4th of July: Beach, Fireworks, and When Lying to Your Kids Backfires

Yesterday, for July 4th, we took the kids up to La Jolla to hike around Scripps Coastal Reserve. We all loved watching hang-gliders casually float through the air right before our eyes. Kate and I pushed back envy as we surveyed the incredible houses lining the shore. The boys loved pushing the boundaries on how far out they could go on the cliffs before being reprimanded. It was a great time to get in a little nature, learn more about San Diego wildlife, and do something together as a family. Oh, and Huck thought the hiking backpack was the greatest thing in the world!

Then we made our way down to the beach where there are some really great tide pools. Kate finds never ending wonder in touching sea anemones and watching them close up. In that way, Zeke was just like mom. Tai however, much more like dad, “you want me to touch WHAT?!” Jae is still working through his love/hate relationship with the beach. Just the mention of the word at home fills him with giddy excitement, as he runs around yelling “we go to da beeech! Da beeech!” And yet, once we actually arrive at the sandy shores, he terrifyingly leaps in to my arms and refuses to be put down. Not on rocks. Not on sand. And absolutely not in the water.

Kate and the boys jumping rocks and searching for sea creatures

By the Pier

Returning home for dinner (some homemade chili over baked potatoes.. yum!), we all relaxed a bit and made our plans to walk a half mile west towards Bird Park, where there would be prime visibility to watch San Diego’s Big Bay Boom. A nationally famous firework show that gets set off from five floating barges spread throughout the bay. Kate’s love for fireworks has been passed on to especially Zeke, but all the boys were excitedly anticipating watching this show of epic proportions.

So, pushing two strollers filled with kids and blankets and carrying two camping chairs, we set out at 8:15 to make our way to the park. Once we arrived we realized just how popular this spot was for watching the show, but we luckily found an open patch of grass to set up our area. There were food trucks and family parties, outdoor games and people dancing. Many folks just all having a great time eating, drinking, (some smoking weed… I think Kate got second-hand high), and waiting for the fireworks show to start at 9pm.

Waiting anxiously for the SHOW that would never come.

Zeke kept asking about every two minutes, “what time is it now!?” … “is it 9 o’clock yet?!” The kid was silly excited. As was Tai. As was Kate. Even Jae couldn’t stop talking about the “color booms!” (an apropos euphemism, I think).

And then, at about five minutes till, we see in the distance a huge firey mess light up the sky. Coming from four of the five locations, what appeared to be a jumble of fireworks all sort of mashed together at one time. There appeared a brilliant display of fireworks that lasted all of ten seconds and then stopped. Followed by a very loud “boom!”

I’ve been to a few shows in my lifetime to know that it’s not uncommon to set off a few warning shots to let the crowd know it’s about to start. Akin to flickering the lights at a broadway show.

So now everyone has found their seats and the excitement in the air at Bird Park is palpable.

The kids are wrapped in a blanket and Jae keeps yelling and pointing, “color boom! color boom!”

Another minute goes by… nothing.

Two more minutes… nothing.

9 o’clock comes… then goes… nothing.

At about 9:10, Zeke asks me what’s going on. “Any minute now it’ll start. Just hold on.” My exterior confidence betrays my interior musings… it’s unusual for an event of this magnitude to be this delayed…

At about 9:20, Zeke’s patience is all but gone. “Daddy, what’s going on?!”

“I don’t know, buddy,” I admit, “let me call the Firework Marshal and find out.” (Cause everyone knows there exists a Firework Marshal for this sort of thing).

I should say that I am totally cool with “lying” to your kids. I use the word “lie” kind of loosely, and regrettably. It sounds so harsh… I prefer, “stretch-the-imagination-of.”

At this point I should also tell you that, for the most part, my almost-8-year-old sees through pretty much all of my attempts at being ridiculous. He rarely will copy the funny things I ask him to repeat, or buy in to my suggestions that we just skip eating for the day when he asks for a snack, or give me two giant eye rolls if I try and convince him of anything that contradicts what he might have read in a book or a National Geographic. Despite Kate and mine’s best attempts to keep the wonder in our children, (and trust me, there is still a lot of wonder in Zeke’s mind), he still is demonstrating a remarkable resilience to the goofiness and truth-stretchings of Daddy.

For some reason, though, on this occasion, it seemed 100% normal that dad would have the cell number for the Firework Marshal, and also have the relational context to just call him up minutes after his expansive show was supposed to go off.

I couldn’t tell if:

A) Zeke thinks so highly of me that, well, of COURSE his daddy would know the Firework Marshal. He’s awesome.

B) At this point, he was so tired of waiting, and at 9:30 at night his defenses were down so he didn’t have the energy to question me.

C) In his world, the Firework Marshal is somebody that anybody can just call up. So it’s completely normal.

For what it’s worth, I chose to (and still choose to), believe it was A.

Anyways, so I grab my phone and pretend to call the Firework Marshal. When he “answers,” I create a conversation that leads Zeke and Tai to believe that I’m talking to the Marshal and he is explaining to me that they couldn’t find the matches to light the fireworks so they are waiting for someone to run to Walmart and get some.

And this explanation makes complete sense to the boys, and they are totally satisfied. They turn back around and commence their waiting, confident that the show would start as soon as someone gets the Firework Marshal some damn matches!

I put my phone away and smile to myself, feeling a bit proud that I actually pulled this one off.

And then, not two minutes after the “phone call,” a lady comes walking towards us with her blankets all folded up and her kids in tow.

“There won’t be any show,” she says, holding her smart phone out in front of her. “The news is reporting that all the fireworks went off a one time. No one was hurt, but there are no fireworks left and the show is cancelled.”

All fireworks going off at once.

Kate and I turn to each other in horror… no fireworks show… ah crap.

I quickly get in to beat-the-crowd-mode and start folding the blankets and taking the chairs down, barking out orders to start to filing out.

Meanwhile, Zeke’s emotional cup spilleth over. Buckets of tears laced with disappointment streamed down his face as the realization sunk in that there would be no fireworks. No color booms. No showers of sparks to fill the sky and capture the wonder and awe of this almost-8 year old’s soul.

Kate tried to comfort him, but little helped. He was crushed.

About 5 minutes in to our long walk home, feeling defeated and bummed, Zeke’s mind evidently was trying to reconcile what just happened with what his daddy told him only moments before. As I’m pushing Jae’s stroller across the broken sidewalks, Zeke turns to me with confusion and asks, “But daddy, I thought you called the Firework Marshal and he said they just needed some matches??”

Ugh…

Those are the moments that, as a parent, you question the value in “lying” to your children.

I had no answer. I think I just mumbled something like, “I know buddy… I’m sorry…” and then changed the subject.

One moment I was feeling great, thinking I’d bought our family some precious time in the patience-game by convincing my kids I had the Firework Marshal on speed dial.
The next moment I was confronted with the fact that the stories we tell our children don’t always work in our favor.

That being said, yesterday was a great first 4th of July for our family here in San Diego. I recorded a firework show on TV last night, so maybe Zeke, Tai and Jae will enjoy watching the color-booms in High Def. And then again, maybe not.

But I do know this: if for some reason the show didn’t record last night, I don’t plan on “calling the Dish Network Manager to find out what happened.”

(Here’s a video of the FireWORK show)