I read an article the other day about a three year old little girl who survived on her own for two days when her mother suddenly died in their home. And it got me thinking… could my kids survive without me in a situation like that? What would they do?
It is a comfort to know that in the off-chance that something were to happen to both me and my husband, and the kids were here to fend for themselves until somebody realized they hadn’t heard from us in a few days, that our oldest daughter is eight years old and could most likely care for herself.
But what about the younger kids? Could she take care of them as well?
She knows to call 9-1-1 in an emergency, but what if the phone lines were down?
Let’s pretend worse case scenario… what if we are in the middle of a huge snow storm, and our power was knocked out. And what if, in the night while we are sleeping, a big tree falls on the master bedroom side of the house, and crushes me and Jerry…
Okay, I know this is way out there… but seriously, what would the kids do?
I need to know that my kids are equipped with the knowledge they need to survive until help arrives.
So, I decided to test Jada.
It was just a basic test, to see if she could heat up food to give to everybody if I wasn’t able to help. I set a jar of home canned carrots on the counter and watched to see what she would do.
Her first obstacle was getting the lid off. She unscrewed the lid’s ring, and then tried her very best to pry the lid off with her bare fingers. That was a no-go. She tried banging the lid on the counter like she’s seen me do with the jars of store-bought spaghetti sauce, but that didn’t work either. She thought for a moment, then I watched as she hunted down the can opener. I thought, This’ll be interesting! She’d never used a can opener before, and I figured she’d try to use it as you would on a regular, aluminum can of veggies. But she surprised me by using the hook on the back to pry the lid up like she was supposed to, and the jar was opened.
The whole time she was doing this, I was sitting in a chair just observing. I could tell she was enjoying the challenge.
Okay, the lid was off. Now what? She looked around for a bowl first, but then wisely decided she needed a pot instead. She found a small pot, and took it to the stove. Pulling up a chair to stand on, she placed the pot on the small front burner, and then proceeded to try to figure out how to use the knobs and settings. First thing was to determine which knob turned on which burner. She studied it for a while, but just wasn’t sure what to do, so I gave her a clue and told her to look at the little pictures beside the knobs. She did, and was able to figure out the right knob.
But then she asked me, in a somewhat flustered tone, “What number do I put it on?” She had no idea what the numbers meant. I used this moment to teach her that the 1 is the lowest setting, and the 9 is the hottest, with 5 being right in the middle at medium heat. I explained, “They will all heat your food. But the 9 will make it very hot, very quickly, and you might burn your food. And the 1 will heat it very slowly.”
As if a light bulb had gone off in her head, she pointed her finger in the air and said, “So, I’ll set it on five for medium!” I told her that was a good idea, but that the number 4 setting would probably be just right.
She leaned forward to turn the knob to medium heat… but the knob wouldn’t turn! She used all of her strength, and yet it didn’t budge. She then decided to pull on the knob, which quickly came off in her hand! I couldn’t help but laugh! I never realized that I’d never told her about pushing in on the knob before turning it. I had to help her again, as she just could not figure it out.
Once she had the stovetop mastered, she dumped the carrots into the pot to begin their simmer.
Satisfied with a job well done, she ran off to play a computer game.
“Wait a minute!” I called out to her. She came back into the kitchen to see what she’d done wrong. I cautioned, “You don’t ever leave food cooking unattended like that.” She quickly agreed. I meant for her to stand there and stir a few times until it was heated through, but instead she set the timer for 4 minutes, and rushed back to her game.
That works, too. I figured.
When the timer went off, she was quick to return and turn the burner off. I mentioned to her that she hadn’t stirred the carrots, and that they may not be heated through. She cautiously touched them, and decided they were hot enough.
She got out some plates, and used a spoon to serve everybody the carrots she had heated. She even got out cups and made sure that all of the younger kids had water to drink. I praised her for that, and explained how important it is that they drink lots of liquids, especially water.
After she had served Titus (4) and Xia (2), and had sat down at her plate to eat, I asked, “What about Elias?”
Good question! What would she do about baby Elias?
She looked at me puzzled and exclaimed, “I can’t breast feed him!”
I laughed and said, “I know. What would you do?” She thought about it for a minute, then said, “Baby food!” I asked, “What baby food?” And she remembered that we don’t buy baby food. So, she was out of ideas.
I opened a cabinet door and showed her some bottles I have stashed on the top shelf. I told her that she could get some milk out of the fridge and put it in the bottle… though he might not take it if it is cold. We talked a little about how to heat the milk, and test it to make sure it isn’t too hot, though I told her it would be safer to let him drink it cold if he would accept it.
But what if there wasn’t any milk? I explained to her the importance of him getting fluids. If there wasn’t any milk, she would need to make sure he was drinking water. I also told her that she could mash up whatever she was eating, though nothing hard like nuts, and she could feed it to the baby a little at a time.
I felt relief on her part as she gathered this knowledge. She seemed genuinely glad to know how to care for even her baby brother if she had to.
As we ate, I took some time helping Titus practice dialing 9-1-1, and we talked a little about what he should do in an emergency situation as well.
I am so grateful for running this drill with Jada. It really highlighted to me what I have neglected to teach her! I was actually quite ashamed with myself. Sure, she cooks with me, and mixes up her own baked goodies, but I have always manned the oven and stovetop. I didn’t realize she had no idea how to turn on a burner.
There are so many other things the kids need to know how to do, though. How to keep warm in freezing temperatures, how to get water if there is no power… how to change a diaper! I can tell you this is going to be an ongoing lesson in our home. And these aren’t only good emergency skills to have, these are essential life skills!
I want my girls to know how to cook, and properly clean and do laundry, and care for a child, and manage a home, among other things. And I want my boys to know how to chop firewood, and use tools to build stuff, and fix a car, and shoot a gun.
There’s a lot to teach. But these are important skills for our children to have. And I have found that kids truly appreciate being empowered with the knowledge they need to get along without you.
After all, it is our job as a parent to prepare our children for just that- life without us.
Would your child know how to survive on his or her own in an emergency situation? Are you teaching them life skills?
A city girl learning to homestead on an acre of land in the country. Wife and homeschooling mother of four. Enjoying life, and everything that has to do with self sufficient living.