The Fire Hydrant Incident


When I was pregnant with Declan, people talked a lot about motherly instincts—an intuitive power that, when unleashed, would unlock secret swaddling knowledge and steer me toward breast feeding and Target. I have concluded that my motherly instincts are dormant—still awaiting that radioactive child bite, I guess.

There are a lot of things about my son I didn’t pick up on intuitively. One of them is this: Declan does not like anything half-heartedly. He loves things with an all-consuming, overwhelming fierceness that the world is okay with if we’re talking a Sheldon Cooper affinity for science but less so if we mean, say…John Cena and fire hydrants.

The wrestling obsession is its own blog post, which I’ll save for another day.

Here’s the thing about a kid who loves fire hydrants, though: sometimes that kid asks for a fire hydrant themed birthday party, and sometimes when you try to artistically render a fire hydrant it looks…not like a fire hydrant.

Praise God we had more sense than to try a themed cake. If there’s a silver lining it’s that. We did, however, order fire hydrant decorations, some of which turned out well and other that really did not. The cups were great! The fire hydrant center pieces were unfit for a child’s party.

“I have so many questions,” I murmured. My husband and I stood in the middle of the low-budget gymnastics shed we’d rented, heads cocked to the side as we tried to make the yellow phallic shaped centerpiece look less like a yellow phallic shaped centerpiece.

“Why would they not have just made it red?” Matt asked.

We tried to arrange the fire hydrant discreetly while Declan bounced happily from one trampoline to the next. The teenager charged with overseeing our party cranked up her kind of inappropriate music. I thought about asking her to put on something more befitting a four year old, but I was attempting to hang what looked like tacky bachelorette party decor from the ceiling and thought “never mind.”

I have made peace with the fact that my son’s interests will always be intense and infrequently “normal.” We’ve decided as a family to honor that—to live in his world rather than mandating he join ours. I’ve become aware that some of the social constructs I subscribe to as a neurotypical person are reasonable, but many of them are complete nonsense. We try to strike a balance between creating space for Declan’s personhood and helping him to cope with the more reasonable neurotypical social standards. Often this balance is tricky.

I let him hug every fire hydrant he passes. I celebrate the fact that Renee Young (who is a WWE broadcaster) is the one who taught him the back and forth of conversations.  Declan is quirky. He likes what he likes, and I’m trying to be okay with that.

But you better believe I threw those centerpieces in the trash before any guests arrived.