As our American holidays continue the slow decline into commercial bliss, I try to take the time to consider the message I am conveying to my children.
The Fourth of July is a celebration of a free nation, a place where ideas can be challenged freely and change can be implemented. Does it work perfectly? Of course not, it’s something I constantly take for granted and I want to remind myself why it’s important, so I can pass it along to my children.
Here are five messages you should reinforces with your child this Fourth of July:
1. Be thankful for what you have
Kids don’t know how good they’ve got it. When I was growing up I had to beg to get call waiting and chose poorly in my BETA/VHS gamble. It can always be worse, ask the people who lived through the Great Depression. Be thankful.
2. Nobody is perfect
My son came home from school one day and told me his teacher had said the President was a mean man. I said, “Son, the President has a hard job, I’m glad I don’t have to decide the things he does. The people who run this country are always going to make mistakes. It’s always been that way and always will be. The best thing you can do is figure out how you can make it better. A lot of people talk about the way things should be, but the important ones do something about it.”
3. Freedom isn’t free
The reason we have candy-soaked parades and get to play with explosive items past our bedtime is because many men and women have fought, and some even died, for us to keep us safe. Thousand continue to do so today. They are forced to make decisions we would never even have to consider. Tell a soldier how much you appreciate them today.
4. History keeping repeating
For every young whippersnapper who is making things “worse,” you will find an old coot who can’t stand how things are these days. We cannot change the past with the future, but we can use it to make a better one.
5. Pay it forward
Children are an endless stream of wants and needs who find it inconvenient when the world does not bend to their will. Whenever my son takes out a library book, he never wants to return it. “If you kept all of the books, there would be no library,” I have told him. “Someone built that library, so everyone could learn something. Whatever you take from it, you need to give back.” Should a country receive anything less from its citizens?
At some point, the American Dream changed from something a person worked to earn to a right that was given and deserved. We get the privilege of living in a country where we can speak our minds and know our rights. Our forefathers worked together, despite their differences, to build something worthwhile to pass on to their children. Parents have a responsibility to teach their children how to acknowledge the past, live in the present, and prepare a future for the generations to come. Every child who understands that this Fourth of July is one more person to keep the real American Dream alive.