On Friday I answered the question as to whether or not you should marry a firefighter. In that list of pros and cons, I pointed out that you should never tell your children that they can’t be firefighters. First and foremost, telling children (still small or fully grown) that they can’t do something with their lives rarely ends in a positive fashion. Tell them not to do something? They’ll do it faster and with more fury. Furthermore, we should be telling our children that they can be anything that they want to be. You know, like that span of two years when my brother wanted to be a fire truck. Not a firefighter, mind you. But the truck. Oh, I love that story.
Secondly, and maybe more importantly, to tell your children that they can’t be a firefighter is insulting to your spouse. If it’s good enough for your partner in life, why shouldn’t it be good enough for your children? Don’t feed me the line for bull-hockey that you “want more for your children.” Kids pick up on that much more quickly than adults will give them credit. To say that they can’t be a firefighter is to say that you don’t value what their other parent does for a living. It is insulting, degrading and all around a bad idea for your relationship both with your children and your spouse.
But that doesn’t mean that raising little firefighters is easy.
I’ve gotten used to dealing with the anxiety that accompanies the knowledge that my husband is running into burning buildings. Yes, it sets me on edge at times. Yes, there are moments when I am overwhelmed with the schedule or the worry or the fact that he’s been called out, once again, when I needed him by my side. Sometimes I have nightmares. But, for the most part, I accept the place that the fire life has in our day-to-day being. In fact, most of the time, I take pride in being part of such a unique family, the family of firefighters. I can find the good in being married to a firefighter.
But do I want this for my boys?
I see the passion in their eyes when they climb into the trucks when we visit FireDad at the department on his shift days. I hear the joy in their voice when they hear a siren from just about anywhere, pausing to say, “Mommy, a fire truck. A fire truck!” I listen as they play with their many toy fire trucks that we have in house, some of which were FireDad’s back in the day, and smile as they act out what they imagine to be heroic fire fighting situations. I have, of course, warned BigBrother that exclaiming, “FIRE! FIRE!” while playing in his downstairs playroom is enough to make my heart stop and that we really shouldn’t exclaim “FIRE! FIRE!” unless there is a FIRE! FIRE! And still, watching him don his little firefighter uniform, throw on his air pack and put out imaginary fires with his hose, I can’t help but feel that same sense of pride that I feel when I see their father drive a fire truck.
To answer the question, however, yes, the thought of them joining the fire life scares me.
I know it’s a possibility, of course. Fire life, like other forms of business, especially those that are some form of service, seems to run through the blood. FireDad’s own father was a volunteer firefighter, just like his father before him. It’s what was done, it’s what they do. It’s what they live for, what they strive for, what makes them happy, complete. I see that same passion in my boys’ eyes, hear it in their voices. I know that one or both (or neither) may someday say, with more than just a three year old’s zeal, “Mom, I’m going to be a firefighter.” I know that, even though I find it scary, I will hug them and offer my support.
I don’t want my baby boys to run into burning buildings. I don’t want them to put themselves in danger. I don’t want to worry when I hear a siren and I don’t know their location. But, to be honest, I also don’t want them to get skinned knees or break their arms or fall down or give each other noogies. I want to place them in bubbles of protection, never let them out of my sight and pick who they will marry. But life doesn’t work that way. They are going to live their lives, form their own likes and dislikes, choose their careers, change their minds about those careers, break hearts, get broken hearts, punch each other and marry someone whom I probably don’t yet know. I can’t dictate their lives. To do so would be unfair and would likely put me on the outside of their lives instead of on the inside, enjoying the ride with them both.
Would I rather they be at safe desk jobs? If that’s what they love, sure! (Perhaps I have a writer among one or both of them?) Even then, no job is guaranteed safe, you know. People go crazy and shoot up offices. Driving to an interview, they could be in an accident. Or, perhaps, knowing BigBrother’s hands-on, in-your-face personality, perhaps he would perish from boredem if forced to sit behind a desk for eight to ten hours per day, five to six days per week. I won’t know. They won’t know until they get there.
In the end, I’ll be honest: it does scare me. But so does the thought of them doing something that they don’t love simply to make me happy. I want them both to live full, happy lives, to do something that they love as passionately as I love doing what I’m doing right now. I want them to know, all the while, that they have our support while they’re working toward it, while they’re doing it. I want them to be as proud of themselves as I am of them both, now and always.