While standing in line at Wal-Mart yesterday explaining to our 3 boys that Daddy would be at work tomorrow (today) my middle son said “It’s Memorial Day right?” “What is Memorial Day anyway?”
I told him that we would talk about it when we got to the van, since it was now our turn to check out.
So while the majority of the population think of it as the ‘Official Start of Summer,’ it is not an excuse for a 3 day weekend. IT IS NOT That to anyone who has had any family members in any branch of the military involved in any war or conflict. Now while Memorial Day is not Veteran’s Day or Armed Forces Day it is a day of remembrance as well.
So first a little history about how Memorial Day came to be. After the US lost so many people during the Civil War the country had to establish national cemeteries. In the mid to late 1860s people started going to the cemeteries to spruce things up in the spring; lay new flowers at the fallen’s grave sites. In May of 1968 this day of remembrance that we now call Memorial Day was given the name Decoration Day. It was nationally established as Memorial Day in 1971. And while it was originally set up to remember the fallen soldiers of the Civil War it is now widened its scope to include the fallen from all wars.
It is and always should be a solemn day to remember those who have given the ultimate sacrifice to keep our country free.
Now that I feel awful for not teaching my kids better, I guess I took for granted that I knew what today was about and they just should know, but that is not the case.
So now to explain/teach it to kids.
1. Teach them the history behind the day. (May lead into more conversations about wars and what they are depending on the child.)
2. Encourage them to take time to Remember. Teaching your kids about this holiday is important, just as teaching them the true meaning of Christmas and Easter. When teaching your kids about Memorial Day, it’s a good idea to encourage a moment of remembrance on this holiday. Remember that if you have flag, you should fly it at half staff until noon.
Find a way to celebrate the holiday that you can take part in if possible that your children will understand. Find a ceremony in your community or a war memorial you can visit, remember that 3pm (local time) in America on Memorial Day is the time of remembrance. Have your children help you pick a way that they understand to spend the time of remembrance. 1. Have a moment of silence. 2. Say a prayer. 3. Ring a bell in remembrance for those who have been so brave to endure what they have to give up their life for our freedom.
Make new traditions find a Memorial Day service or a War Memorial in your area and if you cannot find one go get flowers and take to the cemetery and leave them on someone who isn’t already decorated. There are so many things that you can do to help teach the young what today is really about.
3. It is a time to remember. Not only is today a day to remember those who have lost their lives fighting for our country but today should be a day to remember, honor and respect any member of the armed forces; those who have already died and those who continue to serve today.
4. Take the time to remember the family members your family has lost as well. It is a great time to take the time for personal and family reflections of those family members that have passed away. Even though today is about those who fought in the military you can make today about remembering family who are gone (but not forgotten).
5. Make sure they know. Make sure your children know that today is not just a day off of work for some parents, it isn’t just a day off of school (if you are not already out of school). That this is an important day it is not about cook-outs and pools or the beach. It is about History and Remembrance.
Most importantly remember to do what works for you, your family and your children. Some parents may still have to work, not all children learn the same way. So find a way for you and your family to remember when it works for you. As long as you are teaching them what Memorial Day is really about it doesn’t matter what day of the weekend or what time you are setting aside to remember.
Summer doesn’t technically start until June 21, let’s keep it that way and celebrate Memorial Day the way it should be celebrated. The way it was originally intended.