Fear of Candles

This post by Jennifer Flaten

At supper the other night the conversation turned to fire safety-don’t ask me why or how, it just did. Specifically, the girls vividly remember touring the fire department during their elementary schools fire safety week.

Now, this tour took place when they were in 2nd grade, they are now in 7th so this is one powerful memory.  Usually, the girls are opposites…most often if one likes something the other kid thinks it was just “meh”, but not this tour. No. Both girls shuddered remembering it.

According to my girls, the visit went fine at first. They saw the fire station, viewed the equipment and then it was time for the safety house. In the safety house demonstration, the firefighters show examples of household items burned in a fire. For some reason seeing the melted cups, scorched light fixtures and burned out microwave really terrified my youngest daughter.
So much so that after that tour, on evenings when I lit candles, she would go around blowing them out. Now for all these years, I thought she was blowing the candles out to be FUNNY.

She would even sneak out of her room, creep into the kitchen and blow out the candles. I used to call her “lips” as in “I see lips was at work in the kitchen again” when I discovered all the candles blown out.

Yet, the day I picked them up from school after the tour, they both told me the tour was “fine”.

I never equated the sudden desire to see the candles unlit stemmed from her trip to the fire station. Never once when I was teasing her about blowing out the candles to be funny did she share her fear.

I had no idea that she was blowing them out because she was afraid the house would start on fire. Eventually, she got over that fear and even lights candles herself. I am not happy she was so frightened and didn’t share it with me, but I am glad that the program is effective.

It makes an amusing anecdote, but it is also a reminder that sometimes we make assumptions about people’s motivation. I thought she was doing it to be impish. Would it have made a difference if I asked, “why do you keep blowing the candles out” instead of assuming her reasons? I don’t know kids don’t always want to admit strong emotions like fear to their parents.

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12 thoughts on “Fear of Candles

  1. Interesting post Jennifer. I agree that sometimes as parents we miss the boat when it comes to understanding our children. Had your daughter been honest about being frightened, you could have talked her and explained some things. I’m so glad in the end things worked out. Just goes to show as a parent sometimes we’re clueless!


  2. When I was a kid, my parents often downplayed my fears and sometimes laughed. Maybe your daughter didn’t share her fear with you as a child because she was afraid she’d get the same reaction. If she’d been able to tell you about her fear, perhaps you could have assured her that although candles can be dangerous, if used safely, they can be effective, especially during a power outage.


  3. As a parent, there are so many times I wished I asked a question or maybe didn’t ask one… My daughter reacts strongly to questions she thinks are stupid or unnecessary but there are so many times I wish I could better understand her hopes and fears. Parenthood is a never-ending learning experience. Sigh. 🙂


  4. I share your frustration over not knowing the right questions to ask or maybe assuming you knew what was going on in your daughter’s brain. I have lots of insights now and find out things my daughter thought, fears and worries, that she didn’t share and I wished she could have. Motherhood can be a guilt trip. I have a book actually that titles “Motherhood, ascending Mt. Guilthood” or something like that. Interesting post.


  5. Who knows? Maybe she thought you’d think she was just being a baby and so said nothing. But going around blowing out candles could have been a godsend for you had gone to bed one time and forgotten to blow out a candle near something flammable.


  6. Jennifer, this is a touching blog. You don’t know what’s on a kids mind. I remember when 9-11 hit and one of my grandsons didn’t seem to respond one way or the other. The other kids his age were outraged, scared, hurt, sorrowful, or whatever, but with him it was nothing. But he and I were drawing pictures of whatever was on our mind and he drew the most sad, sorrowful picture of the twin towers and people crying and leaping to their deaths. It had bothered him a lot, he just wasn’t a talker. Cher’ley


  7. Very interesting, Jennifer, and so true about the making of assumptions that all is hunky-dory. Kids have an incredible ability to touch on somehting that wouldn’t affect an adult, or even other peers. Your twins are a good expample of the ‘yin-yang’ you speak about. It’s poignant when years later you find out they have been very affected by something and you didn’t know it. It’s a sad truth that probably every mother has times like this. Like Cherley outlines above, some kids just aren’t talkers but they feel deeply.


  8. How interesting, Jennifer! Funny how little we can really understand even those closest to us sometimes–even when we think we do. Your story is a simple and effective illustration about mistaken assumption–and even unseen opportunities.


  9. I think I must have been a lot like your daughter when I was a child. When I was about thirty, I remarked that as a preschooler, I was afraid of Sputnik and of Nikita Kruschev, both topics David Brinkley talked about every evening on the fifteen-minute national newscast. My mother said, “Why didn’t you tell us?” I still can’t answer that. I was afraid of a lot of things my parents didn’t know about. They probably had no idea I heard a word David Brinkley said.

    Even though your daughter didn’t tell you she was afraid, she took action to prevent the candles from causing a fire. She didn’t allow fear to paralyze her. Good girl!


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