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Friendly Fire on the Fourth of July


 Trust me, they aren’t. They are merely intrigued by the awesomeness that is the Fourth of July. The excitement of the colored lights blowing up the sky could make anyone desperate to be a part of the experience. But the question remains: when are they old enough to start shooting off the fiery whizz bangs they love to watch?

To tell the truth, there is no straight forward answer to that. I was allowed to start with the basics, sparklers, when I was five because my mom could light them, and I was jealous of my older siblings. Surprisingly enough, nothing bad occurred with these little excitements until I was eight and able to play on my own. That was when, unsupervised because I was with two older girls, and they were “only sparklers,” we caught the yard on fire. It was only a little fire, but to three girls under the age of twelve, it was a raging inferno of disaster that we extinguished with pool water before waiting anxiously for our mothers to come yell at us. So remember supervision is key.

Older kids can be trusted with something bigger. My brother, when I was five and starting with sparklers, was twelve, and got to have bottle rockets. Unfortunately, since he was my supervision in a couple years, I learned how to play dodgeball… with fireworks. After all, as a wise Irishman once almost said, “If you can dodge a flaming, projectile rocket aimed at your face from a foot away, you can dodge a ball.” At age twenty-nine, he still shoots fireworks at his friends, not me anymore, thankfully, but he’s upgraded to bigger and scarier toys. So remember to teach your children about proper firework safety.

No matter what age, fireworks obviously pose a bit of a fire hazard. My mom refused to ever let us kids play with Roman Candles after her accident as a child. She remembers quite clearly firing one directly down her arm, burning her shirt and skin.  Luckily for her, my grandmother was prepared, had a first aid kit handy, and remained calm. So remember to be a boy scout; always be prepared. Know where you keep band aids and burn cream for those just-in-case moments because even adults can get burned.

Sometimes, even when you know what to do, accidents can happen. A group of my friends were putting on a show for our families at a Fourth of July party when we were in high school. Our show promised to be amazing, full of fountaining sparks, great balls of color, and little fizzes and whizzes and whirls. We observed all the safety guidelines we had been taught: firing the rockets out toward to the lake, away from people, setting them on a sturdy, flat rock, lighting the fuses and running a safe distance away from the launch zone. Unfortunately, there was no way we could know that a breeze would come off the lake, the opposite direction it had been blowing all day, hit our sturdy rock, knock over our launch tube, and propel the ball of colored fire directly at the crowd of children up by the house. Luckily we noticed, and got everyone out of the way, with much screaming and flailing of arms, but the singe mark stayed on the house for a few weeks after that. So remember that accidents will happen.

Just know, even with all these crazy stories, the Fourth of July is a time of excitement and crazy accidents, experiments and fun. It is a time for remembering the joy of being a kid shooting fireworks for the first time, or the dozenth time, or the hundredth time. Don’t let my accidents keep you from letting your child experience the magic. Just remember to be safe and have fun.

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When I was asked to write this book it was not because I am an accredited child rearing expert. I have no degree, credentials or recognition as a child raising expert. I am a professional stor…

Muddling Through

Bil Lepp

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