Okay, I may have mentioned I’m a guilt ridden parent once or twice or a thousand times. Well, I also have 4th of July guilt. Yep, I feel guilty if my kids don’t get to see fireworks on the 4th of July. Like many parents, I go to great lengths to make sure they get this Independence Day experience; long car rides, busy parking areas, throngs of people smooshing into parks and harbors… you know the drill.
Last year, I went to a fireworks display with a family whose 3 year old daughter had loved fireworks in the past, but upon the first thunderous explosion began to wail at ear-shattering levels. She was scared of the noise and the fiery residue that seemed to be raining down on us. No matter how many times her parents explained her previous feelings about fireworks, she couldn’t stop screaming and shaking. We were stuck in quite a large crowd that took some serious maneuvering to get into. Getting out did not seem like an option. As we slowly shimmied through the crowd the little girl, still filled with anxiety, threw up. Let me tell you, nothing clears a crowd quite like throw up, NOTHING. It was a brilliant plan on her part. Unfortunately unbeknownst to me, her brother has a fear of throw up. Yep, this was really happening. He went from enjoying the fireworks to screaming and wailing himself. Then he too was dry heaving as he reacts to throw up by –you guessed it – throwing up. They cleared as far to the edge as possible. Realizing none of us were getting out fast, my family and I enjoyed the display and its booming finale. I guess you never know what kinds of things will scare children, whether it fireworks or vomit.
So this year we decided to be a bit more low key. I went to a local fireworks store and bought what the salesperson described as the most harmless, babyish, “sparkler style” firecrackers available. Yes, they have firework stores in Florida. I was nervous to get anything I hadn’t used as a child, which narrowed my search to those stick sparklers that they put in your birthday cake at Cheesecake Factory. SO, I had no choice but to venture out of my comfort zone and buy: chickens that lay eggs after you set them off, cans of sparkling creepy crawlies, tanks that are propelled, and tubes that shoot out fountains of sparkles. “Are you sure these are safe?” “Ma’am, the firemarshall is out here unannounced daily, the things you bought… you could hold in your hands.” Arlington Road, anyone?
Well, I took these pussy firecrackers home. When it got dark, I lit them, hoping there would be something more than a single spark released. Hmmm, as it turns out you could hold them in your hand if in fact you were not very fond of keeping that hand. The first one, a spinner, was supposed to do just that – spin and shoot sparks as it did. Well it spun and shot boring sparks and then it stopped and just as I was about to walk towards it – it exploded with a loud boom, shooting tiny plastic shrapnel across my yard and burning an imprint on my patio.
We all jumped back a good 20 feet and my daughter started a crying jag that went on for the next hour. We took our display out front, and quickly found that these little benign crackers were whistling pink fire, internally combusting, and shooting flames before popping into blobs of ash. After my son lit up about 40 sparklers, threw 50 poppers, and worried me that he may have a penchant for arson; our family pyrotechnics show was complete. We then watched about 8 different displays, real displays in the sky, for the next hour. I guess there was nothing to feel guilty about. When you live somewhere that fireworks are legal, there will never be a shortage of homemade displays… or NRA members… or people that call you “purty.” My kids gave this year rousing thumbs up and called it the best 4th of July ever. Well, Benjamin Franklin might beg to differ. Next year I’ll leave it to the pros, I mean the amateurs in nearby neighborhoods who think owning a lighter provides enough knowledge to set off a Grucci style fireworks display. And I will light nothing scarier than a scented candle.
Related story on iVillage that I wrote as well: