Fascination with Fire

People who don’t understand what it is like to live with a true pyromaniac just “pooh pooh” me when I tell them that my son absolutely cannot be around candles, matches, lighters, etc. One woman told me, “Oh, everyone plays with matches as a child.” Saying that when discussing my son is like saying “Oh everyone sows their wild oats a bit” to a Mother whose son just got arrested for grand theft auto!

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When my son Taylor had his missionary open house before he left, a dear friend was kind enough to volunteer her home. It had been beautifully decorated for Christmas. I warned her about Ben’s fascination with fire but I don’t think she took me seriously. It was only a matter of minutes before her husband caught Ben trying to light a napkin from a candle she had burning in the kitchen. She also had candles as part of her table centerpiece, that-Scrooge that I am- I blew out before he caused more trouble. What I didn’t know, however, was that she had tealights burning in her bathroom.

Oh how I have yearned at times to have a home that would look beautiful in Better Homes and Gardens with tea lights flickering for guests in the bathroom…as long as your guests aren’t one of my children. Ben went to the bathroom earlier in the evening and then came back out in about five minutes. I figured all was fine as I hadn’t been to the bathroom myself. Then, about 30 minutes later when we noticed he was nowhere to be found, Micheline told us “He’s in the bathroom!” Ben is not a child whom you want to let out of your sight for any length of time. I rushed to the bathroom wondering why he went back in there so soon, only to discover that he was trying to burn a Christmas ornament with a candle. Black wax was all over her counter and sink and of course the ornament wouldn’t burn since it was glass, but he had done a number on it, turning it completely black on one side.

Call me an awful mother, but I used to wish that he would burn himself just once. Not seriously, but enough to cause a bit of pain to make him stop and think before he played with fire again. No such luck I guess. He burned himself this past week after finding matches at our neighbors’ home. They smoke outside and carelessly left a pack of matches outside as well. I think Ben was born with “incendiary device radar” as he can find matches where no one else can. I thought, “Finally! He has burned himself and it will make him stop and think next time.” Strike two on my fantasy.

He found a lighter in Alyssa’s room. Understand that lighters and matches are banned in our house except under lock and key in a file cabinet in the garage. Alyssa broke a rule big time by bringing a lighter into her room to light a candle. I caught him–on my birthday nonetheless- out in the garage trying to light a piece of paper with the lighter. This after burning himself just last week.

Ben has an alphabet soup of diagnoses, one of which is ADHD. He has not been on meds for it for quite some time, however, as his meds were causing some OCD behaviors. I used to think that living with the ADHD was better than the OCD, but with no impulse control whatsoever, I am beginning to think that I was wrong. It is hard as a mother to know what to do, because much of his lack of impulse control is not something he consciously does. His mindset tends to say, “I want it, I take it” with no maliciousness, but also no regard for the feelings of the person from whom he “borrowed” the item.

I wish I could understand why so many mental illness diagnoses come with “firestarting” as a behavior. Perhaps it is the lack of development in the frontal lobe of the brain–that regulates impulse control– that contributes to a variety of diagnoses related to mental illness. All I know is that I caught up with a friend this month who has a son with many of the same issues. She told me, “If someone hasn’t lived it, they can’t begin to understand. My son literally trembles, he is so excited by fire.” At last a kindred spirit who has walked the path I walk daily. I wish we didn’t share that commonality, but it is nice to know that I am not alone.

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