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Here in Sweden, next Wednesday is just another work day. The majority of people with whom I spend my time every day don't know or care that the 4th of July has any special meaning. Considering that the Swedish national day is a latecomer and had nothing to do with winning independence from anyone, it's not really surprising that national feeling doesn't run particularly deep for a patriotic holiday. In fact, there are other countries nearby who actually celebrate THEIR national holidays on the day they gained independence from SWEDEN.

I don't know how it is for the rest of the Americans who belong to the expat community around the world, but while I love my country and its ideals, I also have a bag of very mixed emotions about it slung over my shoulder. I dislike the administration that is currently in charge. I think that a lot of the things that the country is doing in the name of business and the bottom line are morally and reprehensibly wrong, even when I recognize that there is a great deal of good coming out it as well.

Patriotism and propaganda go so closely hand-in-hand, entertwined like lovers that you can't tell to get a room. The traditions of the 4th of July are so deeply ingrained in my make-up, probably even deeper as a military brat, that I doubt I could shake them loose if I tried...or if I wanted to.

I miss the fireworks...the waiting for long hours after the picnic, while nothing happens and the adults sit on blankets quietly chatting, while the kids rampage in maniac boredom around them as the blue of the sky deepens and melts into black. I remember lying on blankets, head propped in my chin, watching tiny grasshoppers pop and disappear among the tall grasses at the edge of the park. I miss American style coleslaw and parades and pies with upper crusts instead of crumble, and the way everyone in earshot joined in if someone started singing America the Beautiful or Grand Old Flag until the whole crowd of picnic watchers was singing.

It's too light too long here to bother with fireworks. Looking out my window now, the sky is still lit up with a candled glow in the west, though the sun has long since sunk over the edge. It's nearly 11 at night but you can't tell by looking. A few years ago, we brought a giant roll of bubble wrap to our Independence Day Party. We unrolled it after the games and the grilling were done and lined the children up on either side of that silver strip. On the count of 3, we shouted, One Two THREE! All the kids jumped and stomped their little feet out on that bubble wrap. I shut my eyes: it sounded almost like firecrackers if you shut your eyes.

Tomorrow the AWC is holding their annual Independence Day Party at a field with a big barn, near a swimming pool. There will be grilling and games and adults sitting on blankets talking and laughing (assuming it doesn't rain, in which case we'll be IN the barn). I made cornbread muffins this morning and tomorrow I'm deviling the eggs I hardboiled tonight, and cutting up the rice krispie treats. Anders will be putting together chicken and shrimp and vegetable kebabs. We've got flats of sodas and bags of charcoal already loaded into the back of the station wagon. We're bringing hula hoops and 4-man skis for competing with.

There's been no lead up to what this party is about for our children, really. They know that the 4th of July is "America's Birthday" but they haven't heard the stories of what that means. They haven't learned in school about any of the history that goes along with the picnic they attend every year. I don't think they know who Paul Revere is, or what the Boston Tea Party was, or anything more about George Washington other than the fact that he was a President of the United States, a fact which is rather meaningless out of context, really. I don't think they know the name of the American National Anthem, though they know the Swedish one. They DO know the words to Yankee Doodle and Grand Old Flag mostly because I burst into song with them once in awhile.

Even though my children are both Swedish and American citizens, we are living in Sweden and they are being educated in the Swedish system, with Swedish culture, traditions and history all around them. We've been reading the Little House on the Prairie books recently, and watched the first season of the TV show on DVD as well. They've bombarded me with questions about pioneers and Indians and the American West. I think I need to rectify my neglect of the other side of their cultural inheritance and find some way of providing materials and information to them in a way that will be interesting and fun for them to learn about.

We had guest speakers at our last AWC meeting who came and spoke to us about the American Studies for Kids program they started last year in Copenhagen. Some of our members seemed interested in possibly trying to do something here, but I haven't heard about anything actually happening yet, and have a feeling that it might easily be dropped in the midst of the busyness of everyone's lives. I think that if I want this to happen, I will probably have to do it myself, which, honestly, makes me feel both resigned and aggravated. I know I am no teacher: I am well aware of the limits of my patience.

If reading to my children about the characters and history of the country that is both mine and theirs is the best way to go about this, I wonder what other books or materials I could get that would be good. Got any suggestions of your American History favorites for this expat and her kids?
 determined
mood: determined
music: Nerina Pallot—All Good People


Comments

I get uncomfortable at any overly patriotic expressions, Swedish ones included, so I always feel very alien on 4th of July, but I can very well understand you missing it and wanting your kids to understand what it means. Perhaps you can travel to the States with them on some 4th of July in the future.

Me, I miss Swedish midsummer and kräftskivor.

I would miss Swedish midsummer too, if we ever moved away from Sweden. I like the cheerful moon decorations of the crayfish parties, though I eat pre-peeled crayfish tails at them :)

(Anonymous)

I know Karin isn't into really girly stuff, but there's an American Girl series that I enjoyed when I was younger - Felicity, I think - that was set during the Revolutionary War.

The tradition of the 4th is the best - all the watermelon and fireworks and not to mention, hot dogs! No matter the administration, our country is worth celebrating, one way or the other. It's comforting to remember the beauty of our system of government - and that while eight years is a long endurance test, we can always trust that change is possible.

~Sam

I will check those out! I figure if she's into Laura & Mary, then there's hope! :)

Let me get back to you on this. I know I've mentioned this ad nauseum that my mom teaches first grade and I'll see what she recommends. I know she's got a great book on Martin Luther King Jr. that keeps her students spellbound. I'm sure she's got other stuff on more American Independence stuff.

I echo what you mean about the 4th and propaganda. I guess while my country isn't perfect and our administration is definitely not representing me these days, I still look at the US like a family member that you accept with it's imperfections because you can't take away the past but only hope you learn and work toward something better. (Sorry if that sounds super cheesy but I'm a bit philosophical on this warm summer night).

Ok, my mom has already gotten back to me and says that their reading series (Open Court) covers some of that. And then when we clicked around their site, we found some recommendations they made for supplemental reading.

http://www.opencourtresources.com/ocr/grade2/index.html

Their social studies program series is Scott Foresman (you can Google it and see what you think). I don't know if you're thinking textbook or just regular books. She said you're probably computer savvy enough to find a decent place to start from. ;-)

ooh COOL stuff!! thank you :)

oh thank you thank you!! and thank your mom for me! :)

Done oh and she looked in on your site. She thinks your kids are adorable and she loves your house. :-)

I'm a self-confessed firework obsessed forth of july goer. Its the only time when a wave of national glee strikes me and I get goosebumps as the anthem plays. The rest of the year I'm usually shivering every time I hear Bushe's voice, and not because of patriotic fervor either....

I have only the slightest memories of learning about history--more later really, in sixth or seventh grade. When I was K & M's ages I mostly just loved the picnic and making paper flags... they'll gather their own version of patriotism as they go i imagine..especially if they go to school or college in the US at some point.

First, housekeeping...you have disappeared from my Bloglines! I thought I'd try deleting your feed and re-adding it...but when I went to do that, I think I discovered the problem. There are four feeds offered for your site...and two of them show the last post as being on May 13th! (I must have been subscribed to one of those.) I don't think it's a Bloglines issue, since I'm getting others' feeds okay...thought you'd want to know. So I'm here to catch up--have fallen quite behind the past few weeks...haven't been on the computer much. I have no great Amerian History rec's...but re the 4th of July... It's always been one of my favorite holidays...maybe because it was often the highlight of our small-town summers. I just bought a flag the other day, and as a criterium bike race zooms past our house on the 4th, it will be displayed proudly. Not because I support ANYTHING the current administration is doing or has done, but because I'm one of the legion of citizens who want desperately for things to change here because we DO love our country.

I've never set up any feed though...I have no idea how it works for LiveJournal. :( I didn't even know I HAD a feed. So I have no idea why it isn't working now or how to tell you to fix it. Can you send me the link?

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