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Keeping a Promise to My Kids and All Kids

Guest columnist Richard B. Schwamm talks about volunterring for Safe Kids

I am a parent of two beautiful young girls; and, my promise to them, above all other responsibilities in my life, is to protect them. It’s a non-negotiable obligation. It’s my highest priority. It’s an unflappable commitment. Period.  So, it’s that mission, goal and purpose that lead me to do everything I can to protect my children from foreseeable harm.

I like to think of myself as a good parent. But, I’ve learned that my experience as a child injury lawyer and safety advocate doesn’t mean I know all there is to know. Yes, I know my kids should wear bike helmets, but until recently, I never considered the threat of a TV tipping over. I can’t even imagine the feeling if something had happened to my girls that could have been prevented by simply securing my TV to wall. It doesn’t take long to check the smoke alarms in my house, talk to my kids about putting down their devices when crossing the street, or understand that they’re watching me when I’m driving so I should set a good example.

These strategies are not complicated or overwhelming, and don’t make me over protective. I believe in giving my kids the freedom to explore, have fun and take chances. I also believe in doing the little things that can help avoid tragedies that don’t have to happen.

My children have certainly helped shape my focus and time. Years ago, before kids, I was an industrious, young lawyer trying to make my way up the ranks in a law firm; there seemed to be little time for outside activities or commitments. During that phase of my life, I spent most of my time focused on my goals and interests; but, now that I’m a parent and I’ve been practicing law for more than 22 years, my perspective has certainly changed.  

Life keeps all of us busy. It’s impossible to perfectly manage our time and commitments. We all do the best that we can. It is clear to me, however, that people make the time to do what they deem is “most important” in their lives, and certainly take the time to do what they are passionate about.

And what I’ve learned, through my life experiences so far, is this: When it comes to keeping our kids safe, we’re all in this together. Through my job, I’ve seen too many families suffer tragedies that could have been prevented. I’ve seen how it changes families, relationships, lives. I am now armed with the tools of my trade - my words and my skills, as an advocate - to try to help families and children who suffer these devastating, and many times avoidable, injuries. Sometimes, these families suffer catastrophic injuries or death; because so many of these horrible outcomes are avoidable, it’s my goal to educate parents and adults in the community who can create a safer environment to reduce the epidemic number of avoidable injuries to children.

The most important job we have as parents is to try to keep our children safe, and I tell my kids that all the time. Sometimes, my children don’t want to hear it because they believe my intrusion into their childhood activities is both distracting and bothersome. Sometimes they’re right, and candidly, I don’t really care. I don’t expect to be the most popular person in my household. I’m a parent first and later on, I hope and expect to be their close friend. I’ll have plenty of time to expand and enhance my friendship with them when they become adults; but, for now, my job is to make sure they get a chance to grow up to become a responsible adult. It’s what I want for every child.

If we work to keep children safe, they will enjoy a life full of wonderful experiences and memories; and, one day, when they reflect back on their childhood, they will be more likely do the same for their children as well. That’s a promise worth keeping.

I look forward to contributing to this blog, on a frequent basis. I’d like you to sign up for the Safe Kids monthly newsletter, An Ounce of Prevention. It’ll give you a few fun tips every month and even a smile. Thanks for working together to keep kids safe.

Richard B. Schwamm is an experienced trial attorney for more than 22 years, who focuses his practice in the litigation of catastrophic injury cases. He is a partner at Haliczer Pettis & Schwamm. As a parent who is actively involved in his children's education and extra-curricular activities, Mr. Schwamm recognized a need to raise awareness of key issues affecting children's safety in the community and to ensure that children have safe places to play and grow. He serves on the board of the Children's Safety Village of Central Florida and an executive board member, works closely with the program services of Safe Kids Orange County Coalition. He uses his legal skills to zealously advocate for children's safety and fight for the legal rights of seriously injured children and their families. Since 2011, he has served as a Safe Kids, Inc. Orange County spokesperson for drowning prevention and The Never Leave Your Child Alone (NLYCA) Heatstroke Awareness program as part of a nationwide awareness campaign by Safe Kids Worldwide. He lives in Orlando, Florida with his wife and two daughters. We are grateful for his time, commitment and expertise.