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What is the Best Fourth of July for Kids?

Today is the Fourth of July, and being a patriotic family man I feel compelled to make sure my kids have the best Independence Day ever. Best is the American way, people. The hard part is deciding what to do. America, as you know, likes a lot of options.

Last year we went to a local shopping center that has a fairly large lawn where we joined our neighbors on grass and blankets for fireworks, oohs and ahhs, all timed perfectly to an area radio broadcast playing on an app for that. Also, traffic. It was nice (except for the traffic part).

In previous years we have blended with the huddled masses at Disneyland, which, despite the pressing crowds and endless lines, was actually quite moving and provided a very special sense of Americana. There’s something undeniably moving about holding a Coke in one hand and your kid in the other while singing the National Anthem beneath a bright pink castle. I’m sure Walt would have liked that.

However, the best Fourth of July that my kids have ever had was participating in a small town tradition in the state of Washington. It was the kind of July 4th celebration that would have made Mayberry proud. It started with a parade of kids on bicycles, pets in wagons, and local business types in fancy old cars, and it ended in a park overflowing with music, food, and activities. Cue the fireworks.

Those choices are all on the table for this Fourth of July as well (except our small town experience would be in California and require a drive rather than a leisurely stroll). There are also a number of other options, namely beach events and concerts at various venues, all of which require trips through Los Angeles traffic and hours of frustration on either side of the featured celebration — the frustration part being a major deterrent.

Basically, I’m at a loss.

When I was a kid we did the Disneyland thing a couple of times, but for the most part our July 4th celebrations consisted of a cooler full of beer for the adults, cans of Shasta soda for the kids, and the tailgate of a station wagon covered in chips, hamburgers, and whatever sparklers had lasted past our afternoon arrival to the park of our choice. We would run around in shorts cut from old jeans, ketchup on our faces, and no shoes on our feet. John Cougar would be playing on the stereo. Often. The memories play like summer.

They say it was a simpler time, and that may be true on many levels, but that doesn’t mean it was a better time. For one thing, my kids weren’t there to see me in action, and at the risk of ripping a hole in the space-time continuum, I think they would have liked that. But they are here now, and what they are witnessing is a lot of indecision where action used to be. These are their simpler times, and suddenly it all seems so relative.

Memories are made by default, it’s up to parents to supply the ingredients. That said, we may wind up spending our holiday at home, enjoying the freedom of a summer night with a breeze in the air and laughter lifted upon it. We won’t be able to see the fireworks, but the echoes will fill the canyon, and if we lay beneath the stars we can take turns describing what each boom might have looked like. We will ooh and ahh accordingly.

How’s that, America?

How are you celebrating the Fourth of July with your family?

Honea ExpressRead more from Whit Honea at his site Honea Express and the popular group blog DadCentric. You can follow Whit on the Twitter or Pinterest (his opinions are his own and do not reflect those of Babble or most rational people).


Also from Whit:

Remembering Andy Griffith

A Homeless Father

When the Kids Leave: Part One & Part Two

Babes in Cars Land

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