For each episode of Child Safety Source, we sit down with a talented expert who is devoted to keeping children safe. In today’s episode, we’re speaking with Anna Marie Slayton. Like many of our guests, she’s a remarkable person who has overcome a great personal tragedy and channeled her energy into helping others.

Read on for her full interview and to learn more about Anna Marie Slayton.

Getting to Know Anna Marie Slayton

As you’ll learn during this episode, Anna Marie Slayton lives in the Dallas/Ft. Worth Metroplex with her husband and family. Slayton is a board-certified registered nurse. In addition, she is a member of the American Holistic Nurses Association, and a Certified Health Coach through the Institute of Integrative Nutrition. Finally, she’s recognized as a Holistic Health Practitioner through the American Association of Drugless Practitioners.

Just a few short years ago, a terrible tragedy befell Anna’s family. On New Years Day in 2017, she lost her son Gavin to a drowning accident. Gavin and his brother had been playing outside by themselves when the boy fell into the water. Without active supervision, the day quickly turned tragic. By the time Gavin’s brother managed to tell an adult about the situation, he was already gone. It was too late and CPR could not revive the boy.

Now, Anna Marie Slayton is on a mission to share her story in hopes that it might help others.

Today, please take some time to watch our full video interview:

About Anna’s Work with the American Holistic Nurses Association

In addition to telling her story in the interview, Anna Marie Slayton mentioned her work as a holistic nurse for the American Holistic Nurses Association (AHNA). Put simply, holistic medicine attempts to step away from simply solving every situation with pharmaceuticals. Instead, it offers a whole body approach that really appealed to Anna.

For AHNA, the mission is to illuminate holism in nursing practice, community, advocacy, research, and education. Its vision is that “Every Nurse Is a Holistic Nurse.” Today, AHNA is well-known as the definitive voice for holistic nursing. This specialty nursing association serves over 5,500 nurses and holistic healthcare professionals across the globe. To learn more about the organization, visit its official website. To learn more about Anna herself, check out her website: yournumbersnotup.com.

Looking for More Child Safety Source Interviews?

If you enjoyed our chat with Anna Marie Slayton, you’ll probably love our earlier episodes. To give them a shot, please follow Life Saver Pool Fence on our official Facebook, Instagram and Twitter accounts. Additionally, please take a moment to check out our official YouTube channel. There, you’ll find the entire collection of Child Safety Source video interviews and more. 

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Below is a direct transcript of the Child Safety Source interview with Anna Marie Slayton from March 26th, 2019:

Eric Lupton: And just like that we are alive on the internet.

Anna Marie Slayton: Good morning.

Eric: Good morning. How are you doing?

Anna Marie:  I’m doing great. How are you?

Eric: I’m fantastic. Thank you for getting up at this early hour in Texas.

Anna Marie: Absolutely

{Cross Talking}

Eric:  I am sorry to hear that. Is that by choice or because {It happens}

Anna Marie: I think it kids to school and all that stuff. Yeah.

Eric: Yeah. Kids seem to get up very early. That’s the thing. How old are your children?

Anna Marie: So I have a 14 year old stepdaughter that lives with us. I have an 18 year old stepson who’s out of the house and then I have a nine year old and a seven year old.

Eric: That’s awesome.

Anna Marie:  And then I have Gavin who will be four.

Eric:  Who will be four?  And let’s talk about Gavin because that’s how we’ve probably connected, we were just saying, I don’t know how we found each other, which is kind of amazing. Usually there’s some connection or something with social media, but I’ll be really honest, I don’t know how I found you.

Anna Marie: Well, you know, I think it was because of the pool safety stuff on Instagram and I always, yeah. I’ve advocated for people in the community to put up a pool safety fence and I believe through that is how we connected.

Eric: Gotcha. That’s awesome.

Anna Marie: Yeah.

Eric: Well I’m glad we did because the combination of your story and the work you’re doing and your career in nursing is interesting. And you know I think it’s really important for the people who have a story like yours to tell who are comfortable, not comfortable, who are able to do so and have the opportunity to do that. And you know, I have far more friends than I would like, who have lost children to drowning and, you know, anytime they’re willing to tell people about it, I think the impact of that is so, so strong that I, you know, I want to make sure that everyone who wants to has the venue to do that in the most impactful way possible.  And especially with someone like you who it happened so recently. It was just last year before last rate. Two years ago.

Anna Marie: Yeah. It’s been two years.

Eric:  on New Year’s Day.

Anna Marie: Yup.

Eric: Do you mind saying what happened?

Anna Marie: Yeah, so the story is I was at work, it was on a year staying, I was working the holidays for my staff. So my ex-husband had the children for the day. They had a wonderful day for Texas for the winter. Um, typically it’s pretty cold around that time of year and that day it was bright and sunny and beautiful, they ended up going to their grandparents’ house who has a swimming pool and they did not have a fence around that pool. So the kids had been playing outside and my boys were left outside by themselves. It was a really, um, you know, looking, I wasn’t there. So I feel like I partially can’t speak to what happened that day, but from everything that I’ve gathered and you know, talked with my other kids about and everything like that, it was just, you know,  I’ve learned so many other stories where the similar circumstance happens where adults think that the other ones are watching.

Anna Marie: And so the boys were left playing outside and um, by accident, Gavin fell into the swimming pool at the time. I said Ethan was four and Ethan probably watched Gavin in the pool just in shock and scared. I believe that he probably felt like he was in trouble. And by the time he went and told his grandpa that Gavin was in the pool,  I don’t know the amount of time that he was in the water, but by the time grandpa went and got him out of the pool and they started CPR, he was probably already gone. So the paramedics came to the house, they transported Gavin to the hospital that’s local.  In the midst of that, I got the phone call and I left work and I went obviously to the hospital. And, um, they worked on him for a long time. They did get his cardiac back, his heart back, um, and we transported him to children’s in Dallas where they tried to stabilize him even further but after about 30 hours of efforts, you know, he was gone. So we let him off life support the following day. That’s his story.

Eric: It never gets easier to hear those ever and I’m sorry, obviously, so, you know, in the two years since the drowning you connected with  water safety community, the, have you talked to the folks over at, you know, family sending it to prevent drowning. This was other families who have had to have a drowning.

Anna Marie Yeah. So I really actually got connected with all these groups through my friend Misty Bento. So she purse, do you know her by chance?

Eric: Yeah.

Anna Maria: So Misty lost her son, Zander who was four years old at the time and she’s done a lot of drowning prevention awareness through cuts children’s. And so we had a mutual friend who connected when Gavin die and she really was an angel in my life. She  was the one who connected me with these communities, you know, she was the one who made me feel like I wasn’t crazy, you know, just as the aftermath and everything and she really guided me so she and I attended the national drowning prevention conference, in April of 18 in Florida. That was when I met Joe Bird with the mistress in foundation and, um, all the upset people and just made a lot of these connections for water safety and when I attended that conference, really I was, I felt like I was going to see what was being done and what was out there because you know, when this happens to your child, you just become angry and you want to change the world and all these things. And I was so thankful to learn like how much is being done when it comes to water safety.

Eric: yeah. You know, I kind of feel bad every time someone starts a new water safety nonprofit and their intentions are so good and they’re so passionate, like, you know, I’m going to do this, you know, because someone has to do so this never happens again. I’m like, Yep, you and everyone else. Like that’s because, and to their credit, I get it because it feels like such an easy problem to fix, right? If we tell people about l{Inaudible} protection and they get the fences and get swimming lessons, like it feels like, you know, there’s no reason it should be the number one cause of accidental death for kids between one and four. But then you quickly figure out that it’s a lot harder than it looks, I think.

Anna Marie: Absolutely. Yeah. Yes. And that’s why I think, I really think that the Lord brought me to that conference to give me peace, about what is being done so that I can focus on some other things. So, that’s, yeah, I agree with you. And, and, and why reinvent the wheel? I feel like we as advocates should support one another’s efforts that are already being done. So

Eric: yeah, I agree with that 100%. And I think you’re right. The less overlap is it everybody can do the last reinventing of the wheel. I think the much more productive the group can be, if that makes sense. So what have you decided yet what you do want to focus on, if anything? What you’re plan is? I mean it’s still new obviously.

Anna Marie: So yeah. Right. It’s still new. And so really this last year, so after I went to that conference, I was working for Methodist needs field. I’ve worked for Methodist health system as a registered nurse since 2010 but at this time I was working at the Mansfield location and they were extremely supportive of my advocacy for drowning prevention. they aren’t huge footprint in the community where I live so we created a brochure that, has been able to be passed out for water safety and things like that and just kind of incorporating that aspect into the hospital system. We’re not a pediatric hospital, so I’m the main spiel locations very, um, has good connection with Cook’s children’s in Fort Anna.

Anna Marie: Worth. So anyway, at that time that’s, that’s what I was doing. So since then, the things that I went through with Gavin really caused a lot of just honestly PTSD in me after just the things that I went through as a nurse, that also having to be a mom. And it just really, it really just changed me, you know, from the inside. So right now I am back in the emergency department and that was a really big step for me to go back to that. I’m just trying to get my skills back in trauma and I’m taking care of critical patients because that’s what I had always done before. And so I’m building back those skills and as I do that there’s a lot that I’m seeing where I’m like, okay, this needs to be done, this needs to be done. So right now I’m just really I’m really in a phase of relearning and rebuilding myself so that I can be the best me to help others. Um, I did start a blog and on my blog that I wrote out my story.  I’ve shared a lot of the things that I’ve done to help myself recover from this tragedy. And my goal eventually is to hopefully be like an advocate or a counselor type person for people who’ve been through loss. So, however I ended up getting there, I don’t know the stats, but that’s, that’s what I envision.

Eric: I like that a lot. And you know, a lot of people who have suffered loss just kind of because of the nature of this community, watch this right now. And I always like when other people who have had a similar experience kind of share what they’ve done to process and recover because I know that people who have been in, somebody said, somebody say or watching. I talked to a mom a few weeks ago who had one of the most beautiful metaphors that I’d ever heard. She said she figured out that each yup, happy moment after her son drown was like a pearl of joy. And her idea was to just live for those pearls, whether it was, you know, a happy dinner with her other kids or you know, a good shower or whatever, you know, these little pearls of joy.

And that over time as she collected them, she was able to create nuts in between or are tough and hard to get through. But she knew if she held on long enough, she’d get to another pearl. And over the 15 years or so since her childhood drowning, you now had a very long parole that she was proud of, that she could, she could hold onto or long necklace, you know, that she could you know, kind of leaned back on. But I thought that was amazing.

Anna Marie:  and Oh, I mean, that is perfect. And mean that’s the true for sure.

Eric: And I knew that helped me. I mean my parents will pass away and I was like, man, anybody watching that was going to get something out of it, you know.  so you said you’ve been blogging  on your recovery and, and what you’ve been doing  and what in particular you think has helped you?

Anna Marie: So had really gone through a roller coaster of things. So when Gavin first died, I was going through a divorce and I had already been in counseling. so I did counseling for a while and I feel like that helped process those initial extreme shots stages. But after a while, one on one counseling gets redundant, I would say, you know, you have to find a way to move forward from these acute conversations, I guess. So, I ended up, anyway, long story short, several wonderful people came into my life. I had the most amazing friends walk me through that first year and my very best friend who I’m now married to introduce me to celebrate recovery. And celebrate recovery has been where I faced everything. So through that, I not only processed who I was before this tragedy, but who I am now because it just, it changes you and losing a child is, it’s just a different, prior to Gavin, I had lost five other family members in four years, so our family almost went through just like, you know, in annihilation of us, you know. And so we, we had a process through a lot but I would, I would say that being able to cope and process with celebrate recovery was how I overcame the loss of my child.

Eric: So I’m not familiar with celebrate recovery. Can you explain?

Anna Marie: I can, yeah. So celebrate recovery is a it’s a Christian 1212 step program. So we say there that hurt, habit or hang-up.  you have people there that have tried a, you know, things like that in order to recover and without incorporating Christ into their recovery, they fail and they ended up coming to CR and you see lives transformed. So, you know, it’s not just for if you have an addiction. I’ve, you know, been in there with people with eating disorders, people suffering from loss and grief, people coping through, you know, death or people coping with a divorce, you know, all kinds of things.

Anna Marie: So it’s just a whole entire group of people who were all broken. We all have an issue. We all cope with our issues sometimes and not the most healthy ways. And so this program really teaches you how to cope effectively and I’ll be honest, you know, prior to going into that, I drank a lot in 2017 a lot and even though I was holding on to Christ, I was still trying to cope with things my own way so it wasn’t until in 2018 when I really laid down a lot of those bad coping habits and faced everything was when I got better, you know. So, and then in addition to the 12 step program, you have a support group. You can have a sponsor or these people are watching out for you. And helping guide you through your recovery. So yeah.

Eric:  That’s fantastic. I’m really glad that you found that obviously.

Anna Marie:  it’s all over the country. So it’s a nationwide program and our churches looking in planting one in another country, so it’s pretty awesome.

Eric: That’s cool. What country?

Anna Marie: Peru. I just found that out last night. Yeah. So it’s pretty cool.

Eric: That is pretty cool. You know {inaudible}

Anna Marie: Um, church connections.

Eric: Okay. So you already had some kind of foothold there and decided just to a good leaping off point.

Anna Marie: That’s fine. That’s what the pastor said last night, so we’ll see.

Eric: I like it.  So how long were you undressed for or have you been a nurse for?

Anna Marie: So I’ve been a nurse since, well, I’ve been in healthcare since 2009. I graduated nursing school in 2011 and then, Yep.

Eric: Yep. Awesome.

Eric: And you’re telling it was interesting because I’m not familiar with holistic nursing. What is the difference?

Anna Marie: Yeah, so holistic nursing is something that’s on the rise.  When I graduated nursing school, I was, I was so young, so I got pregnant when I was 18 years old. I had my daughter at 19, and I had always planned on going to nursing school. But when you’re that young, you have to find a way to provide for this child. So by the grace of God, I got into school, but it wasn’t what I had expected. And you know, I was really disappointed. I will say this, I was very disappointed and just how dependent in the medical industry is on pharmaceuticals and how we medicate everybody for everything. And that’s not my personal perspective. So after I graduated nursing school, I attended the Institute of Integrative Nutrition and I graduated from that and 2012. so that taught me more of a holistic side of like eating and approaching people with, you know, diet and wellness rather than just medications. Now as a nurse, I can’t always preach and practice that. You know, I’ve used that a lot in my own personal life that hopefully I feel like the future of medicine is really going toward more holistic care you know, you got naturopathic doctors these days and there’s a lot of physicians who have left their practices to do alternative medicine so the industries is changing whether people want wanting to or not. It is. So,

Eric: Yeah. My first instinct when I read that was that holistic nursing reminds me of the alternative to being an MD, which is now that they’ll words breaking on me.  I know there’s two types of positions you can be got to be an MD or

Anna Marie: Or DO.

Eric: DO.  Thank you very much.  Is that similar? Is a DO similar to the type of…..

Anna Marie: yeah, I would say so because the DO, this is a hard topic to say, but they are looking at a more whole person perspective. And that’s what holistic nursing is. It’s, you know, where you’re not only assessing the person for their, you know, infection in their leg, you know, you’re asking them, you know, how are you spiritually, how are you emotionally? And all of these things affect your health. You know, it’s looking at the whole person.

Eric: That’s awesome. And so you said that the work you do in the hospital right, it’s mostly like critical care.

Anna Marie: It is for the time. Yeah. So I met her certified, I’ve worked in med surge right then {inaudible} where I was on postpartum, you know, and then I went into emergency medicine. So the emergency room is my heart because I love the fast pace at work for 12 hours and I want to be busy and on my feet and you know, all that. So but the holistic side of care, you know, it’s, you’re limited as a registered nurse. You cannot sit and see a patient and tell them what to do because they’re under the care of the physician. So, I am in school for my masters. I’m still kind of at a crossroads as to what I want to get that in or for my nursing degree because I want to be able to do that with people. But I’m just still researching what that looks like. So.

Eric: Well, I’ll be excited to see how it flushes out, you know,

Anna Marie: Me too

Eric: now before we got started, we talked about you’re very right outfit and you said you were cycling, so you were training for an event, is that right?

Anna Marie: Yes.  I am, I’m going to claim it. Um, since Gavin died, I, I picked back up my bike. I cycle when I was in high school and in and out of my kids being little, but after he died, I needed it. Healthy outlet, you know, and I had bought my bike when I, when he was about a year old, so I picked it back up and started cycling again. And this year my goal is to do the hotter than hell, which is a hundred mile ride in Texas and the summer heat and it falls on his birthday. So that’s my plan.

Eric: That’s amazing. When is that?

Anna Marie:   August 25th?

Eric: That’s fantastic and how is your preparation going so far?

Anna Marie: It’s going

Eric:  when you were at the NDP conference, did you meet Melissa Sutton?

Anna Marie: I did, yes. I sat in her water, babies class, the water smart babies.

Eric: Do you know that she is also a very serious cyclist?

Anna Marie: No, I did not know that.

Eric: Yeah, she was, I believe and I might get this wrong.  I believe she had made an attempt to be in the Olympics. I think she had the Olympic trials

Anna Marie: {Inaudible}

Eric: and she does a lot of marathons and triathlons and yeah, she’s cycles very well, apparently and she’s an awesome human being in general, but

Anna Marie: yeah, we met her she is really, really nice. Well, I mean all of that. It’s just mentally stabilizing. I mean, I felt like it, it really has helped me keep going, so I have to do it, you know,

Eric: I know I feel the same way. Let’s get that running. So, yeah. Next time you talked to Melissa you know, talk to her about cycling cause I’m sure he is eager to talk to other people about it who aren’t sick of hearing. You’re talking about it.

Anna Marie: Yes. Yeah. I need people like that. So thank you.

Eric: There is a book I finished recently by David Goggins called can’t hurt me and he is a former navy seal who had a really rough childhood but he got into ultra-marathons100 plus mile marathons in different, yeah, it was severe heat situations and just or you know, in, you know, snow or he’s a crazy person extreme. Yeah.  Extreme ultra marathons and you know, he talks a lot about how he does it, not for the physical performance so much, but because he’s looking for ways to callous his mind. He thinks that the extreme physical competition and what you put yourself through physically calluses your mind so that your, mind is capable of enduring bad things that happen to you. And I thought that was such a neat way of looking at it. Cause usually people see folks putting themselves through physical hardship. You think they’re training their body and he said, “no, you’re really doing is you’re training your mind and your body is just the best way to do it”.

Anna Marie: Yeah. And I believe that you have to do something that you love. You know, for me like going into crossfit or weightlifting or something like that, I would be miserable because I don’t enjoy that. But cycling, you know, that’s an old past time for me. I mean, you know, you ride a bike as a kid, but I always love riding my bike and I’m getting into cycling more. I mean it’s a love. It’s a passion. Like I crave it, you know? And I think if you’re doing something that you enjoy, then that’s what’s going to help you. Not something you’re miserable doing all the time. But physical activity is top five things that you have to do to stay mentally fit insane, especially grief and recovery. For sure.

Eric: I think it’s great.  I would definitely recommend the book or the Audio Book if you want something to listen to you while you’re cycling.

Anna Marie: Thank you.

Eric: Do you normally…. what do you, I always like asking this question when you’re cycling or running, what do you listen to?

Anna Marie:  I don’t always listen to music. A lot of times I just keep it quiet that way I can think and crying and I’ll put the music on in my little saddle there, but I can’t really hear it all the time. So I just, honestly, being in nature is better than just blasting all the time.

Eric: Okay. I agree. I believe I’ve heard him say the same guy that I’m using is cheating because you’re not going to have music when you’re in a bad situation. So you gotta go on your own, you know?

Anna Marie: Yes. Yeah. Yeah.

Eric: So what have you been doing in Texas around Dallas to prevent less drownings from happening in the future? Because as we all know, Texas is a high and drowning Eric: state. And, you know, I think I mentioned to you before we started that I had been talking about Texas for 20 years because you guys have some of the highest running numbers in the country and zero laws regarding it, no legislation, had preventing drownings legislation. So, I know you’ve been doing some work there and I was curious to hear about it.

Anna Marie: Well, so the reason why even began to look at any of that when Gavin die, we, our family got a beautiful letter from our House Rep, John Ray representative ray, and  it was like a memoir of his life and, um, whether that was part of the obituary or what, but it just really made an impact on me, you know, you can sign there and it was so generous and so thoughtful. So I ended up reaching out to his office after I kind of got out of the first six months {inaudible} and I told his office, I said, you know, we need to do something about this, you know, and so they were very encouraging. And this was in 2017 so they said, you know, session will be coming up, you know, we’ll put your name on the list and we’ll look at, you know, what we can do for drowning prevention.

So, you know, it was quiet, you know, in 2018 and fast forward we ended up coming up to where session was happening. So his office and I touched back base and as they were preparing for what they were going to be working on the Texas drowning prevention alliance is another big group. And so between them and Representative Ray, I kind of connected the two. And so now it’s pretty amazing. May 7th through 14th, uh, Representative Ray is putting, um, they are doing a proclamation of families United to prevent drowning week. And I may not be saying that the right way, but on May 7th, they are doing an official inauguration of that week and we are going to be at the capitol. So they’re inviting like all families to come, that whether they support drowning prevention or they want to share their story, there’s going to be large group at the Capitol that day on May 7th. And the prayer is that the governor will also recognize that week. So it’s really amazing how that’s fallen together and it was just really connecting people and that’s how these things get done, I guess.

Eric: That’s amazing. That’s really cool.

Anna Marie: It is. Cool.

Eric: And what would you like to see happen in Texas to prevent drowning’s?

Anna Marie: So I’ve been a very big advocate. Obviously. I feel that if you know, the pool that Gavin drowning what has had protection, you know, even by the accident of, you know, children not being supervised that could have prevented him from falling into it. So, um, I’ve been a very big advocate for a pool safety as far as fencing and things like that. I was really blessed to be able to visit California and Florida and Arizona where in all of these states, there’s rules and there’s laws and there’s regulations for residential pools. And Texas does have a legislation that speaks to city limits, but the problem is, is that in Texas, most of these homes are built outside of city limits. So you know, you’re talking in the counting, there’s, you know, door to door neighborhoods with backyard swimming pools that don’t have to meet those requirements. And so ideally, you know, it would be great if we had legislation that protected just residential swimming pools. I think that that’s huge. I think if these other states can do that, why can’t Texas not, I mean, we’re the best state in the country, so, you know, we need that. I mean that’s huge.

Eric: Texas should have the biggest pool safety law.

Anna Marie:  And everybody and their mom has a pool. I mean, it’s hot, you know, I mean, there’s nothing wrong with that. And I think that the negative thing of pool safety advocates is people think that we’re against their backyard oasis. And that’s not the case. It’s that you have to have our responsibility, but that people are building these beautiful 400, $500,000 homes with beautiful, gorgeous backyards, but that comes with a responsibility and whether you know, you like it or love it, that’s the truth.

Eric:  You know, I say all the time that you wouldn’t, you know, you wouldn’t leave a gun out in the streets or on your kitchen counter. You wouldn’t drive your car driving on the street without anyone driving it. You know, , it’s a public health issue to have your pool in a backyard unprotected. And for me, the pool looks weird without a fence around it. You it looks wrong. Like there’s like there’s something missing. It looks naked, you know.

Anna Marie: Cause you’re aware though, and I think that’s the thing, a lot of people in our community, we’re even aware of the need of the fence and you know, is it an unfortunate that my son’s death had to bring this awareness? Yeah, it’s a very heavy burden to bear. But the amount of people who have implemented that and put in safety precautions and their children have been saved because of that. I mean that’s huge. You know, and I just want that to grow and continue on. And so, and it, what’s such a blessing is as I am getting out and cycling and I’m going on 30, 40 mile rides, you know, I’m looking around the community and I see a lot more pools with fences then were there before. So I know, I know that there’s an impact being made and I know that it’s happening. It would be great if it was at a state, you know, level for sure.

Eric: You know, one of the things about what we do, and it’s, it’s gotta be the same for you, is there’s no way to know how many children would have drown but didn’t because of no for us because of a pool fence for you because of, you know, getting out there and talking about it. But especially, you know your faith being so important to you. I think there’s no doubt that there have been life saved. And I think trusting in that, that’s the case. It is helpful even though there’s no way to know, you know but you know that somebody would have, right. You know, that there’s children alive right now, you know, going to school, celebrating a birthday, whatever it is because of the work that you’ve done. And I think that’s awesome.

Anna Marie: Yeah. Thank you.

Eric: Yeah. So what would you like other parents who have little kids to know or do you think that people should do, you know, have a pool or thinking about having a pool or, you know, have a baby, a baby who is about to start crawling and walking now, but what would you advise folks to do?

Anna Marie: So I’ve been really, I’m actually writing a paper on this right now. So obviously the pool is an obvious thing to protect. And we’ve already talked about the responsibilities that come with that in addition to everything regarding p