I don't fly often. But I have traveled enough in my lifetime to have the airline safety speech imprinted on my brain, including that counterintuitive instruction to "place your own mask over your nose and mouth before offering assistance."
In what other circumstance would you see a parent (or any other
basically caring individual) take care of his or her own needs before
helping a child? The safety instruction is, I'm sure, designed to ensure
that the well-meaning adult doesn't pass out before succeeding in
helping either one of them. Without hearing it, most of us would
automatically jump to help the child next to us. And so it is that those
words have remained part of the safety announcement for as long as I
I am not getting ready to take a trip, or reflecting on my past travels, or considering the merits of air safety. But I have been realizing over the past week, a week that was, for me,
full of working nights and napping days, of careful attention to my own
stamina, how very spot-on that safety announcement is. We can't be of
much use to our kids, or anyone else who needs our help, if we don't
make sure to take care of ourselves too. We have to take at least a
little time to preserve our own health and stamina before we can
preserve the health and stamina of the other people in our lives.
I may not like stopping first, or saying that a nap has to come before I
can help with homework. I may not like listening to my own needs before
those of my family. But sometimes, "putting on your own mask" has to
come first. Sometimes, taking care of that, before we "offer assistance,"
can be the safest thing we can do--both for the child, and for