The Fourth of July is all about getting together with friends and family for good old-fashioned American fun. Picnics, parades, pies, the possibility of losing a finger… it all works together to form the traditions of our most patriotic holiday.
But finger loss shouldn’t be your only fear on the fourth. Especially for parents who carry a Certified Worrywart Card. (Mine is in my wallet.)
I remember taking Mazzy to her first fireworks display and fearing I destroyed her eardrums for life. I also remember taking Harlow to a picnic and having to leave after about five minutes before she dumped every plate of food in the grass.
Holidays with kids are HARD.
Here are just a few of the parental watchouts you’ll encounter when you’re trying to give your kids the complete July 4th experience:
1) SONIC BOOMs
Instead of a colorful display, these fireworks are enjoyable for no apparent reason. They emit an explosive sound with no warning, completely negating all the aural protection you’ve provided your baby by not blasting Sesame Street directly into her ear. Even better? You can hear sonic booms loud and clear from miles away so even if you’ve decided to sit the fireworks out at home, you’ll still be cursing under your breadth while you soothe your baby back to sleep at regular intervals.
Picnics sound kid-friendly but don’t be fooled by the park location. If you put a blanket down with food and drinks, toddlers lose all sense of boundaries. And I’m not just talking about your toddler eating off your uncle’s plate and drinking all the (possibly alcoholic) drinks, I’m talking about toddlers stepping in the macaroni salad, spilling lemonade all over the blanket and upturning plates of fried chicken into the grass. There’s a reason we usually eat at a table that toddlers can’t reach unless we strap them to a chair, you know.
Young children are usually terrified of sparklers, and for good reason – it’s a STICK THAT SPEWS SPARKS FOUR INCHES FROM THEIR HAND. It is up to them to keep it away from their face! Might I remind you that this is the same little person you won’t trust with a permanent marker? But like a good patriot, you should encourage your child to hold it, compromising everything you’ve previously taught him or her about danger. IT’S FOR YOUR COUNTRY! Be sure to have a bucket of water on hand to dispose of the red hot sticks, otherwise your child will surely step on one later.
For some reason, your child will eat dirt, suck on sand and stick foreign objects found on the street in their mouth without a second thought. But put a piece of watermelon with a seed in close vicinity? They’ll freak out like a grown-up would if they found a mouse tail in their McMuffin. To avoid tantrums, make sure to remove all pits before distributing. Yes, even the white ones!
When it comes to fireworks, losing a finger is really the least of your worries. The more dangerous part is fireworks happen late at night, in the dark, way past your child’s bedtime. That precious sleep schedule you have diligently employed for the past three years, without which your child turns into a cranky screaming overtired lunatic? You must toss that out the window and hope for the best. Not only are you keeping him up late, you expect him to sit on the side of the road with nothing to do and wait for the festivities to begin. In other words, employ a level of patience he doesn’t even exhibit during his normal waking hours. Did I mention the cars whizzing by? I hope you brought some duct tape!
6) The Grill
What’s scarier than a flaming bowl of hot metal in the middle of a backyard otherwise inhabited by children playing tag? Having that hot box waft the delicious smell of hamburgers and hot dogs. Aren’t those your kids’ favorite foods? It’s like Wile E. Coyote putting bird seed under a box propped up with a stick to lure the Road Runner. And then switching out that bird seed for TNT! I recommend a baby gate around the perimeter. Or at the very least, a mom momming the man manning the grill.
7) Cherry Pie
If you want to take any cute photos of your kids on the holidays, I suggest taking them BEFORE dessert. Cherry pie not only stains clothes, it makes your child look like she murdered a bird with her mouth.
One of the saddest moments of last year’s 4th of July parade was when my 4yo realized it wasn’t actually that much fun to watch trucks from local businesses drive by. Sure the firetrucks were interesting but after the tenth one? NOT SO MUCH. “What else is happening here?” she asked, expecting us to promise a second act with trapeze artists and clowns throwing toys into the crowd. “Just this. Wave your flag and learn to enjoy it.”
Of course, there is much fun to be had on the fourth. Just go in on alert and with low expectations.
You should be used to that though. That’s how smart parents approach EVERYTHING.
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