As a single mom, I really don’t have time to sweat the small stuff. So when it comes to holidays, my busy, broke, non-religious self usually executes the bare minimum. I do Christmas, of course, but in a creative, budget-conscious Single Santa fashion. And while Easter is supposed to be the most holy of Christian holy days, my cynical mind still struggles with the connective myth behind a hapless bunny who misplaces pastel eggs in random lawns for children to clean up after him.
But stripped down to its whimsical essence, an Easter Egg Hunt can be an adorable kiddie activity, eliciting oodles of squeals of confectionary delight. But we adults have a tendency of sucking the fun out of anything. Hovering helicopter parents have turned an innocent Hunt into the Quest, which then turns into a Blood Sport. One town in Colorado has even gone so far as to cancel their annual Easter Egg Hunt, because aggressive parents have tipped the obnoxious scales by pushing, shoving, jumping ahead—all to save their tots from disappointment.
Here’s a quick parenting tip: Kids are ALWAYS going to be disappointed. Children should learn to get used to it, because life is full of disappointments. I consistently tell my daughter that it’s okay to be disappointed. But it’s not okay to get upset or to dwell on it. But that also goes for parents. Especially over some damn plastic eggs.
This weekend, my daughter was invited to back-to-back Easter Egg hunts. So I decided to tag along, donning my journalist’s cap instead of an Easter bonnet. The first event was at a church, which was preceded by mild entertainment/indoctrination by a traveling minister/ventriloquist. Puppets for Jesus! But since Christ is the reason for the season, that’s to be expected, as with all the Jesus-branded tchotchke being offered as prizes (religious pun intended). But it did strike me as a bit harsh when a plush puppy puppet starts “talking” to a child’s impish misbehavior as sin for which a four-year-old must repent. (At least the orangutan puppet didn’t try to tackle Creationism vs. Evolution! That would’ve been grounds to walk out.) But was I the only audience member who thought it incongruous to be preaching mortal sins to kids… right before the Egg Hunt starting gun… where they are encouraged to be as greedy as they wanna be? Meanwhile, some overzealous parents might’ve been silently plotting on how to give their kid an unfair advantage? Eh, probably.
At this hunt, the eggs were empty. Kids were supposed to collect as many as possible and cash them in for prizes, à la Chuck E. Cheese. On a church lawn, mob rule took over: Throngs of children raced up and down the grassy knolls, even foraging in the leafy underbrush (where empty glass bottles and other trash awaited them.) My kid nabbed a mere 14 eggs, which wasn’t enough to “win” anything major except candy. But since candy was the only prize without any religious branding, candy it was. My daughter’s momentary look of dejection tugged at my cold mami heart for a moment, but who was I to buck against church rules? Plus, it was nothing a hotdog and a pair of plastic googly-eyes ($3) couldn’t cure.
The next day was Easter Egg Hunt the Sequel, which took place at a neighborhood townhouse complex’s playground, where my daughter’s Easter basket runneth over. The intention of separating the older kids from the younger kids seemed noble in theory, but the futility of herding cats was quickly realized. Some parents shouted audibles to their kids, or pointed out an egg within arm’s reach. At worse, a mom would prop up whatever plastic object happened to be covering an oval treasure. I watched my kid race across the lawn grab one egg, while darting right past a cluster of plastic gold. But I swallowed the urge to call back my little egg ninja to reconnoiter. In the end, did it matter? And oh, yes, I will have a plastic cup of wine, thank you…
In just under six minutes, hundreds of eggs had been scooped up. After which, kids popped open their eggs, frenetically separating the plastic from the goodies, like mini-robots shucking corn. Then came the bartering, which was almost entirely self-policed: trading of bracelets for Play-doh between the genders, with only the occasional parent stepping in to mediate. (Usually, the biggest tiffs were between siblings, naturally.) What was most striking is that anyone above the age of 5 seemed to fully understand the notion of “finders keepers.” Is there any rule more basic than that?
Maybe having a cooler stocked with beer and wine helped blunt the parental helicopter blades, but the grown-ups at this kiddie event seemed more laissez-faire, and, well, grown-up. No one even seemed to mind the copious amounts of chocolate being consumed by the toddlers under the slide. The older children played in the open field, making up their own games and enforcing their own rules. Conclusion: Seems like the more adults let kids be kids, the more fun it is for everybody. Easter egg hunts were never meant to be a blood sport.