Before I got married and had kids, I had a long history of bad July 4ths for one reason or another. This year, that history almost resurrected itself, as the day started badly.
I was looking forward to going to the Rose, White and Blue Parade in San Jose with the whole family today, but Katrina refused to go to the bathroom before getting in the car. She doesn't have to produce, but she does have to try. I thought I could get her to agree by telling her the boys were leaving without her, but all that did was escalate the tantrum. Once I'd taken on this fight, I had to stick it out, though I made every concession I could think of to get her to feel in control and agree, but, I'd met my match. We stood on the porch and waved bye-bye to Dave and Julian, then she continued rolling around on the floor in a full-on tantrum for another 20 minutes until Gabriel got her out of it.
Gabriel had said he didn't really want to go either, but I was going to insist he go because he always has a good time at these things, and it's always good to get kids out of the house. Now that I was staying back with Katrina, I offered him to stay too. I was actually glad to have Gabriel with me, and enjoyed the peace of the boys' separation. But then Gabriel had the nerve to ask to play computer games because he was BORED! NFW!
I made the most of the time by working on a red-white-and-blue jello thing, and slowly plowing through the remaining unpacking to do, so it worked out. But I was haunted for a while by past July 4ths spent feeling alone and left out. I did what I always do when rattled -- I called my mommy -- and felt much better. Pushing 46 years old, and that umbilical cord is still solid and intact.
But I wasn't going to miss fireworks tonight! We all went, though Dave wasn't sure Katrina should go. But she'd had a late nap, and often stays awake for an hour after going to bed anyway, and this is July 4th, a special occasion! Truth is, I just wanted her there with us for a family outing, even if she'd never have missed it.
Katrina really enjoyed seeing all the people and the exciting situation, but she wasn't crazy about the actual fireworks. She didn't cry, but she wouldn't look at them and spent the whole show with her head on Dave's shoulder. This is such a rare thing for her, I was almost jealous that Dave got to experience it.
Then again, I got to ooh and ahh at fireworks with the boys. Julian claimed it was too loud, but finally took his fingers out of his ears for the grand finale, and seemed to enjoy it. Gabriel has never been afraid of fireworks, and I completely enjoyed his energy and enthusiasm.
Before leaving for the fireworks, the boys and I had more talks about wars and history, I think started by talking about how fireworks represent battles. This discussion went beyond the four branches of the military and how the Navy and Air Force both have planes and that the Marines and submarines are different things; getting into how wars get started and why they're fought at all. This is a real struggle for me, given how weak my history, civics and understanding of world politics is, but it's a good challenge to try to answer their questions in terms they'll understand. Gabriel had learned a little about Abraham Lincoln and the Civil War in first grade, and was blown away that there were no airplanes or tanks in that war. I was especially glad to hear Gabriel repeat something I'd mentioned the last time we talked like this: that history is very important to learn so that we can avoid wars in the future. (That's the best I came up with; in truth I know there will always be wars in the future, but I still think it's very important to understand history even if I can't summarize or even verbalize it.)
They're teaching me how powerful it is to make history tangible. The boys walked through some actual WWII bomber planes last May, and they remember it well. I refer to those planes a lot in our discussions. It goes from how bombs are actually dropped ("remember that really narrow walkway? that was the bomb bay") to what the bombs are dropped on ("factories that made parts for the enemy's airplanes") and then to what effect it has on the war ("a really big bomb made the enemy surrender"). I can see trips to Pearl Harbor and various military museums, like the Intrepid aircraft carrier in NYC, in our future.
I guess in the end, I had a quite meaningful and relevant July 4th after all.