Skip to content

Sylmar Fire

Talking To Your Kids About The Wildfires

Last night I was bringing my daughter and her friend home from the Roxy at OhMy O’Clock. As we came over the Santa Monica Mountains in the middle of the night, all we could see was fire.

Huge walls of flames licking inky skies. For anyone who has never seen a 300 acre wildfire in the middle of the night, I assure you it’s spectacular, beautiful, terrifying and humbling. For one moment I stopped breathing and was mesmerized by the intense beauty of my city burning.

For one fleeting moment I had a glimpse at what a firestarter must feel.

And then there were tears.

“My Grandparents live there!” Wailed Jane’s friend, Caitlin, from the back seat.

“Oh honey, your Grandparents live over there,” I waved with my right hand while gripping the steering wheel with my left, knuckles white, trying to remember where her Grandparents live. “Aren’t they in Burbank or Bell Canyon or something like that?”

“That’s where my old barn is!” Jane declared.

“No honey, the horses are to the East. No one lives there, it’s just brush.” I lied

The girls were sated by my deception and although parenting experts will tell you to be honest with your children, I’d beg to differ. It was the middle of the night and some things are so terrifying and out of our children’s control I don’t see the wisdom in sharing the truth with them. Further, there are discussions I don’t want to have with someone else’s child. I don’t want to discuss death and dying with a child other than my own, it’s not my conversation to have.

As a refugee’s child, I’m smug when natural disaster strikes. I grew up with a man who left Germany at some point in time, with some group of people and was definitely born in the summertime. I have become my father’s daughter. I have food and water for the masses, cash strategically placed, a lifetime membership to the NRA and two hard drives with every important document scanned into them, photos birth certificates, insurance certificates… I know it’s overkill but it’s what we do when we’re raised by refugees. Some of it is preparation, some of it borders on insanity.

When the fires come and the smoke burns my eyes, I lie to my children. I hope one day they’ll feel free enough to be a little unprepared for a natural disaster.

This is an original post the LA Moms Blog, Jessica Gottlieb is a freelance writer in Los Angeles.