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One of my employees has a hilarious poster in her office that reads “NOW PANIC AND FREAK OUT.” (From the Philadelphia-based design studio, Print Liberation.) I thought of the poster last week when I did just that, and for not a very good reason-I freaked out because my kids and I were late for school. It was a bad parenting moment. But we all have those.

You see, my daughter has discovered the joys of “doing her hair,” something she had no interest in last year. It was time for us to head out the door, but her hair “just isn’t right,” she informed me as she tromped back upstairs to the bathroom to fix it.

“We’re going to be late,” I told her. She just stopped and glared, then headed upstairs nevertheless. “Soph,” I said, “watch it.” This, of course, made matters worse, as it sent her not to the bathroom to fix her hair, but to her room, crying.

 

I sighed, told Max to wait for me by the door, and headed upstairs to retrieve my daughter.

I knocked on her door. “Soph, I’m sorry I got mad, but I’m just frustrated because I don’t want to be late,” I told her, calmly.

“I KNOW,” she sobbed. “Don’t you know we’re just getting used to it?” She got up, fixed her hair, and we headed out the door. We were a couple minutes late, but no big deal.

She was right, of course.

There’s a good reason survival experts say “Don’t Panic” when they give the first rule of survival. When you panic (or freak out), you don’t help the situation at all. Most often, you worsen it. You make bad decisions. You expend vital resources. You become distracted by your emotions and further delay the solution. In this case, my getting angry at my daughter caused us to be even later than we would have been. Imagine if we were in a life threatening situation and I chose to get angry rather than stay calm and search for the solution-we might not have made it out alive.

Don’t Panic. Be Prepared. Have a Plan.

These are the keys to surviving anything life throws at you-whether life, limb, or sanity-threatening. I’ve known that for the past ten years. Ever since Mountain Mel wrote it in our first book.

Thanks for reminding me, Soph. Now fix your hair, and let’s get to school.