Colleen Conrad

Story Vault

I have a very blessed life.

Though I am aging, and I am chubby, I feel there are things that overshadow those issues. I have three amazing blessings in my babies. They are MY babies. I created them, with very little help, and it was through my guidance and love that they became the humans they are today.

The first time my husband called me a “helicopter parent” I was terribly offended and wanted to punch him in the throat. I told him that I relish the label “helicopter parent;” to me, it says I am an involved and loving mother. He had not walked in my shoes, did not know what my life had been, and did not know the extent of the bond formed.

When everything is said and done, we are a functional family with a few dysfunctional moments thrown in.

If, from the outside, I appear to hover over my kids, it’s because they are the children of a dispatcher. They have been overprotected and overcherished. They were not allowed to do a lot of the things that their friends got to do. I knew the consequences of those actions, although that’s not to say they didn’t get one over on mom every once in a while.

Now my babies are grown up and adding to my blessings. I was given two grandbabies in 2013: an adorable granddaughter from my son and a handsome grandson from my stepdaughter. When I met my husband he was a single father of two daughters who are now my stepdaughters.

As I sat holding my granddaughter I was humbled, amazed, and overwhelmed with love. It made me think about my fourth baby, the baby I have nurtured for many years—my dispatch career.

As we’re all well aware, not everyone has what it takes to be a good parent. The same holds true for our profession—not everyone has what it takes to be a good dispatcher. In fact, I would say that, on some occasions, it’s easier to be a good parent than a good dispatcher or calltaker. As with being a good parent, it’s a true calling to be a good dispatcher or calltaker.

During my career, I have met many people who have tried to be dispatchers, and while many succeed, there are also many who have failed. This happens either by the individual’s choice or when a person is let go—the job and person aren’t the right combination. I don’t believe that anyone can truly fathom what the job entails until putting the headset on and hearing what’s coming through. No one can truly understand how many different hats dispatchers wear.

On a call-to-call basis, we switch hats that include: marriage counselor, information operator, psychologist, nurse, caretaker, social worker, translator, Google map location finder and tourist guide, newspaper journalist, clock, Dear Abby adviser, lawyer, veterinarian, social networking expert, punching bag and, of course, the person giving the instructions that could help save a life.

That’s just the tip of the iceberg.

Call one may be the first of many mundane and boring burglaries reported during one day. Call two could be that guy who blames you for every bad thing that has ever happened in his life, calls you every name in the book, and then refuses to listen to any words you might have to say. Call three could be the sweetest little old lady who has never had to call 9-1-1 until that very moment when she awoke to find that her husband had passed away next to her during the night.

Every year, the first Sunday in February doesn’t go by without someone calling 9-1-1 to ask, “What time is the Super Bowl?”

I’ve heard of people calling 9-1-1 on the fourth Thursday in November to ask, “How long does it take to thaw a turkey, and how long does it take to cook?”

And no matter the call, no matter the situation, no matter the abuse you’re taking from the other end of the call, we have to maintain a professional and empathetic composure. Sometimes, we have to bite our tongues.

Obviously, not everyone can be a dispatcher or calltaker. Not everyone can take care of your baby, your career, as well as you do.

Protect it, cherish it, and raise it right.