January 06, 2006

Fireman Problem

Ok, some of you know I have my own personal fireman living under my roof. (Bowchickabowbow).

And, some of you know that on occassion, I don the gear and get my hands dirty as well.

Being a volunteer firefighter is very fulfilling. Anyway, it has become quite a family affair. Almost all of the active members of our company are young parents. We all bring our children with us to the hall, we cook dinners and make merry and include our kids. This has seemingly never been a problem seeing as how several members are third generation firefighters, so it stands to reason that their parents took them to the hall as well.

Imagine my surprise then, when our President and Chief told us at the monthly meeting that our children were causing a problem being too close to the equipment and really shouldn't be there (that is a first!)

At first I didn't think I heard them right. Afterall, these kids are the next generation of volunteer firefighters and how much damage can a 30 pound kid do to an inch thick diamond plate rear step on a Rescue? But, alas, I think that I heard them right.

Now, as many of you know, I see my child for roughly 5% of each day. When I pull into my drive he is attached to my hip. We are a package deal. Where I go, he goes because he sees so very little of me. Moreover, since I work so much, he is often with the hubby at firehall functions.

(Also, we have a young lady who takes all the kids when something important is happening and plays with them. She is also there when we have calls and watches the kids for us if necessary.)

I was offended, and I never get offended, that someone would (1) tell me my kid's a problem, without telling me directly, and (2) basically tell me my kid isn't welcome, also without telling me directly. Seriously, don't beat around the bush with me, I haven't the time nor patience.

Those of us with small children are the most active in the department. We do all the dinners, all the fundraisers, show for all the calls, promote the hall to the community etc. If we don't come, because our kids are not welcome, the department will come to a screeching halt. Seriously! WE are the only ones who do a damned thing, mostly because our kids were welcome.

I am also an officer of the Auxilary. If my kid isn't welcome at the hall, I can't fulfill my duties to the Auxilary. Again, those of us who are active are the ones with kids. We are the only ones who do anything!

So, now that I have ranted, am I over reacting? Am I wrong to say that if my kid isn't welcome then neither am I? Am I wrong to insist that if it is my child that is viewed as a problem then I would like to be told directly? I don't see any of our kids as a problem. Each one is well behaved and none have broken anything or damaged or lost anything or even gotten in the way at any time. This is primarily because we parents take the time to watch over our kids. So really, am I wrong to be offended, annoyed and on the brink of quitting the department?

Posted by Oddybobo at January 6, 2006 09:37 AM | TrackBack

Perhaps there can be a compromise - are there any older children there that can help watch the younger children? Is there a separate room where the children can play? I can see why you were upset at the way it was (not) handled. I am sure that the Pres/Chief didn't want everyone to quit and just tried to cover his ass.
{{{hugs}}} Good luck!

Posted by: Kate at January 6, 2006 10:40 AM

This is a situation I have encountered many times. It breaks my heart every time it happens. And yes, the feelings that you are not welcome because your child is not welcome are normal I think. They are normal to me anyway. I don't know what the 'right' way to handle the situation is, but I do know that I have missed out on a lot of fun stuff because I can't bring myself to confront the host etc. because I feel so bad about it that I stay home with Shorty. We simply have no child care. People seem to assume that parents can always work something out, and that just isn't so. I'm sorry you are in this mess, and I know it feels crappy. Really crappy. {{hug}}

As for advise on the matter...I just don't know. The idea of the older kids watching the little ones is excellent, even if you had to pay a teen to come with that normally wouldn't, and all chip in a buck or something for her service. Maybe the kids could have their own 'meeting' separate from the adults, conducted by the older one with fire safety games, and treats? Maybe that one is a long shot, but that's all I've got. Sorry :-(

Posted by: Sarah at January 6, 2006 11:28 AM

I can't say as I blame you for being upset...

I can't help but wonder if the reason he doesn't want them around the equipment hasn't something to do with insurance. Regardless, they should set up a room for the kids to be looked after, if they haven't already. As you said, these are the next generation... a lot of interest is born by the chance to be around stuff like that.

If you're a volunteer fire department, you can't be that big, that they can't speak directly with individuals. This way, too, they could explain whether their new policy has something to do with a specific child. It's easier to address a whole group, but you are going to have almost that many different interpetations of what's said.

Another benefit of speaking directly to him, for you, is eye dotting. There'll be no witnesses. :)

Posted by: T1G at January 6, 2006 12:06 PM

I'd be feeling offended, annoyed and ready to quit as well... If you really love contributing -and what a worthwhile cause!- then maybe all the parents can get together, sans boss, to talk the problem over...? Then if you all agree it would be easier to go en masse, armed with the support of your peers, to face bossman down and get the rules changed.

Let us know what happens, and good luck!

Posted by: pam at January 6, 2006 12:52 PM

As T1G stated, I'm wondering what the reasoning behind it is. Insurance, liability maybe even state/federal/local regulations that where being overlooked. I really can't make an honest judgement until I know the other side of the story.

I have kids, but I don't know if I would be offended by that, unless it was directly aimed towards my kids. Yet, I can see where any parent would be. I also know how it can make you feel unappreciated seeing as you do a lot of work for your unit.

Posted by: Contagion at January 6, 2006 03:01 PM

I'm with T1G and Contagion. It's got to be some legal thing, but he certainly went about it the wrong way, especially if, as you say, it is a generational tradition.

No you're not wrong. I totally understand your position. I would be offended if it was me and someone said that about my kid not to my face. Noble a cause as it is, your kid still comes first, and if these changes take time away from your kid, then you need to put your kid first.

Posted by: caltechgirl at January 6, 2006 03:16 PM

While I think they can honestly make an argument regarding insurance or liability - the reality is that they don't worry about that when they rent out our hall to the public (with our equipment inside) or when they hold public fundraisers or events or when other public entities hold meetings within or when they invite the public into the hall for educational purposes. The directive is aimed at the children of the volunteers only. Now, our view is that liability concerns are heightened with the public, not with those of us who take responsiblity for our own children.

So, to answer this issue, I do not believe it is a liability concern.

Posted by: Oddybobo at January 6, 2006 03:39 PM

I can absolutely see why you are upset.

I would talk to the other parents involved and go to the chief directly. Get you questions answered. See if the Chief has a resolution in mind (hello? the quickest way to "fire a volunteer" is to be critical of the job they are doing!) And basically find out WTF is up.

Then make the decision that is best for you and your family. {{hugs}}

Posted by: Richmond at January 7, 2006 01:15 PM

You're in a tough spot now.
Be nice to know why this 'new' tact is being presented.
God Bless you for NOT being easily offended - I know you'll look for the best resolution here and keeping your objectivity and clarity of mind will be your best allies.

Posted by: Dorko at January 7, 2006 08:16 PM

I got hurt, angry, and frustrated just reading that, because I've been in your position. NYC is not exactly kid friendly so I know there's no other way to feel when your kid's excluded than bad.

My son is a fun loving wonderful kid who loves to ask questions and explore without touching. Adults are the ones who get nervous and scared and imagine the worst becuase they don't know him. However, that hasn't stopped people even within my own family to have events and ask that no one bring their child.

My reaction has been just as yours, sorry, If my kid can't come neither can I. Not only because of the 5% of time being cut even further, but because of the valuable opportunities to teach, engage, relate and grow closer for the both of you this provides.

No matter WHAT the reason may be (legal, legitimate or phobic) the truth of the matter is the additional sacrifice he's asked for is just too high a price.

Are you sure this guy is not one of those who believes fire fighting is not for women... 'cause if you think about it, it's the women volunteers who will be most affected, not the men. With one fell swoop (and it seems with little or no consultation) he got rid of 2 problems (women and children) or singles vs. parents with kids. Anyway you break it down it's divisive and it sucks.

If you still really, really want to fight this I would do the following:

- Get stats on staff hours, contributions made, money raised, etc. by volunteers with kids versus overall.
By doing this you're showing the detrimental impact this new policy will have if the parents are adversely affected by the new policy.

- share the stats with others and simply ask how they feel about this and whether or not this should be open for discussion. Don't know how the rules are made in a volunteer firehouse but in the FDNY that's now how it's made.

- if no one backs you up and joins you in talking with this grouch (as a group) then decide if you'll go it alone... afterall what do you have to lose?

- If you do go as a group and it becomes a closed issue/not open for discussion, then I'd say you don't need to be an environment that is not pro-family or kid-friendly. Often times money is the greatest persuader so hopefully your stats will present an argument in a better light.

Good Luck!

Posted by: michele at January 10, 2006 04:06 PM