Wednesday, July 6, 2011

In defense of fireworks

We'd planned to go backpacking over the holiday weekend but at the last minute couldn't bear the amount of packing that would have to occur, not to mention the drive, the food planning, and etc. Fortunately, though, Si had a backup plan in reserve (and fortunately for family harmony we decided to accept his plan; whoo boy is the kid a planner/control freak). In brief: Saturday camping; buy fireworks on the way home Sunday; Sunday evening dinner-fireworks-sleepover with friend TBA; Monday attend the real fireworks at Cornerstone Park. The friend TBA didn't quite work out, but luckily we had Cousin instead and we spent Sunday evening sitting in lawn chairs and watching the boys light brightly packaged gunpowder on the street in front of us (and having our eardrums strained alternately by the fireworks and by Helen's delighted screaming). Monday morning bright and early we got the hand-delivered neighborhood newsletter, which of course had as its very first item the reminder that in our city fireworks are illegal, punishable by a $1000 fine. The second thing I noticed was that the hand-deliverer would have had to walk past the pile of discarded fireworks trash left prominently at the end of our driveway. I may have muttered an annoyed imprecation about how the last ones to come inside could have cleaned up a little and what the hell were they thinking. I may also have cursed the fact that I married a man who likes fireworks and produced a child who also likes fireworks.

But then I readjusted and set my grumbling on the proper target: the anti fireworks brigade.

Before I begin, let me emphasize: I do not like fireworks. If I were a single parent, my children would have to content themselves with the state-sanctioned event at the park on the 4th of July.

But. I'm not a single parent, and furthermore, I happen to have a child who loves fire, explosions, and busting stuff up. These are mighty powerful urges and I'm starting to learn that growing up, and teaching a child how to grow up, involves learning how to channel powerful urges in socially acceptable ways. Duh. And I'm going to submit that option A, the option provided by the City and County and not least by our neighborhood nagging association--namely, that all urges are bad and should be vigorously stifled--is not productive.

I'm not going to argue with the City and County bans, which are based on the need to prevent massive grass fires and barn burnings and teenage maimings and blindings (although I'll point out that there are plenty of dangerous-but-fun/useful things that we DO manage to monitor and accomodate instead of ban, like swimming and driving and GUN OWNERSHIP FOR THE LOVE OF PETE) (also that the ban extends to sparklers).

Nope. I'm going to go after the neighborhood ban, which seems to be based mostly on "OMG they're so annoying" and "don't you know those are against the RULES?" These statements are both true, of course, but if we're going to be cracking down on annoying things, I'd like to point out that I find sparsely-planted geraniums VERY annoying, and also the widespread use of broadleaf herbicide. But nobody's going after those practices.

And, okay, 1-am firecrackers are their own special brand of annoying. Even 9:30-pm firecrackers are more annoying than geraniums. But it's like when the neighborhood nagging association lobbied (successfully, unfortunately) to curtail the post-school gathering of teens in the local playground: people, a community is for everyone. Not just the quiet types who prefer to stay indoors or take a brief constitutional walk in the open air. If you have teenagers in your community, and thank god we do, you're going to need to accomodate their desire to congregate and engage in loud and annoying behavior. Ideally, you're going to do that while teaching them how to be loud and aggregated without starting in on self-destructive and criminal behavior.

Likewise, we have a lot of explosion-loving people in our neighborhood (like, you know, BOYS.) I'd like to see us (read: YOU, neighborhood nagging association) come up with a way to help them indulge their explosion urges while learning how to be relatively safe and courteous about it. That's hard to do if the only option is "no. Also no, and no. And don't even THINK about poppers."

For me, I do this by sitting tolerantly in a lawn chair while my beloved coaches my other beloveds in the safe(ish) use of fireworks, and only wincing sometimes. And then making my beloved child go out there early the next morning and clean up the mess.

And yes, you might make the argument that if I didn't have an explosion-loving boy, I would probably be more-or-less in the anti-firework camp. But even then I'd still argue for the need to be a little more tolerant of non-toe-the-line activities.

Because otherwise, I might be tempted to get there and ban badly planted geraniums.

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