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On Parenting
Posted at 07:00 AM ET, 07/01/2011

Fireworks and fatherhood

In honor of the upcoming holiday, I am handing over my post today to Gregory Wahl, a Washington, D.C. father of two who is passing down his love of Independence Day.

Here’s his story:
Gregory Wahl and his son, Isaac, watching last year’s Fourth fireworks. (Family photo)

“While most kids look forward to Christmas or birthdays, for me it was always The Fourth. Growing up in the Great Lakes, The Fourth meant assuredly good weather, the beginning of summer vacation, and, most importantly, fireworks.

My hometown, being on the Canadian border, has a festival from the 1st (Canada Day) through the 4th, with fireworks each night. Of course, the display on the 4th was the best, choreographed to music, shot off over the lake. We had fireworks on New Year’s Eve too, but you risk frostbite to see them. The 4th was where it was at.

The days leading up to my first 4th as a Dad were troubling. I loved my son to pieces, but would he spoil my 4th? Would I be forced to watch from afar or, even worse, from my living room sofa?

That year, we went to Vienna’s display to be safe, in case he freaked out in the crowds.

Tension was building, and I readied him as best as I knew how: by being overly animated and telling him “there’s gonna be booms!” People looked at me funny.

It’s important for my kids to love fireworks, not just because their dad does. It’s really because I actually get entranced by them. My eyes are glued to the skies, my mouth is agape, the world around me disappears. Once I watched the Bastille Day display in Paris standing in a crowd packed tighter than the Red Line at rush hour, and didn’t notice someone had shot silly string everywhere until it all ended.

In other words, once the fireworks start, my wife is a single parent until it’s over.

What if my son hated the noise? Sure, we live on an ambulance route and he’s used to sirens, but lots of kids hate sudden bangs.

Not mine, it turned out. That first 4th, he was fine. “There’s gonna be booms” worked, at least for me.

Last year we took friends of ours to the Monument for the 4th. We had fantastic seats, and as soon as the fireworks started, their 2-year-old began practically convulsing with fear. His hatred for loud noises is that bad.

My son, by then 3, sat quietly, cross-legged, gazing up and commenting on the colors. My daughter, nearly one, was also rapt.

But perhaps the biggest surprise was that, every few moments, my concentration was interrupted, not by my poor friends’ screaming kid, but by my desire to watch my kids watch the fireworks. They were doing great, and I was thrilled my 4th was safe.”

By  |  07:00 AM ET, 07/01/2011

 
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