I will not play with fire…I will not play with fire…I will no…
Hoo Boy!! My worst fear is Leon becoming extra ordinarily attracted to fire! It satisfies the need for instant gratification and shows lack of impulse control. Fire is highly attractive to many with ADHD, like a moth to a flame, and just as dangerous.
Last night our little moth got caught up in the flame.
It was my fault completely and I take the blame and the shame that comes with it. I feel like a terrible, terrible mom for letting my guard down, especially since I should have known better.
I had received a beautiful candle from a good friend on Halloween, and I wanted to enjoy it. Being that Leon was contentedly occupied on his computer, I felt it was safe to light it in the living room, after all he was two whole rooms away. My huge mistake was not listening to my first instinct to blowing it out as soon as he went into the livingroom to watch TV. I had planned on doing just that, but he stopped me and very sweetly asked that I leave it on, because he liked the way it made the room feel. He asked me to trust him.
Ah, TRUST. My very mature nearly eight year old child wants me to trust him, I want to trust him, but not only is he a child but he is a child with ADHD. That is a hard one. I believe strongly in letting him develop his independence, so when he asks me to trust him, I want to show him that I believe in him, I want him to feel trusted. But because of his inability to control his impulses without the right parameters in place. Trust is not and should not be doled out unconditionally. Additionally trust is something that is earned and must be maintained. I believe that Leon’s ADHD adds a bit of difficulty to doing that.
He asked me to trust him. Had he earned that trust? The answer is yes. Had he maintained that trust thus far? Still yes. Had I made a huge error in going against my natural instinct to be extremely and overly cautious about trusting him with something like fire in the first place? That is a BIG HELL YEAH!
I let my guard down, that is not to excuse it though, I still own that the mistake was mine.
You see Leon is a very bright boy, he retains information extremely well. Once something has been taught to him, you can be sure he knows it!! But despite that fact, or the fact that he has been to numerous fire safety exhibits, or that he has been taught how to build and maintain a campfire properly and safely in Cub Scouts, as well as by his Dad and Grandpa; I for one have never been comfortable with the idea of a child; let alone my child, my ADHD child at that, near a flame; campfire, candle, or otherwise. I know that any parent, or non-parent for that matter would feel the same. But the fact that I had to go through life without my father due to a fire, makes me just that much more hyper sensitive to this issue.
Leon has been around quite a few fires in his lifetime, at the campground and with the Cub Scouts. I have seen him get awfully close, but not because he was being careless (quite the opposite really), but because he was given permission too. Not by me, well not at first anyway, but by his Dad (or Grandpa) who felt more strongly that he could be trusted because he had learned all the right things to do as well as what not to do. And because they were watching him carefully. Something that I have just learned is not enough.
Despite my heart beating a mile a minute and my holding my breath every time Leon even neared a campfire; I myself began to let my guard down and trust him as the others did. In fact I even felt a bit of pride at how well he handled himself around fire and at how much he knew about fire safety and prevention.
It was that pride and a small sense of security in knowing that my son knew how dangerous fire has the potential of being, that allowed me to drop my guard and trust him when he asked me to leave the candle on.
Stupid, stupid, stupid!! What the hell was I thinking??? Seriously, I freak out when I find matches or other fire starter within his reach, but I agree to leave an open flame lit with him in the same room? WTF??
I agreed because, before doing so we went over the rules of fire safety, I could watch him and the flame from where I was sitting, and he was clearly advised that he would have to sit on the couch and not go anywhere near it!! I agreed because I hadn’t taken into account that it was already 7pm and his medication had already worn off. I agreed because I let my guard down.
HE HAS ADHD, DAMN IT! NEVER, NEVER LET YOUR GUARD DOWN!!
The result was not disastrous by any means, but it was very scary for all of us. One minute I had looked over to where he was and where the candle was and all was peaceful and the next minute I looked up and the whole candle jar was on fire. I ran over and once I had realized what had happened, I snapped. I started to yell and scream, demanding to know what he did (knowing full well what he had done) while trying to put the fire out in a panic. Ron ran into the room and managed to get it out.
Leon’s immediate response was to deny, deny, deny. To which i called him a liar. Ron put his hand on my shoulder to calm me and it worked. I then calmly told Leon that we were leaving the room for 5 minutes to let him think and when we returned he had better be prepared to tell the truth.
The Truth? He threw a kleenex on top of the flame to make it a little bit bigger.
His immediate consequence was to go to bed early, we told him that we would have to think of a pretty big consequence to match the seriousness of his actions and that we would discuss it in the morning. Before he left for bed he drew a picture of all his favorite things with a circle around them and a line diagonally across and handed it to me. He said “I really don’t want you to, but I think you should take away my favorite things for like a month or maybe 2 weeks”. We told him our decision would be made by morning.
This morning Ron and I informed him that his punishment included No Computer, No Wii, & No DS for 1 week, additionally he was required to complete a different written assignment on each day of his punishment, (today he wrote “I will not play with fire 10 times) and lastly his he has to go to bed 1/2 an hour earlier every night for 1 week.
We turned his drawing into a poster as a reminder. It is the one pictured below. We then got into the car and drove to the local Fire Station and he had a talk with one of the firemen there. I really hope this will make an impact on him. Leon suggested that tomorrow his written assignment should include making a map of our house and developing an emergency escape plan.
I am still very worried. I have been ever since the psychologist who evaluated him told me to be cautious and watch for signs of pyromania as he gets older, as it is common among kids with ADHD as severe as his is.
WHY DID I EVER LET MY GUARD DOWN?????
I now understand why my mom beat the living daylights out of me with a yard stick when I was caught playing with fire!
11/10/10 EDITED TO ADD: Just to add some clarity to why I am/was so hard on myself and so stricken by this situation (and to explain why my mom beat the crap out of me); – a few months before my 3rd birthday and just two weeks before my sister was born (2 months prematurely); my father died of smoke inhalation in a fire. The fire ignited after he had fallen asleep in his bed with a lit cigarette, and he was trapped in the apartment, and the smoke got to him before the firemen could.
FIRE SAFETY IS A BIG DEAL TO US!