Everyday something happens that inspires me to continue to support parents. Today 16-year-old “Jen” crashed into a FedEx truck in front of my house and then, as she got out of the car, took two steps and fell flat on her face onto my neighbor’s asphalt driveway. I’ll spare you the suspense as to her outcome (since that’s not the point), and tell you that the EMTs who transported her to the hospital assured me she’d be fine. (She had just given blood and had fainted.)

What’s keeping me up tonight is the echo of the words that she repeated over and over as she lay on the cement in the baking sun, my hand under her head, and my body attempting to shade her face. “My dad’s gonna kill me! He JUST bought this car!” she blurted out as she moved in and out of consciousness. As I bombarded her with those “Are you with it?” questions (Do you know your name? Who is the President? What city are you in? What school do you go to?), I thought to myself, “Really?” But as the tears rolled down her cheeks, my question was answered.

I took her phone and called her father, explaining who I was and what was happening. He asked if I thought he should come… I said yes. I told him an ambulance was on the way. He asked if I thought she really needed an ambulance. I said I did. When he got to us, he came over and kneeled down next to his daughter, and she began sobbing and apologizing about the car. As he seemed a bit distracted, I chimed in and told her that we all just wanted to make sure that she was being taken care of. Her father then got up and walked over to the crowd of police, firefighters, and the poor FedEx guy who “thought he was gonna get off early today”. I stayed with her as the ambulance arrived and the EMT’s began throwing out their questions, (“What’s your name? Do you know where you are?…) I stayed with her until the EMT’s closed the doors of the ambulance and drove away.

I’m guessing all sorts of thoughts might be running through your mind right now. At the time, my first thought was, “What a lame dad! What’s wrong with him! His daughter is moving in and out of consciousness, and he’s talking to the cop about what to do with the car!” But then I took a deep breath, reminded myself that he was doing the best he could at that moment, and realized he must be terrified. And when people are scared they do all sorts of things that, in retrospect, don’t seem like the best choices. We must forgive. But we can also work towards getting ourselves in better emotional shape, and building stronger ties with our kids.

How connected are you to your kids? Do you appreciate them for who they are, or mostly just nag? Do you get down on the floor with them and play, or are you often trying to get things done, hoping they’ll entertain themselves just a little longer? When’s the last time you and your kids had a good pillow fight? How often do you say “yes”? How often are you on your phone as you berate your children to get off their electronics? What are you modeling for your children? And what are you doing to nurture yourself so that you have the where with all to really connect with your kids, to really sense what they’re feeling, and accept them with all their imperfections. Are you giving them your best self?

Jen’s dad isn’t a bad person, or even a bad dad. He was just scared and, I’m guessing, lacking a support network for himself.

But things can change. I’ve seen families change from being yelling families to peaceful ones, from clueless about their teens to in the know, from overwhelmed to calm, from serious to playful. You just have to decide to make the change, learn a few new strategies, and commit to nurturing yourself so that you can be your best for yourself, for your family, and for the world.

I don’t know about you, but if anything like this ever happens to one of my kids, the last thing I’d want them worrying about is the car. And I hope that the support I have set up for myself will pay off in my ability to remember what’s really important in life – even when I’m scared.

Thoughts? I’d love to hear. Please share them below.