Happy Birthday America (party safely)

Fireworks by the Philadelphia Art Museum

I received a letter from my youngest son yesterday. He is away at summer camp and loving every minute of it. His letters are full of great stuff like – “a ball hit me right in the face really hard but then it dropped into my arms so the guy was out and it was okay.” Or this wonder-goodie, “I’m working on some back flips off the high diving board into the lake but I keep missing!” Missing what? The diving board itself? The water? My favorite was the report on preparations for July 4th. “The Bridgers (Counselors in Training) are building the wood pile for the bonfire in the meadow. It’s super high and the flames will be really intense!” Really? A huge bonfire in near a wooded area containing several hundred children between the ages of 7 and 17?

It’s July 4th people! That’s the kind of crazy stuff we get up to celebrate the birth of our nation. So today, July 3rd, is a good day to do some thinking and some planning before we welcome our friends and get out the barbeque. Friends of mine drive from Philadelphia to South Carolina for a large family gathering at this time every summer. One year, a chaotic evening with small children delayed their journey and left them low on gas and unprepared for terrible traffic. They had forgotten to fill water bottles and pack snacks for the car and spent a very stressful few hours getting out of the northeast corridor madness. Needless to say, they learned to value of planning ahead. The length of their journey has them driving quite late at night. They plan their route carefully and switch drivers at their frequent rest stops.

July 4th will be the start, for many of us, of an extended outdoor weekend. I will tell you from personal experience that while there are many fabulous ways to spend this great holiday, sitting in the emergency room with an active and energetic child is not one of them. Again, it helps to make expectations clear at the start of any gathering. I you are celebrating by a pool, check out these important guidelines for pool safety. Make children aware of dangers if they are in unfamiliar surroundings. Tell them that swinging on the swing set is fine, but walking on top of it as if on a balance beam 12 feet from the ground is not a wise choice. This may seem obvious to some but not to many 8-12 yr. old boys I know. Explain that while football is a great American game, the tackle variety is not an appropriate option when playing with your five year old cousins. Keep a first aid kit at hand for skinned knees and other abrasions, and keep all youthful enthusiasm away from the grill. If it can char your hamburgers, it can really harm a child.

Speaking of that grill, use it wisely! If your charcoal briquettes have been sitting out on the damp part of the porch, spring for some new ones that will light up nicely with safe fuel. If it’s raining – and the possibility is in the forecast – don’t move your grill onto the porch or into the garage. Don’t grill! The kitchen has several heating elements that will cook your food safely and efficiently. I recommend checking out the American Red Cross tips for a safe July 4th. It’s informative reading.

Most of all have a wonderful and safe holiday. Warm summer evenings with friends and family are a precious gift. The American Red Cross urges you to protect everyone you love with some careful planning.

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