As holidays go, July 4th isn’t one of the biggies, but it is one bursting with tradition — and most of those traditions involve family, food and fireworks.
Solo parenting on the Fourth of July can be yet another reminder that your situation this year isn’t really what you’d like. Even the name — “Independence Day” — digs in that you’re doing this one alone.
Been there, done that, and lit the sparklers (while also refilling the sippy cups and trying to maintain surveillance on the really fast, sneaky kid who likes to talk to strangers).
Anytime I’m alone on a holiday, I get like that kid in The Sixth Sense. He saw ghosts. I see couples. Everywhere. Thousands of couples. But it doesn’t have to be that way.
Five ideas for a one-parent 4th of July:
1. Do something different. Break up your routine. If you always go to the same place to watch fireworks, drive to a neighboring town this year instead. Turn the day into an adventure and create some positive memories instead of dwelling on how things are less than ideal.
2. But be realistic. Like any holiday, Independence Day can be stressful. No matter where you go to watch fireworks, there are going to be crowds — and crowds and kids are usually a bad combination.
As much as it might sound fun to tack on a day at the amusement park or a visit to the wave pool before the fireworks, as much as taking the kids out on the boat by yourself might sound like a good idea, remember that you’re all going to be cranky and exhausted if you try to do too much.
3. Misery loves company. Okay, so misery is a bit strong ... Still, you aren’t the only one solo parenting on the 4th this year. You probably have some friends who are doing it, too, so why not pair up? Have a get together at one of your houses and invite other MHPs and their kids.
Here are some recipe ideas if you do, or you could keep it simple (my preference) and just eat hot dogs and let the kids run through a sprinkler for a few hours.
Buy some sparklers and watch a fireworks display on TV (D.C., New York, Boston, Philadelphia and Chicago all have huge, televised shows), or caravan to a local event together.
4. Do stay healthy and sober. I’m not saying you have to hit the gym on the 4th, but I am saying you should cut back on your 12-ounce curls.
It’s tempting when you’re feeling lonely to load up on carb-heavy comfort food (looking at you, potato salad) and cocktails. But don’t let the loneliness make you forget that you’re the only parent around to watch your kids. That is unless you and those other must-have parents decide to make it sleep-over ... which is actually a pretty fantastic idea.
5. Cut yourself some slack. This is just one year and, more likely than not, next year you won’t be solo, and even if you are, every year doesn’t have to be The. Best. 4th. Ever.
On a side note, Independence Day has been much more meaningful for me since 2008. My husband was deployed to Afghanistan that year and I was eight weeks away from giving birth to our second child.
My son and I were invited to a party on a huge balcony overlooking the Cumberland River in Nashville, where that city’s fireworks show is held. Our view was so great it seemed like we could touch the fireworks ... as a result, my 3-year-old was absolutely terrified of the fireworks.
As the National Anthem played and I heard “and the rockets red glare...” I thought of my husband, thousands of miles away, very possibly seeing real bombs bursting in the air right then. He had already mentioned to me on the phone that their base had been rocketed a lot. I held my son close, felt my daughter move in my belly and felt more American than I’d ever felt before.
And, really, that — not hot dogs, beer and red, white and blue jello — is what it’s all about.
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