5 Tips All Ages Need to #ADULT This 4th of JulyJul 04, 2019
Maybe it’s just me but the 4th of July just doesn’t feel as liberating as it once did for me. I’m not talking about being a kid and getting excited to go see fireworks or even about that feeling you get when you bite into the first sweet watermelon of the summer. No, I’m talking about the fear you have worrying someone at your family picnic is going to evaluate your input in a conversation, the worry that you need to do a play by play before interacting with someone at a family reunion to try to predict the outcome just to decide who in your family you can sit next to without feeling under investigation, and the struggle of constantly feeling ashamed of the ability to exercise your freedom to be open about your values. I think if you’re honest, the adulting of the 4th of July feels less like a celebration of independence and more like a request to jury duty.
The one invitation you get in the mail you dread receiving.
I’ve thought a lot about this and one of the things I love about my over twelve years as a Girl Scout leader. Also being raised by two of the most patriotic humans I will probably ever meet, my Greatest Generation (1900-1925) grandparents, is that every year the 4th of July becomes less and less about shared independence and more about who’s opinions of if you're being the right type of American or not. This might just be my opinion but I think I’ve done enough research and have enough life experience to have it be more of a truth than a perspective, so I’ve put together these five tips all of us, of all ages, can do to be a little more #ADULT this 4th of July. Just maybe, we can get excited again about sharing that bench with that uncle, sister or parent who at one time their opinions weren't dividing you, but you couldn't wait to be handed a sparkler from them...
Give Someone Your Undivided Attention
Remember when you couldn’t wait for a story from that elder in your family who always so spoke so visually that you could almost imagine being in their story with them. You were so hooked on what would come next in their story, or completely blown away at how unbelievable it was you just had to hang on every word? This is what I want to encourage you to do this 4th of July for someone you sit next to at your backyard BBQ. Choose to just listen. Active listening is one of the most important steps to making someone feel heard and that they belong. If you are feeling like any family gathering or social engagement you attend you don’t belong or that no one gets you, try giving a bit of what you want from them, too them. Remember that active listening isn’t about you, it’s about comprehending what the other person is saying. Do your best to discover how to understand them. Choose to not critique, object or interrupt them with your understanding. Just listen, and let go of expectations that eventually they will do the same for you.
Decide How the Next Holiday or July 4th will be Before You Go Home
Gone are the days where a matriarch of the family is the sole person with the capacity or ability to plan and create a holiday or social gathering entirely by themselves. Today it is more difficult for one person to take on since the majority of us are retiring later in life, two incomes are the norm, and the gender roles are more shared. This means that leaving the responsibility onto one person to be the one to plan and promote a community or family get together is asking for snow cones in the summer that won’t melt. This 4th of July sit with your crew before the fireworks are lit and decide who is on the committee to plan the next gathering or next year's 4th of July bash. Be sure to get feedback from the person who did the majority of the hosting this year to see what seemed to be going well, and where they felt they could have used more help. Asking for help keeps us connected. Where better to practice this skill than on the 4th of July with friends and family.
Talk about Civics Instead of Politics
This might take some practice, considering the majority of US school curriculums have very little civics education until late in high school but consider making a rule of NO POLITICS ONLY CIVICS for your 4th of July get together. Recent polls have shared that this year 65% of people in the US have chosen to share less about their values and beliefs with family members due to a fear of having to discuss politics. As I stated earlier, my grandparents are the two most patriotic people I will ever know, but they NEVER spoke politics, and if someone brought it up, I can vividly remember my grandfather shutting it down. He would never express his views, he'd just sternly say, "this isn't the time for it" and that was that. They never told anyone who they voted for and if the discussion did arise between the two of them there was never yelling or shouting about who was right. What I do remember them discussing during picnics and social events is civics. What's sad is I feel many generations didn't receive the same civics education and have a hard time determining the difference between the two topics. What I think would be fun this 4th of July is to play games that encourage an understanding of basic civics concepts like Axis & Allies, LIFE, RISK, Catan, Consitution Quest, Chronology or Trivial Pursuit. Last year, when our daughter was attending Space Camp for the second time in Alabama, my husband and I found this great American Trivia card game we keep in our car. We were both shocked at a lot of facts neither of us knew on the cards, but are definitely important conversation starters. Games like this can make the time together fun, empowering and give everyone a safe space to be able to build conversations around the core values of us being Americans. The pursuit of life, liberty, happiness, and being a good sport for all!
Understand that Opinions Are Opinions
No matter what, if you or someone at your get together feels compelled to share an opinion about something you feel is controversial or political take a few moments to recognize that is what it is, an opinion. The worst trait I believe any of us can have is to believe that anyone human on this planet could be completely and one hundred percent right about anything other than a math problem. Everyone has the right at their perspective, and again to the above, listening requires compassion and comprehension. Choose to be the #ADULT in the room and encourage the conversation to be one of understanding everyone has an opinion on the subject and that everyone's opinions do not need to agree to be family & friends. I say this because I know we have all been here. We believe in something so passionately that it just has to be completely the right way, and the only way. Or because it's been our experience we assume that it's also been someone else's experience or that they perhaps they are naive about the experience and need educated. One of the most important lessons I feel I learned from my grandparents being the ages they were when I was a teenager and also being there at their passings is that none of us know the completely right way to live our lives. In the end, all of us will wish we would have chosen a few decisions differently in the end. Remember what's more important, your or their opinion or the relationship? This 4th of July be willing to honor opinions for what they are; and agree to disagree without the fireworks being your ego exploding into an argument of who's right and who's wrong.
Remember Adults are the Ones Who Pay Attention
My grandmother was probably one of the most classy ladies I’ll ever know, she had firm convictions. It would be ignorant to believe she ever doubted herself but as a child, I felt she was in complete control of the room she was in as a hostess. Something I’ve witnessed over the past few years is adults fear or lack of conviction to ask young people for help. There was never a picnic, dinner, or get together where my grandmother didn’t ask others to help, especially the young people. She’d request the young men to grab tables and chairs. And any of us girls would be hurried to the kitchen or cellar to grab trays and the special desserts for the day. She made you feel like you were a part of the team. If you didn’t know how to do something, she’d show you. My grandfather the same. There was no letting you just sit around when festivities were to get started or when it ended. As much as there was no scolding for not knowing how to do it because they knew it needed to be taught not only seen. This 4th of July take a few moments before everyone arrives or you hop out of your car with your crockpot in toe, to remember that adults take the time to create relationships. They take time to teach not only react. By doing so, the patriotism and liberation once felt by so many over the 4th of July might shine through and we’ll celebrate the freedom we all have in this country by being adults with the ability to find common ground.