The shops have been filled with Bonfire Night tack since the summer, and everyone’s getting excited about giant bonfires, breathtaking fireworks, and sweet toasted marshmallows. ‘Everyone’ that is apart from pretty much every mum on the planet. Read Rachel Tompkins’ guide about how to survive Bonfire Night with children of different ages…
Pre-baby you’ve envisaged Bonfire Night like this: Autumnal leaves crunching underfoot while a gorgeous baby nestles peacefully in a sling and fireworks illuminate the night sky.
Once you actually have a newborn the reality kicks in and taking them to a Bonfire Night display seems nigh on ridiculous. Firstly, you’re too knackered to go out after dark, then there’s the small issue of having to feed them in the freezing cold, not to mention the ground-shaking bangs of the fireworks to protect their tiny ears from (yes I know those giant ear-defenders look cute on celeb babies, but in real life – would they even stay on?!). And it’s not like a newborn will chew a few toasted marshmallows to keep themselves happy.
Bonfire Night lovers don’t despair though, a friend of mine who loves Bonfire Night however proved it can be done. She utilised the fact that a newborn doesn’t need to be in bed at a certain time, and wrapped him up warm and carried him along in a sling to watch his first display. She even made the huge ear-defenders work and took awesome Insta-worthy pics to prove it…
Tempting? Maybe. But not half as tempting as my sheepskin slippers and a bag of chocolate buttons in the warm.
It’s taken months to get your baby into anything with a semblance of a routine at bedtime. And once they are asleep you’re so bloody relieved that you’ve turned into everything you vowed you wouldn’t – tiptoeing around, TV on low, talking in hushed whispers.
Then Bonfire Night arrives and BOOM! The house is rocked by what sounds like a grenade going off, and you’re sat in the living room cursing the inconsiderate neighbours (while necking wine to try to calm the nerves obviously) and waiting for the inevitable crying to signal your precious little one is awake.
We’re (un)lucky enough to live a stone’s throw from the field where they hold our local display so the first year it happened my nerves were shattered.
But astonishingly, the baby didn’t wake up! How anyone could sleep through something which literally rocked the house, but wakes up when the toilet is flushed, God only knows.
Finally, they’re on their feet. Time to excitedly involve them in all Bonfire Night celebrations. Except that most firework displays start after they’re usually in bed – cue lots of overtired tears. And the loud bangs terrify the sh*t out of the poor little mites. Oh, and they can’t really see the bonfire unless they’re on your shoulders, which is bloody fantastic for your post-natal back.
Thankfully though, Bonfire Night means sparklers! For me, the one saviour of this noisy, loud evening. Terrified of the boys burning their fingers I managed to buy some extra-long ones, and they loved waving them around in the garden. Better still, you don’t need to shell out for a display and you can do it as soon as it gets dark. Meaning the kids can be tucked up in bed by 7 and you can crack open that much-needed bottle.
Finally, they’re old enough not to have a complete meltdown if they stay up past bedtime, and big enough to stand on their own two feet and watch a firework display. Sod’s law it’ll be freezing cold and pouring with rain, but they’ll be so excited to be allowed out late in the dark, that they won’t dare complain. Plus, the hot chocolate and toasted marshmallows will give them a sugar rush to keep them going (even if you are cursing it when you’re trying to get them into bed later). And as they stand next to you, their little hands clutching yours and a look of awe on their faces as the sky’s illuminated in multicoloured light, it almost make up for all those previous Bonfire Night horrors!