Today is oddly tough for me. It marks the beginning of the end of many traditions. I shouldn’t say end. I should say it marks the beginning of many changes. But sometimes changes feel like the end, don’t they?
We first went there July 2009, a week after July 4th. Only two kiddos at this point. The place we rented was so god-awful and so bad that we literally almost left after two days. But, on day three of dealing with the smell of the apartment and kids being off-schedule, the tides turned and the beauty of the beach and the town had won us over. It was worth staying.
Fast forward one year, my kiddos were now 10 months, 2, and 3.5 ish. We decided to try again. We found a better place to rent but the only week available was late June, ending on July 5th. It felt a little early for a beach vacation in NJ; high risk of cold weather and definitely a cold ocean. But if we didn’t want a stenchy smelling apartment, this was the option. So we went with the date, hoping for the best. And well…
We, and then I, went back every week that included July 4th for the next twelve years. Thirteen years straight I have spent at the beach on July 4th watching massive fire work displays over the ocean. One year I think got rained out? That is it.
Today I am in NJ. But not at the beach.
And I am full on sad.
And I had a little meltdown about it yesterday, akin to the kind my kids had when I started going to the beach with them years ago and it was time to leave. Or the kind of meltdown they had when a seagull swooped in and took a potato chip or sandwich from their little pudgy fingers. Or the kind of meltdown they had when their beloved sand castle suddenly got washed away by a wave that came out of nowhere. My meltdown, their meltdowns, all understandable and all about the same things. Loss. Sadness. Disappointment. And all meltdowns stemming from the same place – have experienced joy.
Today, today we are home because two of my boys now have summer jobs and going away this week wasn’t possible. Last summer July 4th was a Monday so we made it work. We did a long weekend at a hotel and then drove home at 5 am on July 5th. Not possible this year. And I am sad. I am sad for losing what started July 4th, 2010 and I am sad for what starts today, July 4th, 2023.
What starts today?
Independence Day, in a way, parent/teenager style.
What starts today?
My boys having even more of their independence, their responsibilities, their summers, their plans, their schedules, their lives.
What starts today?
Family traditions changing to reflect my kids becoming even closer to young adults living independently.
Sure, traditions have slowly been changing as my kids and family changed. Thanksgiving started being celebrated every other year on a different day when I divorced. Santa Claus suddenly took on a new meaning when my kids became older. Summer vacation started ending two weeks earlier to accommodate pre-season sports. Weekends started filling up with more time face-timing with friends than having actual face time with me.
So yeah, I guess this “independence day” has been in the works for a while. But those moments, as hard as they have been, didn’t explode my heart like today. There is something so extra real and in my face about today. Something about jobs and responsibilities being the reason for our family change that just has my heart knowing it needs to take hold and hang on…that this is just the beginning of many changes to come. Years ago we didn’t want to change weeks at the beach because it was a risk and look what happened. Here I am upset that I am losing that exact change.
And so I take note.
Change can feel like the end.
It can feel risky.
And it can be beautiful and wonderful too.
So, today I am holding on and embracing the change the best I can….with full blown tears when no one is watching and probably when they are watching too. I am grateful that all my boys are here, in my home, and we can still celebrate together and I can still make them put on the Old Navy 4th of July shirts like I do every single year since 2010.
We will do the traditions we did at the beach and be together, just without the sand. So it isn’t all bad. And I will wake them up early (and they will be thrilled, insert sarcasm) and take them out to the diner for ice cream and waffles as we would if at the beach. And tonight we will have the same meal we have every year: hot dogs, hamburgers, corn on the cob with loads of butter. And then we will do sparklers. And for good measure, my boys will bicker to make the day feels like every year 😉
I will adapt and adjust today to make new memories and to make the most of what I do have – all of us together.
It isn’t the end, end. It is just the end of one tradition, to make way for new ones that are yet to be created.
Sending warmth and strength to you today…and all the Independence Days of Parenting that follow for those of us with teenagers…