younger brother to help me, as he was feeling ill. Getting more than a tad ticked off at his behavior, I instructed him to immediately get outside to help me.

We went outside and I again started the long climb up the ladder. He again suggested that I might want to consider hiring a company for this task ...... and then it hit me ...... my son wasn’t trying to get out of work - he was trying to save his dad from potential serious harm! I made the conscious decision to go more slowly up the ladder, so that his confidence could increase in my abilities to complete the task without getting hurt.

After I passed the 10th step, he asked if I had really planned to go to the top. When I answered in the affirmative, he said that he could no longer watch and that he was going to go into the house. With that, he quickly vanished and there it was … the truth was out in the open!

I climbed down the ladder (this task was beginning to take much longer than I had anticipated!) and went into the house. I asked my son if he was concerned about my safety. He told me that he was definitely concerned that I might fall off of the ladder, the ladder might fall, etc., and that I would get seriously injured or perhaps even get killed. He was afraid that, because of some “stupid” leaves, his dad might disappear forever.

Yes, I am always concerned when I climb a ladder that is 20-feet high. Yes, I always take care and caution when engaging in such tasks, so that I greatly minimize the chances for injury.

BUT, my son did not see it that way: He saw his dad putting his life at-risk for some “stupid” leaves and he was afraid that his life would have to proceed without his favorite father! I assured him that I would NEVER intentionally put myself in a position that could cause harm and that, if I thought for a moment that danger lurked with the ladder at any particular point, the task would end for the day.

He was reassured, but he still wanted to not have to watch me climb the ladder, so we made a deal. He could stay inside while I emptied the gutters. When I completed my task, he would come back outside and place all of the debris in to the lawn bags ….. it’s a procedure that we still use to this day!

Yes, it’s nice to know that your kids don’t want you to kick the bucket. It’s also important to remember that it is something that is always on their minds!

BE CAREFUL and take care of your kids!

Paul W. Reeves

No comments: