As fire wives, we are strong, proud, confident women. We love our firemen and take pride in their careers and this life we have chosen. Those of us who are mothers get to raise our babes with a healthy knowledge of the fire service and fire safety, and honor in this fire life as well. As the mother of three daughters though, I’ve reached the point where I have to honestly ask myself this question: When should I stop taking my girls around the firemen?
This is a question I have considered, and also dreaded, for the past twelve years. I knew when I held my first little girl in my arms, that the day would come when she will no longer be seen as one of the little kids running around the fire department. She will always be my little girl, my sweet baby, but to others she will be seen as a young woman someday. The fifty or more men we have always viewed as brothers will no longer fill the role of uncle or playmate to her. There will be no more games of spin-me-around-until-I’m-dizzy or tag or hide-and-seek in the lockers and bunkrooms with other firefighters and their visiting kids.
Sadly, at least to me anyways, I have already seen the tables shift in a more grown-up direction. The shift was very subtle at first. It was actually easy for me to deny it while we just visited my fireman on his shift at the firehouse. But the façade of innocence tumbled down in the wee hours of the New Year. My fireman worked both New Year’s Eve and New Year’s Day. He has worked New Year’s Eve for the past 6 years. Since we are not big drinkers and we have kids, this hasn’t been a huge issue. I’ve taken the girls to the fire station before, fixed dinner and hung out with the guys for the evening. I have also sat at home and watched a movie marathon with the girls until it was time to get my New Year’s kiss from each of them and send them off to bed. I have never gone to a party without my fireman though, until this year.
It was a fire department party for another shift; the shift my husband used to belong to until he got promoted. I knew everyone and the girls knew everyone. Since it was going to be a kid-friendly party, I decided that for once, dangit, I was going to go somewhere and do something on New Year’s Eve, even though my fireman couldn’t. As the clock worked its way closer to midnight, I watched its progress. I stood around the bonfire, laughing with friends and at many of our friends because they were too wasted to understand why people were laughing. Overall it was fun. But I realized somewhere around 10:30 that it wasn’t nearly as fun as it would be with my fireman by my side. We are just made to be together. There was no one to get my side jokes that only we understand; no one to catch my sideways glances and shoot one back, no one to laugh with quite as hard as we can laugh with each other. The girls had found their friends immediately though. So for them, I stayed. My two youngest were off in the yard playing with other kids on the swing set, in the playhouse, on the basketball court, etc. My oldest was sitting around the bonfire too, but by this point she had found another girl a little older than herself. They sat there talking hunting-talk and discovering mutual friends they both had in the neighboring town.
Tick. Tock. Tick. Tock. By 10:45, I heard some guys ask the question that made me realize the time had come to avoid parties with firemen and alcohol. “Hey, how old is she?” The question was directed at others, but it was about my daughter, so I listened intently. Being suspicious, but naively curious I answered.
“She’s 12. Why?”
The answer to my response was the same all night. “She’s twelve? There’s no way she’s 12!”
Uh, yes there is. You see: I specifically remember being in the hospital, giving birth to her 151 months ago, which is just over 12 and ½ years ago, which makes her still twelve, still innocent, still under my protection and way too young for any drunk guy to be asking about her age. So I repeated, “Why?”
“Well, I was thinking she could drive me home.” This too was their reply to the age question each time.
“Heck no, she can’t drive you home! She’s not old enough to drive, but I am. And I’m sober. Do you want a ride?” I asked this each time thinking someone might take me up on the offer, but no one ever did.
By the third time this scenario played out, it finally dawned on me that “we” were not being asked for a safe ride home. My daughter was being asked if she could drive home single, drunk guys. What?! She’s twelve! She’s my little baby, my little girl! She might be as tall as me and wear the same pants size as me and weigh as much as me and proportionally look like a grown woman already (which is another difficult thing for me to accept) but she is NOT a woman! She still plays with her little sisters. She still has never even kissed a boy, as far as I know. She still doesn’t even like boys except at a shy distance, which is perfectly fine with me. Her favorite boy is still her Daddy, which is as it should be.
I managed to beat a hasty retreat before the New Year even arrived. As I drove home with just my girls and my thoughts, I asked myself, “When did she become a woman in the eyes of the firemen?” I don’t know the answer. It could have been mostly the alcohol talking. But maybe that’s giving the booze too much credit and taking the responsibility off of the grown men who should know better since they’ve known us forever. No matter what the reason though, my fireman and I have decided that at this point in our lives, it is best to stay at home and sit out the department parties where alcohol is involved. Our daughters are not man-bait and in a testosterone-driven, passionate field like firefighting we have decided it is best not to test circumstances or poor judgment.
Latest posts by Cynthia - FireWifeLife (see all)
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