I was raised in a wilder time. We didn't bother with car seats or even seat belts much of the time. I remember riding in the back of a neighbor's pick up truck--she did, of course, tell us to duck when we passed the police station. I also "smoked" candy cigarettes, built ramshackle tree houses sans nails, walked to the store by myself by the time I was Anna's age, jumped from the second floor to the sofa and rode my sled off the cabin roof ("Yee-ha" for you Dukes of Hazard fans out there).

My generation is more safety conscious--perhaps out of necessity. We're all about forcing our infants to sleep on their backs in their blanketless/pillowless cribs, car seats, organic eating, bike helmets and knee pads. And I don't even want to get into my paranoid obsession with "the gap" and the lectures I give Anna about it every time we take the train. We live in a dangerous world and our kids know it (at least mine do). Anna even has a whistle to blow should some creepy guy slip in through the back gate.

With all our safety procedures in place, something slipped through the cracks last year when my neighbor offered Anna a sparkler. I was honestly horrified that they let their kids play with these "mini finger incinerators" and I was equally floored that the father actually does "tricks" with fire. That's just what I want Anna to see--a grown-up playing with fire!

I allowed Anna a sparkler last year with much trepidation and many barked commands as she tried to maneuver it. Did I mention that when I was a teen I was hit by a firework and had to "stop, drop and roll?" Anyway, during Anna's first experience with the sparkler I was totally hands-on and sweating. I just read my friend Romani's post about sparklers and I was amazed to read that her parents let her and her sisters RUN with the blasted things!

And yet, I understand a little better this year. Sparklers are beautiful, they're fascinating, and they give our kids a chance to try something a little dangerous on their own. For me, at least, taking risks was an essential part of growing up. I needed to be trusted with a little so that I could gain confidence in my ability to take on more with each passing day.

So here's Anna, holding her sparkler far from her face and body just as I told her to, looking at me with her wide eyes, and beginning to light her own path through this dangerous world.


Romani said...

You can call yours "sparklers" too, I don't mind. I know what you mean- every time I hold one of them, I'm amazed that I don't catch fire. Surely it's going to feed off all the gunk I have to put in my hair in summertime to keep my hair from going Orphan Annie. But I've yet to combust...

Dove Knits said...

Sparklers don't actually burn, or incinerate anything. Don't ask how I know this! They're pretty safe, as far as I'm concerned. And I love that picture!

Please tell Fr. John happy birthday!

CPB said...

Hey Jenny, this is Christy. I saw your blog linked to Beth's and couldn't help sharing a sparkler story.

We attended 4th of July fireworks with two friends of ours who got married two weeks ago. They were discussing how they were undecided about distributing sparklers to guests to send them off at the end of the reception. Their hesitation resulted from the groom-to-be's unfortunate experience: long before he met his fiance, he was flirting with a cute young woman by engaging in a "duel match" with sparklers...The flirting stopped abruptly once his sparkler accidentally poked into the side of her head and ruptured her ear drum.

However, three weeks later, we did get to celebrate their newlywed love with the fiery things, and no one, as far I know, was touche'd.