American Flag in front of fireworksAhh… The 4th of July: a time to celebrate the U.S. of A – Land of the Free, Home of the Brave. Crazy to think that 240 years ago, the country we call home was just an idea…

Now every year we bust out our brightest reds, whites, and blues to celebrate. I have the fondest memories of July 4th from when I was a girl… Except for when I would start to panic day-of over my wardrobe; I never had enough foresight to ask my parents for a red shirt far enough in advance, and resorted to cutting old t-shirts around 10 am before the 10:30 parade. Was I high-maintenance? I prefer the term “young innovator.” Now, I’m cutting my patience thin trying to live up to the pressure (and Instagram goals) of coordinating a not-too-stuffy but cute ensemble for a brood of three.

Clothing aside, the 4th of July was smooth sailing for me. I would wake up, eat breakfast, and be chauffeured from one party to the next, eating enough Bomb Pops along the way to dye my tongue a deep bluish-purple. There would be burgers and desserts, games and prizes, and all the people I loved all day long. My father would always say my siblings and I lived “the life of Riley.” I never understood what he meant until I became a parent. (Honestly, still not entirely sure as I still don’t know who Riley is, but Google has provided some helpful insight. https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/The_Life_of_Riley). I completely took for granted all the work my parents put in to give my siblings and me all the happy memories we hold dear.

Now it is my turn, and I am seeing the balancing act my parents endured first hand. Schlepping blankets, chairs, coolers, bug spray, and little, oblivious – dare I say entitled – butts from fun time to fun time…

Little about my family: I have three kids, Mikey (6), Addie (4), and Jimmy (10 months). Mikey is always super into the 4th, and every year he is more and more excited about the fireworks (6 is a great age) but doesn’t love loud noises. So when the show starts he’s usually asking to go home – sit tight, kid, we are not leaving until that grand finale has adequately scared the crap out of you. Addie is a trooper: always exhausted by the time the big show rolls around, but we keep jacking her up with Pixie Stix to get her through 30-minute stretches until the fireworks start. (Is this for her benefit or mine? Don’t answer that.) Then there’s sweet little Jimmy, who’s way too young to stay up for the show (and I’m not screwing with his schedule after paying up for a sleep trainer after 9 months of no sleep – a topic for another blog for sure). So we need a babysitter, and what high schooler wants to stay in on the 4th of July watching the reruns of The Real Housewives I recorded?! This brings me to the preparation for the glorious hours of the 4th.

Before the day starts, we text away for babysitters while Hubby and I argue over who’s going to be the DD (rock-paper-scissors time)… Come on – free cocktails all day long? Then there’s the food. Not the mass amounts of dyed nitrates my kids will suck down, but the “what did I say I would bring to which party and at what time.” The morning of the festivities, our kitchen looks like it housed the fireworks dress rehearsal: failed attempts at patriotic pies, misshapen flag-inspired dips and spreads, and burnt breakfast for the brood; I’m more in need of one of those blueberry-razzle-dazzle-something cocktails than the three cups of coffee I downed. (I lost the rock-paper-scissors match this year. No worries, as I will surely get to claim winner in 2017; last year was a pregnant 4th of July and this year is a nursing 4th of July. This year, I will be enjoying these adorable mocktails at the kiddie table http://sugarmamacooks.com/a-4th-of-july-mocktail-for-the-kiddos/).

Amid the somewhat stressful preparation (and honestly some bickering and battles with my fully grown 4th child of a husband about capturing that perfect Instagram photo) the day never fails to be one of my favorites of the year. Somehow, through the lack of sleep, slight buzzes, and sugar rushes, we manage to make happy memories every time. When it ends, I crash fully dressed into bed, give myself a slight congrats, think about the day from my kids’ standpoint, and smile.

The 4th is a day to let go of teachable moments (like when Mikey found a not big enough bush to pee behind at a neighbor’s party last year. In all honesty, I was proud of my little caveman for doing his business old school) – they’re getting older (tear), and their days of innocent recklessness are numbered. Before they know it – before I know it – they’ll be parents themselves with children of their own, and they’ll understand the work it took to create the carefree holiday. They’ll feel what I feel when I see their smiles, hear their little laughs, and smooch their blue-stained lips: it’s worth it a thousand times over. Watching my children on the 4th of July, probably above all other days, reminds me what it is to be free. That’s a feeling I want them to know, to feel, and to celebrate in every sense of the word.

Happy Fourth of July, to all.