Fourth of July was my favorite holiday as a kid, yet this year it showed me I have a lot to learn as a parent.

Why I loved the 4th of July as a kid

Thanks to a couple of Sunday school teachers who upset a lot of parents one morning, I found out that Santa was a fictional character around age 5. The truth of the Easter Bunny soon followed, along with the Tooth Fairy. The 4th of July had:

  • no secrets about it
  • no gifts to buy
  • no long trips to grandparents’ houses

It was simply a time for our friends and family to hang out and eat good food.

4th-of-july-dessert

Patriotism

Plus, something about patriotism felt fun as a kid. The 4th of July is the first time I can remember where I felt part of something bigger than myself. I’d blast “God Bless the USA” on my tape deck stereo and wore a red, white and blue tank top. I challenged myself to make the Jell-O desserts advertised on TV. I loved watching a big fireworks show.

Lake fun

My favorite 4th of July memory, and one of my favorites from when I was on chemo after being diagnosed with colon cancer at age 17, is when I got the “all clear” to go to the lake with my friends and watch fireworks.

I couldn’t swim in the lake water – too many germs. I applied sunscreen so thick I looked like a walking, melting Popsicle so I wouldn’t burn. But it was a rare night in the midst of those seven months I felt like a teenager again.

Freedom rang loudly.

Loving the 4th of July as an Adult

Even now, I get a little giddy about the 4th of July.

I start craving watermelon and a grilled hotdog. Fond memories of childhood celebrations flood in. It’s my mother-in-law’s birthday, so there’s always a celebration in the works. And, I’ve added a few of my own new traditions.

I bake a pie and we spend around $50 or so and buy our own fireworks. We’ve done this for a few years, yet this year I learned something important – not everyone is going to love the 4th as much as me. Case in point – my daughter.

4th-of-july-group

Home of the Not-So-Brave

My daughter is funny because she loves scary stories and movies like Jurassic Park yet freaks out over bugs and the idea of fire. She’s never loved fireworks in the sky, but this year I thought since she’s a little older, she might give fireworks another try.

pooping-elephant-firework-mae-b

We bought some for our backyard so she could experience holding, lighting and watching them explode. The idea of giving her control, I thought, would sit well with her.

I thought wrong.

Scared of Sparklers

Our friends even brought extra-long sparklers which I thought would go over well. I assumed she’d join the fun alongside her friends and draw pictures and letters in the sky. But once her sparkler lit, she gave it about three seconds and then a nervous panic broke out.

You would have thought spiders crawled up her leg or I asked her to kiss a boy.

I came along beside her in an “I’m-teaching-you-how-to-mini-golf” stance and tried to show her how it was done. She ended up giving up all together and going inside.

What’s the line between torturing your kids and giving them an opportunity to become more fearless? Asking for a friend…

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I soon found myself alone. In the dark. With an extra-long sparkler in my hand.

Learning my parenting lesson

I wanted to stop and give her a pep talk on being fearless and brave. I wanted her to have a full-circle moment on the 4th of July where she put two-and-two together and channeled her inner courage like the men and women who fought for our freedom. I wanted her to rise to the occasion and hold a flaming fire stick in her hand. I wanted her to feel the power of unity on the 4th of July and come together in our backyard for the sake of all things brotherhood.

I wanted her to be brave, face her fears, and hold the firework!

She is not me

Then I came back to reality. I was standing alone in my dark backyard holding an extra-long sparkler in my hand. I had to accept that while the 4th may be a favorite holiday for me, it might not be for her. I realized it’s taken me over 30 years to understand why 4th of July means so much both to me and our country.

And while I might have celebrating the 4th of July in the bag – I’ve still got so much to learn in parenting.

Danielle blogs about cancer survivorship, communications and faith. Subscribe to her weekly devotional in the Monday Morning Survival Guide so you don’t miss anything she has to say!