Tuesday, July 7, 2009

Light show no-show

Kyle probably will like fireworks years from now, though I doubt he'd enjoy them today. I can’t imagine a fireworks show being a pleasant experience for a baby. Just think of what it must be like: you’re still new to this planet, you don’t understand most words your parents say, and one evening you're in the middle of a crowd of strangers, looking upwards at what seems to be an attack from outer space. Explosions rattle you as the sky bursts with color. Flames fall down towards your head, and you turn to your only protection - your parents - but they don't heed your concerns. They just point to the sky, smiling and laughing, and you start thinking they must be on crazy pills. The explosions become bigger and louder, and then more frequent until they almost fill up the entire sky. Your life flashes before your eyes in a matter of seconds (you are just a baby, after all), and you feel the regrets of not having spent more time at the playground. Your diaper is almost bursting. Then, without warning, it all ends. You look around, confused by what just happened. Your parents smile, laugh, clap and ask you things in their sing-song voice, but you don’t understand it. You wonder why they don’t seem to understand how close they were to complete annihilation. You’re too stunned to react to anything. The crowd begins to disperse, and you walk down the street with a group of strangers who, for some reason, can’t seem to walk straight, and you wonder if they were hurt by the colorful sky fire. At some point along the way you cross a group of young men with their shirts off, shouting “U.S.A! U.S.A! U.S.A!” and throwing up onto somebody’s front stoop. That's when you make mental note to have your daddy pay big-time for putting you through this experience.

If I did want Kyle to experience fireworks, Saturday would have been the perfect evening for it. After all, we were just a short distance from the largest fireworks display in the country (with Sheboygan, Wisconsin, as a close second). But instead, we did the responsible thing as parents: we chickened out. We figured we would wait until he's a little bit older and can understand us better. That way when I jokingly tell Kyle that the fireworks will set our hair ablaze if we don't dodge them, he'll react appropriately. This was perhaps the least eventful Fourth of July Jennifer and I have ever had. We basically went to the park, ordered takeout for dinner, put Kyle to bed, and then watched the fireworks on TV. There was no going out to eat with friends. No family cook-out. No embarrassing myself in front of my aunts and uncles with my amazing lack of ability to throw a horseshoe. No, the Fourth for us was almost like any other Saturday, with a couple exceptions: the doughnuts we bought that morning had the red, white and blue sprinkles, and the blasting car stereo that woke up the neighborhood did not play rock or hip-hop. Instead, it blared John Philip Sousa's "Stars and Stripes Forever" (I'm not kidding). It all made me feel very patriotic.

Changing the way we celebrate holidays is quite an adjustment, as is everything else with having a baby. Eventually we'll live it up, but right now we have to be low-key, since we know that our kid has the skills to drown out the boom of fireworks with his wails. We don't want to ruin the holiday for others. However, this is completely a personal choice. I am glad that we do have the freedom to take our child anywhere we please, even when he's crying, screaming, kicking, thrashing, or just making high-pitched yelps that cause your ears to bleed. Not every country would allow that. It's having that kind of freedom that makes me proud to be an American.

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