“In the event of a decompression, an oxygen mask will automatically appear in front of you. To start the flow of oxygen, pull the mask towards you. Place it firmly over your nose and mouth, secure the elastic band behind your head, and breathe normally. Although the bag does not inflate, oxygen is flowing to the mask. If you are travelling with a child or someone who requires assistance, secure your mask on first, and then assist the other person. Keep your mask on until a uniformed crew member advises you to remove it.”
If you’ve ever flown, you are undoubtedly acquainted with the aforementioned script. I’ve lost count at how many times I’ve heard a flight attendant make this announcement. Generally, when the flight attendant recites these words, I ignore them. However, yesterday when the Delta flight attendant made the announcement something about the delivery of the message caught my attention unlike any previous time.
SECURE YOUR MASK FIRST
The phrase “secure your mask on first, and then assist the other person” has been applied to countless life lessons. When life provides a challenge it is not unusual for those providing counsel to recommend that we take care of ourselves before attempting to care for others. In short, put our own life mask on before giving thought to assisting another has become a common behavioral directive.
Specifically, we are warned against giving the mask to children or adults who require assistance because of the unlikelihood that they would be able to assist us. This is not a rule of selfishness or self-preservation this is a rule of altruism, a call to be concerned first and foremost about the collective good.
The expression is a proclamation that the fate of those younger and weaker rests on the shoulders of the strongest and healthiest. In the unlikely event of a plane crash, the flight attendant’s direction for the strongest and healthiest to breathe oxygen first could make the difference between everyone succumbing to or conquering a tragedy.
OXYGEN MASK DEMONSTRATION
In a symbolic way, parenting has the same mandate as flying and the accompanying requirement to be prepared for decompression. We always expect a smooth flight but we must also prepare for the unexpected.
In regards to oxygen, parents not only give life to children but parents literally breathe life into children. Our words and actions are the oxygen that make it possible for our children to breathe. Thus, parents should secure their mask on first. Symbolically, this means making sure that our own words and thoughts are breathing oxygen into our own lives before we attempt to assist our children.
Yet too often parents do the exact opposite. Many parents are knowingly dying inside, attempting to breathe through an improperly secured life mask. An improperly secured life mask that fills our lungs and brains with words like fear, inadequacy, apathy, ordinary, dissatisfaction, doubt, lethargy, postponement and insecurity. The result is that words and the accompanying actions associated with an improperly secured life mask robs parents of our very life.
Sadly, without taking a second to assess our own life, many parents put the life mask on our children the same improperly secured way. Because our own brains are already oxygen deprived, we are unaware that we are making our children breathe words and actions that will soon deprive them of life – the exact way we have deprived ourselves of life.
Sometime parents do the thing that is more egregious than accidentally improperly securing the life mask on our children. There are also times where parents knowingly pollute their children’s breathing. I call this occurrence blowing smoke.
Blowing smoke is easier to detect than the improperly secured life mask. Blowing smoke is code for parents who fail to live their own life to its fullest potential yet heap all types of unreasonable requirements and unfulfilled personal expectations on their child. There are numerous examples of the parent who blows smoke. Two examples follow.
The first example is the parent who wants their child to maximize their ability and opportunities. Traditionally this is also the same parent who goes to work each day knowing that they have long outgrown their job both passionately and professionally. Despite the lifeless disposition the job leaves the parent feeling each day, this parent won’t do anything to change their station in life.
Metaphorically, this is like the passenger who knows that they are required to put the life mask on first so that they can aid their children but instead chooses to hold the life mask in their hand and remain motionless. The parent who stands listless refusing to fill their own lungs with life – to look for and pursue new opportunities and passions – should not be surprised or complain when their child settles for mediocrity and minimal outcomes.
The second example is the parent who wants their child to work harder. Regrettably, this parent is also the first person to shy away from over exertion. This parent awakens each day and retires in the evening knowing that some vital aspect of their life would be improved greatly if they worked harder.
From losing weight, to getting out of debt, to becoming an entrepreneur, to going back to school, to running for public office, to seeking a leadership role in the company…this parent has the audacity to chastise their child for not completely applying themselves. This parent has perfected modeling complacency and has only themselves to blame if they raise a child who will never be mistaken as a “tireless worker”.
As I mentioned previously, there are numerous other examples where parents blow smoke and/or forget the importance of putting our life mask on first before passing the life mask on to our children. I’m convinced you get the point and can add other examples on your own.
The main point is not to chronicle an extensive list of parental failures which further pollute our children’s shortcomings. Instead, the key point is to remind us to follow at all times the flight attendant’s words, “secure your mask on first, and then assist the other person”.
Parents who have taken significant deep breathes and filled our own lungs with life are parents who will find assisting others particularly our children much more manageable. Parents who have taken the flight attendants instructions to heart are less likely to blow pollutant smoke at our children.
So moving forward let’s live each day as if securing our life mask first is tantamount to the well-being of our children. It’s no exaggeration when we breathe in life – when we truly live life – we make it easy for our children to do the same thing.
What’s the purpose of life if we don’t really live? Has your life mask been properly secured first?