We Didn't Start The Fire!

"We are failures as parents."

Words you never want to hear from your spouse's mouth.

I was chatting with my mom the librarian who was regaling me with hilarious reviews of Sarah, Plain and Tall written by middle schoolers ("If you buy this book, u r stoopid") when a breaker popped and we lost power in the kitchen. I figured it was due to our air-conditioner running at full tilt. We've been having problems with the microwave and the George Foreman turning off spontaneously, and our entire neighborhood lost power for an hour in the middle of the night. Shortly after my eldest son came down the stairs and said something to his father that made him move much faster than usual. I asked why and I was ignored, so mom and I kept chatting away.

A few minutes later Hugh was back down the stairs when he stared deeply into my eyes and soberly uttered those words. I stood, expectant. What could have been going on upstairs? Toga Party? Minus the Togas? Had they drunk juice out of sippy cups left under the bed so long that the juice had fermented and they were now hallucinating? Kicked a hole in the wall? Upside down Pentagrams and chanting? Were they listening to CARMAN?

Please God Not that...


Seems Alice had...are you ready for this? STUCK A SCREWDRIVER IN AN ELECTRICAL SOCKET.

Her brothers weren't looking, so they didn't have a chance to stop her until they heard the crackle and saw the blue sparks fly. They knew better, and immediately told their dad. Alice was frightened. The socket has a burn now, and may not ever work again. And now we know what caused the power surge.

We are shaken. We could have lost our girl, or our home. And we have to wonder, why? It's not a homeschooling issue. The boys knew it wasn't safe thing to do, and they have never done it. I thought Alice knew too! Alice isn't school age, so it isn't something she would have been taught outside our home. The kids were supposed to be sleeping. I suppose I could have policed the area better, or made sure all dangerous implements are stashed at all times, but if you've been to my house you know what a laugh that is.

Or it could be that...these things happen. Kids disobey. They touch things they shouldn't touch. Sometimes it takes something like this to happen to teach a kid a valuable lesson about safety that no amount of parental hammering can touch. Alice was visibly shaken. I don't think there is ever a chance of this happening again.

And I was taken back in time, when I was about 6 years old, and playing with the electrical socket in my brother's bedroom. The nightlight was pulled out slightly from the wall, enough to expose the metal prongs, but still be plugged in. My hands were wet, and I was touching the metal and feeling the warm current pulse through hand and up my arm. I was old enough to know better. I knew better. But I was curious. I thought I was in control. After a few times, I stopped, because I knew my behavior was dangerous.

Kids do dumb things. And no matter how attentive, and thoughtful, and paranoid, and protective, and concerned, and involved we may be, bad things can still happen. I tend to be a hands-off mom, but I'm still not sure how I could have prevented this, because I was not aware that my daughter was independent to the point of dangerous behavior.

We are not failures. We are the parents of a spunky gal who failed to understand or chose to ignore the danger of electricity. She has learned a lesson she won't soon forget, and I pray that she'll remain independent and curious while being a tad more cautious in the future. I wouldn't change her, but I don't want to lose her either.

She had a 4th of July tshirt last year that said "Little Sparkler."

I thought it described her perfectly.

I just didn't know she'd take it so LITERALLY!


Let's hope she doesn't pull a "Jimi Hendrix" onstage.