As we hear Presidential candidates speak of patriotism, and the differences of opinion between the two parties, on such a basic issue, I think about the upcoming generation. I think a huge disservice has been done to them. How can we expect the generation moving up to take the reigns from us Baby Boomers when they have been so let down by parents, teachers and the other adults out there?
Whatever happened to Civics class?
Pride in our country is a good thing. Patriotism is expressed in many ways. Those of the opinion that we are a shameful nation, a nation not deserving of celebrating our country's birthday, have insisted for far too long that expressing thoughts that ours is the greatest nation on the face of the earth is sheer arrogance. They are just wrong.
Some say that symbols promote a false patriotism. Some say that wearing a flag pin on a lapel is just done for show. Some say it is patriotic to express disapproval with the President and his administration, during a time of war, no matter what is said and where it is said.
Today in school classrooms, history textbooks are not written as they were once. Now, cultural issues often take preference over historical events. More emphasis is placed on dwelling on failures and placing blame.
Protests take place on Columbus Day. Those feeling slighted by parades celebrating Christopher Columbus' discovery of our country proclaim Columbus was bad, not worthy of recognition. A generic holiday - President's Day - has replaced the birthdays of George Washington and Abe Lincoln, arguably the two most important former Presidents.
Myrna Blyth, former editor of Ladies Home Journal and founding editor of More magazine, wrote How to Raise an American. She points to ways our children can learn about the greatness of America from a very early age, and have some fun doing it. No guilt here.
These reminders are a little bittersweet for me, at this time in our family's life. My son, our only child, is going off to college next month and I think back to all the things we did together from his birth on through high school. Children are like sponges, they will soak up lessons and teachable moments effortlessly, they just need someone to provide the moments.
Need a good idea for a family project, or an opportunity to help others for yourself? Go here.
A parent can teach a child about the civic duty of voting without the child even knowing it. Take your child with you from infancy, to vote. When you go into the voting booth, bring in the child. As the child is older, let him/her push the big red button to register the votes cast or pull the lever to open the curtain of the booth when voting is finished. If it is an electronic voting machine, let the child watch as you make selections of candidates. Just let the child observe and understand voting is important and participation is vital for a democracy. And it is an honor.
Read books to your child about American heroes. Sports heroes; the Founding Fathers; the First Ladies; Clara Barton; Martin Luther King, Jr.; astronauts; pioneering doctors; the popular American Girl series. Great quality quiet time with a child and teachable moments. Don't know the answer to a question about the story? Look it up together.
Bake a cake decorated as an American flag.
On vacations as a family, explore historical landmarks; museums; city walking tours; then hit the zoo or the aquarium.
See a soldier in an airport or restaurant? Let your child thank him/her for their service. You do it first and then when you are walking away, explain what you did. Children like to stand and clap as soldiers walk across an airport after arriving home, too.
And, as it is the 4th of July, the ultimate of patriotic holidays, check out local parades and celebrations. Many subdivisions have their own parades and contests for the kids. Bike decorating is big fun. Children love to ride a bike in a parade with a parent walking along side. Listen to a concert in the park, the fireworks display. Wave a little flag.
A parent doesn't have to make a big deal out of teachable moments. The more casual and relaxed, the better. It is important though. It is important for a child to know that many have died to protect our country, our rights, our freedom. It is important to remember.
Tell them to speak up and not let anyone tell them it's just all for show. They'll understand.
Symbols are important. The flag; our National Anthem; the Pledge of Allegiance; none of it is just for show. None of it is to be taken for granted or taken lightly.
Happy Birthday, America.