Hand Sanitizer, Fire and a Developing Brain

Mar photo blog

Awhile back I read an article about the development of the brain. According to this article, scientific research has concluded that the area of the brain that deals with being able to comprehend the consequences of one’s decisions or actions is not fully developed until a person reaches the age of about twenty-one. Well, that certainly explains a lot about what goes on at my house! I wonder how much money was poured into that research project. Frankly, minus all of the scientific and medical jargon, I could have written that article myself.

I live every day of my life surrounded by young people who definitely do not fully grasp the significance of their actions, nor do they understand that there could be consequences associated with those actions that are more than they bargained for. I mean really, how many times have I stood with a child of mine, both of us starring down at a hot mess of consequences resulting from a poor decision they have made, and muttering the all too familiar words, “Well, what did you think was going to happen!?” Usually their answer is nothing if not consistent, “I didn’t know THAT would happen” or “I guess I didn’t think that far.”

So, after reading that article I figured that there could possibly be some validity to what I previously thought was a fairly ignorant response. Maybe they really are incapable of fully grasping the consequences of their actions. If nothing else, that article gives convincing evidence of one more reason why young people need Godly parents and other adults in their life. We who are functioning with a fully developed brain (or I thought I was before walking through the dismal terrain of menopause) can see pitfalls and consequences that they are incapable of recognizing at this point in their life.

A few days ago my CJ comes running in the house after having been in the front yard for a little while. He washed his hands, hurried to grab something, and raced back out the door.

“Hey,” I called after him, “Whats going on?”

“Oh, I’m rubbing hand sanitizer all over my hands and then setting them on fire. It’s so cool. You should come outside and watch.”

I was busy doing laundry so I just halfheartedly told him that I might be out in a minute and then, as if a switch had suddenly been flipped on, I realized what he had just said. My kid was setting his hands on fire! What!? Really!? Can these boys ever just sit quietly and read a book? I dropped the basket full of clothes and took off after him.

“Absolutely not! You are not allowed to set your hands on fire! This is over!”

I had laid down the law. There was nothing more to discuss. CJ would now realize how ridiculous it was to set a part of his body on fire and once again peace and goodwill would reign supreme in the Havens’ house. Who was I kidding? Within minutes CJ was in the laundry room and in his most respectful voice requested a few minutes of my time.

“Mom, please listen with an open mind. It really is not dangerous. I saw it done on the internet and it’s very cool. (Great, my mind is now at ease!) You rub hand sanitizer all over your hands and then when you set them on fire the alcohol burns off and your hands don’t get burned at all.”

“CJ, first of all I cannot even believe we are discussing whether or not you can set your hands on fire. Second, the answer is still no. It is too dangerous and, for whatever reason, you cannot seem to comprehend the risk you are taking. What if your clothes caught on fire? What if your hands did get severely burned? CJ, God has gifted you and anointed you to play drums. You are not throwing that away over something as silly as this. There is not even an adult out there with you holding a water hose in case it was needed.  No.”

“Wait, Mom, you’re wrong. There is an adult out there. See I am thinking ahead. Evan was out there with me.”

Well, he had me there. Evan, his older brother, was an adult. The problem with Evan being out there though was two-fold. One, I have never known anyone, except maybe Evan’s brother-in-law, Chandler, who is more fascinated with fire. If you read my last blog, Evan was the one responsible for the burning ring of fire in the street. On a side note, one time when he was about seventeen he wanted to have an object lesson to go along with a teaching he was doing for a group of fifth grade boys. You guessed it. The object lesson involved fire. He was doing the experiment in his room to make sure that he knew what he was doing when I came around the corner to see flames shooting from his desk to the ceiling! So, yea, CJ was not helping his case by telling me that Evan was out there with him. Now, the second thing that I took issue with was that Evan was not out there holding a water hose ready to spray his brother down should the need arise. Nope, he was armed with his phone videoing the momentous event for all of posterity to witness.

“No, CJ. I hear what you’re saying and I understand that you think this hand sanitizer trick is really cool, but no. Put away the matches. I’m sorry, but I am not going to allow this.”

About that time, Evan walked in wondering where CJ was and I was quick to inform him that I had put an end to his and Fire Boy’s fun. Evan’s disappointment was evident.

“Mom, why did you let him buy that gallon jug of hand sanitizer if you weren’t going to let him catch it on fire? What did you think he was going to use it for?”

“Well, I didn’t think he was going to use it for THAT!”

Truth be told, I had missed it. When CJ purchased the hand sanitizer on a recent family trip to Target it did not register in my mind as to the intended purpose of said purchase. It did not even show up as a blip on my mom radar. I have heard it said that with each additional child a mom becomes more relaxed. CJ was number six. Maybe I had relaxed right into a coma. Whatever the reason, I never thought twice (or even once) about CJ buying a gallon jug of hand sanitizer.

That night as I prepared to get into bed I was looking over an “About Me” form that CJ had filled out for the baseball media guide at school. When asked what he wanted to be when he grew up, CJ wrote, “a drummer for Hillsong United.”  All I could do was shake my head in disbelief. How could he not see that what he wanted me to allow him to do was detrimental to something bigger and better in his future?

As I lay my head on the pillow I was reminded of a circumstance that I had been praying about and desperately wanting a “Yes” answer from God. I knew that His answer was “No” but I had been doing my best to let Him know that I really wanted Him to affirm what I wanted to do. In an instant the Holy Spirit applied to my own life what I had been trying to teach CJ.  Like my teenager I was not seeing the bigger picture. I was not seeing what I wanted through the lens of God’s perspective. I had to trust Him that He had my best interest in mind and that He was not going to allow what I wanted because it would be detrimental to His Master Plan.

Before I drifted off to sleep I imagined myself slathering hand sanitizer all over my hands, striking a match, and then lighting them up. There I was standing in the front yard with my hands on fire. Suddenly, what I had been asking God for no longer appealed to me. I wanted His will, His way, and His path. If what I wanted did not line up with that, I was ready to release it. I was loved beyond measure and could rest assured that His plan was far superior and way cooler than anything that I could think or imagine. Besides that, in light of my conversation with CJ, I was equating what I had wanted God to let me do with the sheer foolishness of my son wanting to set his hands on fire. This girl has seen the light, or the fire, and I am trusting God even when His answer is “No.”

photo Stacy Havens

2 responses to “Hand Sanitizer, Fire and a Developing Brain

  1. Stacy, this story made me literally laugh out loud….at work!!! I had to contain it so as not to disturb my co-workers!! I can’t wait for my own stories of life with boys!!! 🙂 And what a unique way to tie in a lesson for yourself and God’s Master Plan! Thanks for sharing!!

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  2. As a fellow mom of boys (but only two of them, mind you), I laughed at your story. And then I shivered. Thanks for sharing! Isn’t it sweet when God brings these little “object lessons” into our lives? Along with the “ah ha!” moment, I believe it reveals His wonderful sense of humor too. Blessings on you and your precious family. 🙂

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