Last year, a fire-truck came to my daughter's preschool for safety awareness week. My daughter started screaming and ran away.
Josie's teacher suggested I talk to her about how firefighters and police officers are there to help. She said, "if Josie is ever in an emergency situation, you don't really want her running away from the people who are there to help."
For the last year, I've gone out of my way to point out fire-trucks on the street and encourage my children to wave. Occasionally, we'll see a few firefighters at the supermarket. Josie, who used to cling to my leg, now runs up to them and asks for stickers. My work is done, I thought.
When I heard about the Firefighters 7th Annual Pancake Breakfast, I figured it would be a good test for Josie and a fun morning for the whole family. Plus, it was walking distance from our house, which meant if the firefighters scared her we could just walk back home and try again next year.
On Saturday morning, we made the short walk to the Fire Station on Whisman. We walked past a few fire-trucks that were parked outside. Josie didn't even whimper. She commented on how pretty and clean they were.
There were firefighters outside the fire house – Josie and Owen smiled and waved. This was going to be a tear free morning I thought confidently as we took our place in the long line of excited and eager young families.
"I see a dog!" Owen screamed as he pointed his chubby finger through the chain link fence.
"With spots?" Josie asked with excitement – she loved Dalmatians.
"Oh no," I thought as my eyes locked in on Sparky the Dalmatian Mascot. Josie loved Dalmatian dogs. But she hated Mascots. Not just hated them – feared them – maybe even worse than she feared the firefighters last year at her preschool.
A few seconds later, Josie started jumping up and down and screaming, "I want to go home," she kept repeating. Tears were flowing. My husband, Norm, picked her up just before she ran away. Norm, who had only seen her act like this once before at a Giants game asked a logical question, "Is LouSeal here?"
"No - It's the firefighter's mascot." I said pointing to the friendly looking furry mascot surrounded by adoring and fear-free children.
Despite odd looks from confused children and adults, we dragged our screaming and crying child into the pancake breakfast. We knew once we got her in, we could steer clear of the mascot and that she would enjoy all the other great activities.
As quickly as possible we distracted her with delicious pancakes, adorable facepainting and an awesome demonstration by firefighters who propelled down their practice tower.
Josie's favorite part of the whole morning was watching the female fighter with long hair "like Rapunzel" propel down the wall and save a firefighter on the second story. "Can I have a turn?" Josie asked. I just laughed. Fears are so relative.
Given the opportunity, my daredevil daughter would probably have put on the safety harness and taken a turn down the tower. And if Sparky the mascot was at the top, she probably would have set a new record for fastest time to the bottom.