July Fourth. The birthday of our country. The anniversary of our independence made official.
How does a parent teach their young children about the reality of such a holiday, before images of barbecued burgers and dogs, vast quantities of alcohol consumption, red-white-and-blue-decorated desserts and burning up money (otherwise known as purchasing and setting off fireworks for quick, cheep thrills) take over?
I have to confess, I didn’t grow up in an overtly patriotic family. My parents aren’t the type to profess “I’d die for my country” and, quite frankly, neither am I. That being said, and despite my occasional criticism of trends I see happening in our country, I am thankful to live in a place where I have access to more freedom, choices, independence and good health than women do in almost any other country around the world. I know these freedoms have come at a price, and I don’t discount that in any way.
So, even though we are not a military family, we do not have a long list of soldiers in our immediate family tree, we don’t have an American flag hanging out front of our house year-round, and I, personally, am not an American history buff, I still value the meaning of our Independence Day.
Knowing what the Fourth of July represents, I struggle to explain to our children its’ significance and why they ought to care about it beyond anticipating a day of summer cook-out feasting, staying up far past their bedtime, and watching the sky light up with blasts of psychedelic colors. How do Andrew and I relay to them that “independence” means we have a political system in our country that, in theory, gives each and every adult the opportunity to voice their opinions about how things ought to be run in the country in which the live? How do you explain to a child that, because of this level of independence and freedom, each of my children–boys and girl, alike–gets to go to school as far as they possibly desire to go; that they are assured against slavery, disease, poverty and homeless because of the opportunities their father and I have taken advantage of and used in our favor to provide ourselves and our children an excellent standard of living? How do we possibly explain to them that they are, without a doubt, amongst the luckiest few across the globe…and so much of their good fortune stems from actions of their fellow country men and women over 230 years ago?
We can’t. Obviously.
But, Andrew and I can start by ensuring our children know that the Fourth of July is more than a free-for-all party: it’s a birthday party for our country. It marks the day our nation changed to become (in some instances, for better or for worse…but mostly for the better) the kind of place it is today. Not unlike Memorial Day or Veteran’s Day, it is a day to give some sort of homage to the Americans who came before us, who worked for the freedoms we enjoy today.f
On a much smaller scale, I can relate to the idea of working for freedoms–that’s what we, as childbirth educators and supporters of normal birth do on a regular basis: we strive to gain birthing women in our culture access to better care, better care practices, and opportunities for better birth experiences that will last them a lifetime and influence their perceptions of themselves as women and as individuals (not to mention the peace of mind related to choosing safe birthing practices).
So, whether I exemplify for my children being on the front lines of the normal birthing front, or teach them about the people who were on the front lines of establishing freedom for this country, it’s important to me to teach them that working toward a cause that you’re passionate about, and that will benefit others, is an important, lasting endeavor.
How are you spending the Fourth of July? More importantly, how do you teach your children about Independence Day?