Boys just want to have a blast
Boys love explosions, so July—when fireworks boom—is a great month for them. I'm not sure about girls and explosions. I suspect they're less enthusiastic.
Boys seem to have an inborn, visceral affection for explosions. As they mature, they gain the additional motivation of staging explosions to impress girls. I doubt girls are really impressed by this. But some of them might act impressed because they want to please boys. This only leads to more explosions. I'm guessing that the entire fireworks industry, and possibly war, has been built on this dynamic.
If you're raising a boy, it's prudent to assume that sooner or later he's going to try to blow something up. I don't mean to stereotype boys, but come on, at least play the percentages. You want them to grow up with all 10 fingers intact.
I became a parent in 1983, when the parenting world was trying to sell the preposterous idea that, save for minor anatomical variation, there was no difference between boys and girls. The reason little boys liked war toys and little girls liked dolls was because they were fulfilling the "gender roles" we had assigned them. Sheesh. My wife and I tried to play along with this notion by denying our first-born toy guns and other war-like playthings. Instead, we nurtured his peace-loving, creative side. Sure enough, he grew into a peace-loving, creative child who could turn sticks, teddy bears and Legos into imaginary weapons by age 3. I don't know whether he ever tried to cause an explosion, but I wouldn't be surprised.
My mother knew it was wise to discourage a boy's destructive impulses. When I was a boy, she always warned me to stay away from firecrackers, cherry bombs and other volatile July 4 amusements, lest I end up like a classmate of hers who disfigured his face with an explosive device. Well, I used to see the guy around town, and he didn't look that ugly to me. I was more interested in other details of the incident: What kind of explosive device? Did she know the exact ingredients? How big was the blast? Was there smoke? Let that be a lesson: If you want to scare a boy with a fireworks story, focus on the painful aftermath, not the incident itself. Describe in graphic detail how burns are treated.
On the Fourth of July, my parents would never allow us anything more incendiary than smoke bombs (which weren't bombs at all) and what we called "caps." Caps were rolls of powder-impregnated paper that, when fed through a toy gun, produced a little pop. I also recall some tiny disks that, when ignited with a match, grew a tail of ash. These things were just as lame as they sound, but when you're desperate for fire and smoke, you take what you can get.
Sometimes we would save up several of these devices, then ignite them in a bag, hoping for some kind of mysterious synergy that would provide a memorable detonation. All we got was a cloud of sulfurous smoke. Girls didn't even pretend to be impressed.
Joe Blundo's column, So to Speak, appears in the Life section of The Columbus Dispatch. It's a mix of humor, human interest and information. A collection of his columns has been published in the book Dancing Dads, Defective Peeps and Buckeye Misadventures. He lives in Worthington with his wife and two children.