Traverse City Record-Eagle

Northern Living

July 6, 2014

Allison Batdorff: Firecracker phobia completely normal

It’s “perfectly normal” for kids to develop odd phobias, they say. It’s like a rite-of-passage. Kids walk. They talk. They freak out at potholders. They drive.

So, if scholars say it’s normal — that irrational fears are a sign of a well-adjusting kiddo — why is my teensy, tiny, completely normal childhood phobia still the laughingstock of family lore? It turns out the fireworks’ seasonal pop is the crack of the starting gun, signaling open season on my poor psyche.

No, I wasn’t afraid of fireworks. That fear is hardly irrational.

Fireworks killed six people in 2012 and sent more than 8,700 to emergency rooms, says the U.S. Consumer Product Safety Commission. The American Pyrotechnics Association disagrees — we should fear Christmas lights and hair dryers more, as they hurt and maim more people, they say.

But perspective — you’re 30 times more likely to be struck by lightning than attacked by a shark — doesn’t stop most of us from considering the possibility as our limbs dangle deliciously off our surfboards.

Fireworks don’t scare me but my irrational fear is linked to their pop and crackle. I didn’t know this growing up. I just thought I was a weird kid — the infamous toddler who wore a winter hat to the beach for a summer.

Stories abound about a poor, turtle-bikini-clad tot playing happily in the sand, only to hurl herself on the ground, shrieking at waving branches and whiffling leaves. The sensitive child insisted on wearing a winter hat all summer, and wouldn’t step from the doorway unless the air was sufficiently still. Nice and still. No wind. Wind, bad.

I grew out of it — as kids do, but the teasing stuck. Daredevilish antics didn’t dent in the mockery. I could Labrador retriever my face out of car windows all day long, but the taunts stayed put. I lived in Wyoming, one of the windiest states in the country, and Antarctica, our windiest continent. Didn’t matter. I would be the winter-hat weirdo forever.

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