How do you teach patriotism? What can you do to show your children, or your fellow Americans, what the flag, the fourth, and the fallen mean to you? How do you explain that Memorial Day weekend is more than the public pool opening and hot dogs on the grill? Can they understand why Uncle John had to go to Afghanistan and why we hold our hands over our hearts when we sing the anthem?
Each holiday has taken its turn becoming commercialized. It seems Christmas decorations go up in the stores as soon as the back-to-school displays come down. Valentine's is more about selling overpriced candy then sharing our love. Now the patriotic holidays are taking their turn. In a country where the pledge of allegiance's appropriateness in schools is debated, children are losing sight of what patriotism means. Memorial Day is toted as the unofficial beginning of summer. Television ads and stores stock displays with charcoal, coolers and flip flops.
My kids have learned about Betsy Ross in school and colored pictures of flags, but do they know why they're off from school on Monday? They have a hard time understanding why it makes Mommy and Daddy so proud to see our local veteran waving the flag all weekend from the interstate bridge in town.
So, how do we combat society's bland patriotism? I'm doing my part. I married a man born on Veteran's Day, have a nephew born on Flag Day, and I gave birth to our son on the Fourth of July. Beat that.
The only problem was convincing my oldest that the fireworks were for our nation's birthday, and not his.
I gave my children a little patriotism quiz while I was writing this post. Turns out, thank heavens, the family influence is a lot stronger then the glossy advertising world. All three knew that Memorial Day was a holiday to remember all the soldiers that have died fighting to protect us. My oldest could tell me the meaning of the flag. No one was quite sure why we cover our hearts for the pledge and the anthem, but they knew it was very important. I was an especially proud Mama, even more so because they all knew that without soldiers we couldn't be safe and happy.
If I had to give a simplified definition of freedom, being safe and happy would be it. This Memorial Day we're free to be any kind of example we want. I hope we choose to teach the value of freedom over flip flops and suntans.
What are you going to do this weekend to keep Memorial Day from going the way of Christmas?