They left when the fireworks started.
I can’t believe it.
We have been taking our kids to fireworks since they were old enough to say ooooh and ahhhh! And, tonight, we sat in our lawn chairs at the local farm anxiously awaiting the fireworks with our nearly 18 year old son. (Our 21 year old daughter went to the fireworks in her college town.) We had decided not to attend for the live music, trampolines, and adult beverages. Instead, we sat waiting beside our car. Of course, to get the good spot, we arrived about 30 minutes early. My son and I began to notice something odd; the young families were leaving the evening event before the fireworks started. What?! Okay, I thought, maybe it’s because the little ones might not react well to being so close to where they shoot off the fireworks. Then we started seeing older couples rushing to their cars to miss the traffic. Hmmm.
The show started; it was a wonderful display of fire in the sky. In fact, it was quite different from what you typically see from far away. There were lots of low fans of light and fountains of sparkle followed by medium height explosions and a few full chrysanthemums. As we took in the glow, we noticed, yet again, the silhouettes of families walking past the fireworks. Some even walked with their back to the beautiful display. The kids were not even showing interest or registering disappointment that their parents were dragging them away from the fun. They just walked.
It saddened me. I can’t help but wonder what the difference is between the children I saw tonight and my children (born in 1997 and 2000) who still get excited when we say we’re going to the fireworks. As one family passed by me, fireworks shooting off behind them, I noticed a well-lit face in their double stroller. The little ones have had access to glowing screens from moment one. They are the same ones whose eyes are glued to the iPhone in the grocery store. They are the same ones who have a movie playing in the car on the way to the grocery store. If they want to see fireworks in the middle of March, all they have to do is tell Siri. If they want to hear some patriotic music, ask Alexa. If they want their Minecraft world to have fireworks, they build their own. If they don’t want to engage with the adults in the room, they can put on their earbuds.
This blog is evidence that I see the power of technology; I want educators to realize its promise. I also want all of us to remember what it means to sit back in a lawn chair and take in the beauty of tradition.