I totally anticipated this Independence Day with way too much pressure, but the holiday means a lot to me. It’s about the food, the fireworks, and most importantly, the sense of family and community. I started planning our first Fourth with baby girl a year in advance, but things didn’t go as planned.
It’s weird how, even as an adult, sometimes I find myself ill-equipped for a change in plans that leads to disappointment. You know when you have something a perfect way in your head, and then it just doesn’t happen? I like to look ahead at my daughter’s life with this charted, incrementally perfect plan in place and figure out how I can tick off all the boxes.
First Fourth of July? Naturally, that called for a smocked gingham open-back top with a patriotic cupcake appliqué on the yolk and matching ruffled bloomers. Washed and hanging in her closet since I was about eight months pregnant, I tried to put it on her Saturday and it was embarrassingly massive. Sartorial miss aside, I was also disappointed that our poor chicken’s severe teething symptoms would preclude us from attending a friend’s 4 pm BBQ. The morning rain didn’t do much to encourage me.
By the time we made a new plan, invited a friend over, and went on a wild goose chase looking for a small electric grill we could use on our deck, we got home with hardly 20 minutes to spare. The apartment was a wreck, the baby was crying, and I hadn’t had a shower in longer than I care to share. It was just a mess! On any other day, I would have found a way to rally, but my inner child was so sad that the day I’d looked forward to for months was being “ruined.”
Thanks to a twenty-minute nap from Willow, and a supportive husband and friend, I was able to get a break (and a shower!) in. Willow never ended up wearing her fancy too-big outfit or any of the other special ones I’d purchased as backups for the day. Josh dressed her in all white with a gray newborn sized hoodie. It didn’t matter, though, in the end. Just as soon as I’d composed myself, blown out my hair, freshened up my visage, and popped a handmade hair bow in my purse to go out and meet them at the shared grill, the sun broke out through the clouds. The beers were cold, the food was tasty, and the intimate, impromptu get-together was filled with laughs and a little country music, too.
That night, we tucked our little nap-refuser in around 6 pm and let her sleep the afternoon off for a while. We baked cookies and watched TV while she slept. Definitely not the well-planned Fourth I’d looked forward to, but these are the things we don’t typically do on a random Saturday, so it felt like a holiday. Which is what mattered. At 8:30, we broke every rule in every book by fetching Wills from her crib and heading down to the water to watch the fireworks. Josh reasoned that she won’t remember the one night we interrupted her sleep as a baby, but we’ll never forget experiencing her first Fourth of July fireworks display as a family. I hate to say it, Honey, but you were right!
Willow was mesmerized by the lights and unfazed by the sounds. She did spend a good chunk of time staring at a two-year-old boy nearby, though. She is her mother’s daughter for sure! As we strolled home hand-in-hand, my heart was so full. The perfect photograph I had imagined with my little family in our perfect red-white-and-blue outfits just wasn’t to be, but that’s okay.
Instead, we had blurry beach selfies and I was in black leggings of all things. I won’t be able to press the restart button and have the day unfold according to the original plan. But like I want Willow to learn, you can salvage a day. You can salvage just about anything, if you push disappointment to the side and focus on the moment. I’m so glad I married someone who helps me do that. On Saturday his upbeat attitude reminded me what a truly incredible role model he is for our little girl. For that, I’ll be forever grateful.