“Be careful that you don’t blow your hand off!”
As a child, I played with firecrackers a lot. Christmas and New Years, 4th of July and Memorial Day, every holiday was an excuse for my cousins and I to beg our parents to drive us to the firecracker stand. On the drive over, the appointed adult would lecture us on firecracker safety and scare us shitless with horror accident stories.
Now that I think back on it, everything I learned about handling firecrackers has helped prepare me for being a parent of a little girl who is every bit as incendiary as any summer light show in the sky.
As the mother of my five year old firecracker, I often feel that it is all I can do to just hang on. I think back on my family’s advice and I handle with extreme care, keeping a firm hand on her and praying that an explosion won’t take off my head. I stay busy trying to keep her from burning down the neighbourhood.
This past weekend my kids went to a princess themed birthday party where one of the activities was to decorate a cardboard crown. Dressed in matching Elsa dresses and sparkly butterfly sandals, they diligently labored side-by-side on their creations before presenting them to me for safekeeping.
For the rest of the weekend, that crown was attached to my firecracker’s head. Breakfast, lunch and dinner, with a single pause for swimming lessons because even she figured out that was a bad idea. She guided me through every detail, explaining her choice of glittery flower stickers and the flaming star motif she’d custom designed on the front. She loved it so much that I’m pretty sure that had I offered her a solid gold and diamond tiara in exchange for it, she would have adamantly declined.
Monday morning finally arrived signaling an obvious end to her crown-wearing days. Our school has a firm uniform policy, even for the kindergarteners, and a decorative cardboard crown is not on the approved list.
My firecracker was undeterred. “Sometimes other people wear crowns. It’s fine,” she claimed, but demurred when pressed for names. I fought valiantly but eventually realized that if she wore the crown to school, there was a high likelihood that it would be lost and I could finally stop looking at it.
“Alrighty then, crack on with your bad self,” I exclaimed to her delight, “but if you lose it, I’m NOT schlepping around the school to try and find it.”
The girls piled into their car seats and we drove along happily. All was fine until we pulled up into the parking lot and my older daughter finally clued in that the crown was coming along too.
“OMG, take that off immediately. You cannot wear that. Mom, tell her she cannot wear that.”
My firecracker stuck her nose in the air and then shoved her sister out into the parking lot.
“Mom, seriously, make her stop! People will SEE her.”
I ignored the complaints, my attention occupied by backpack and coat retrieval.
“I do NOT know you. Do NOT stand near me,” she threatened, her last straw in a failing argument. She might as well have been shouting into the wind.
My little firecracker looked her judgmental sister and that peer pressure in the eye and said, “OH HELL NO!” She strutted her way to the front door, head held high, threw it open and marched into breakfast club. There she was, one of the youngest children in the room, wearing a glittery cardboard crown and she gave absolutely zero fucks that someone might think she looked like an idiot.
That kid drives me bonkers with her determination and sheer will, but in that moment, I was so proud I wanted to throw her on my shoulders and parade her around the room like the champion she is.
Moments like these are my reminder to stop trying to head off the explosions. They make me remember that if I blow encouragement on the spark just a little, something amazing might happen. I’m raising a firecracker, dangerous as hell in the wrong hands, but if I can just steer her in the right direction, she will explode into the most beautiful sight this world has ever seen. I just need to remember to look up to catch the show.