Monday, May 17, 2010

Boys Love Fire

All my boys, including my husband are a little in love with fire.   Everyone wants to light and blow out the candles.  No one can stop themselves from throwing stuff into a campfire.  If there’s a fire in the fireplace, they stare at it and argue over which tool will maximize its size and heat, who gets to use it first, and who was right. 

I even met my husband over something flammable.  It was a flaming bagel.  We were at a birthday party for a mutual friend, and I discovered that if you cram a bagel full of birthday candles and light it on fire, you get an impressive flame that is really hard to blow out.

So, I was only mildly shocked when one day after preschool, Liam came up to me with a packet of matches he’d found (he knew where we kept them in the kitchen), and asked, “Mommy, can I practice being safe with fire?”  He looked at me in all seriousness. 

“Uh, no,” I reacted.  But then I thought about it.  He did ask first.*  How to build a fire may not be as vital for today’s boys as it was for those 200 years ago, but it’s hard to argue with the appealing “wow” factor.  And like Liam suggested, if you practice doing it safely, you’ll be better equipped to do it right when you need to.  I relented, “Well, okay, but you have to build a circle of rocks on the driveway and show me what you want to burn first.”

And he did.  He built himself a mini fire pit, and collected a few sticks, papers, and dry leaves to see what burnt the best.  He torched each item separately and deliberately, watching the flames as they died down.  I watched him from the kitchen with an extinguisher in one hand.

Fast forward four years.  Having graduated from matches, Liam asked for and received a flint for Christmas.  He constantly begged to use it, but elementary school schedules were hectic, and it seemed like bedtime arrived before we had any free time.  There were piano lessons, soccer practices, homework, and play dates.  One Thursday afternoon, about half an hour before we were supposed to leave for the craze of activities, I was in the kitchen making cookies – not paying any attention to what was happening in the backyard.   When I turned around to look out the window, there were flames six feet high shooting out of the fire pit.  Liam was using my BBQ mitts and tongs to perch the fire pit grate precariously on the burning logs.

“Hey, Mommy, the flint works!  Look!” he says proudly. 

I was in shock, but it is pretty darn cool that my third grader started a fire with a flint.  He did everything right.  He built a pyramid of large chunks of dried wood from our pile.  Then he collected a tangle of moss and sticks for kindling, and once it got started, he blew on it until it caught the logs and shot upward.  He even tried to “be safe” by using the mitts and tongs to put the grate back on. 

“Wow!” I said, stunned.  Then, “You know we do have to leave in about twenty minutes, so don’t put anymore wood on it.”

“We have to leave?  Can I dump water on it?”

“Sure.  But let’s watch it a little bit longer since you put so much work into it.  Next time, would you mind telling me when you want to use your flint?”

“Okay,” he agreed.  “I tried to, but you were on the phone.” 

I’m quite certain Liam will not be living at home when he’s thirty.  He’ll be off on a crazy adventure.  I’ll have to pin him down every so often for some good barbeque.

*Please note:  This is not unattended "playing with matches."  Liam was taught how to use matches and flint properly, and he learned how to do it successfully.  

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