We’ve gotten into the habit of prepping Isis whenever there is some big external thing happening such as the 4th of July and fireworks. In case she’s woken up by a loud noise and feels scared, at least she has some context. However there is always the unforseen consequence.
This time it was that a 3.5 year old brain has no concept of what a year is, nevermind a holiday that only occurs only once a year, nevermind what fireworks even mean. She knows: they happen in the sky, they’re colorful, they’re big, they’re loud, they’re scary and she has no control over them. Phobia is born. From that night forward for two months, every night before bed she’d ask “Mommy is tonight a fireworks night?” I’d then have to explain every night for 50 + nights, “No honey, there are no fireworks tonight. Fireworks only happen 2 times a year on special holidays.”
“But Mommy, when is the next firework night?” AND so I would explain 50+ times the next fireworks would be on New Years Eve, and it wasn’t until I explained that it would be after her birthday in December (she’s just starting to get that a birthday happens once a year) – and that it was 100 days (or so) away that she was able to let it go, and stop asking me every night.
Last week when I was at the Party Surplus store picking up balloons, I spotted some sparklers and thought, what a great way to introduce Isis to the idea that fireworks could be fun! So I picked up a box and put it in my purse. This evening, I finally remembered I had them, so I pulled them out and said to Isis, “Hey honey, I wanted to show you some little fireworks I got.”
“Fireworks!?” said a betrayed and bewildered voice, “I’m afraid of fireworks!” As she bolts to the bedroom and slams the door. *doh* I think to myself. Parenting fail. I should have eased into that a little more. I go to the bedroom and open the door to Isis huddled under the down comforter pinching the blanket under her head looking like a little red riding hood. “I’m scared mommy!”
I back peddle to a place I know she feels safe and enjoys. “Isis, I’m it going to do anything you’re scared of. I’ll put the fireworks away. But these are just little fireworks, like a candle. Would you like to blow out a candle instead?” (This is something she has done before, feels safe doing, and has positive memories about).
“Ya mama! Let’s blow out a candle instead. Put the fireworks away. ”
So I keep the fireworks close by, but put them down so I’m not holding them. I show her a lighter and how I light the candle and she happily blows out the candle. Now eyeing the fireworks I put down, she says “Now you do a firework mama!” As she bolts for the bedroom and slams the door behind her again. I light a sparkler hoping maybe she’ll pop her head out and see…. No such luck.
I go peek in on her again. “I want you to do a firework mama!” “I did, do you want to come see me do one? These ones are not loud. They sparkle like a star.” “Okay, mama, but I need a big blanket!” We get her all set with a blanket to hide in her playhouse outside so she can watch me through her “window.” I light a sparkler and she smiles at the star sparkling glow. I ask her if she wants to hold one and she says, “No! Daddy has to do one.”
After seeing daddy do it, she’s ready to try and as she gingerly holds the sparkler between her two pincher fingers (’cause she’s still a little scared it will burn her) she smiles and her eyes glow with excitement and sparkles, and I get tingly just knowing we’ve taken the first step towards relieving a phobia and helping her to experience beauty in the face of fear. Scary can be beautiful and fun too!