Monday, April 25, 2011

Easter with Toddlers. Bah! Humbug!

"She's 19 months old.  Does she really need an Easter basket?  I bought her a new rubber ducky (an obsession of hers) in the shape of a bunny in a basket.  I'll just give it to her when she takes a bath.  She'll love it.  An egg hunt?  Ummm, I am not sure she'll get the concept.  Besides, she isn't old enough for candy and she will just try and eat any coins we put in the eggs.  Why bother?"

Did you hear that?  Did you hear that ginormous hiss of air?  It was the collective gasps of mommies all over the world.  No Easter basket?  No egg hunt?  What kind of mom does that?

My husband would agree with all of those tsk-tsk-tsking mamas, because when I verbalized the above paragraph a day before Easter he looked at me as if I had 17 heads. I know you can't see me, but let me assure you that I don't have 17 heads.  However what I DO have is 17 past Easter experiences with my two children from a previous marriage.  And here's the thing, I have learned a LOT about parenting during those 17 years and I plan on using that knowledge to my advantage this time around. 

One thing I have learned is that when you have little ones, I mean REALLY little ones, say one or two or even close to three, they don't expect visits from magical, mystical, made-up bunnies.  They don't know about the colored eggs that get hunted on this particular Sunday.  They couldn't possibly understand the depth of the reason for the holiday.  They don't even know that Easter is a special day.  To a toddler a day is a day is a day is a day.

So why do we do it? 

Could it be, perhaps, we do it for us because of some strange idea of "must-do's" and "have-to's"  That feeling that as parents we're "supposed" to provide these experiences to even the youngest of our children.  When we're childless, moving towards that urge to procreate, these holiday scenes were what we conjured and imagined.  Sons in caps, plaids, and knickers and daughters in frills and pantaloons or those stockings with the ruffles on their bums, and of course a pair of patent leather Mary Janes.  In our holiday scenarios the kids blissfully tiptoe through a well landscaped yard with daffodils blooming finding hand painted eggs nesting in freshly cut grass. They set them in baskets trimmed with ribbons and lace and at the end of the hunt nibble delicately on a little jelly bean or a chocolate bunny's ear.  But mommies and daddies of toddlers know that isn't how it ever goes.  Ever.

As parents of toddlers, the pomp and circumstance never goes the way we dreamed.  The themed baskets that we worked hours on don't get a second glance or instantly get dumped upside down to the squeals and peels of toddler belly laughs. The Easter egg hunts end in melt downs or never happen at all due to a lack of interest or a lack of understanding the "hide and go seek" concept.  Despite our falsetto exclamations, ("OH MY!  Look at what the Easter Bunny left you!  Do you see those eggs behind the shrubs?  Listen!  Is there something IN the egg?  OH OH!  What do I hear?  What could it BE??") the toddler walks away to pet the dog or becomes engrossed in a blade of green grass that bends and tickles his or her ankle.     We spare them dyes and sugar on a daily basis yet we ply them with both on a particular Sunday morning called Easter, and then wonder out loud why they won't sit still and enjoy the Easter dinner that we spent the entire afternoon preparing. You know what I'm talking about.  Toddlers couldn't care less about the rituals that families carry on to honor their holidays.

But as first time parents, whether young or old, we indulge our mommy and daddy fantasies--trying to play out those idyllic situations.  And true to that, my husband,a first time daddy, in spite of my protests, insisted that our 19 month old daughter go on an egg hunt--filling a half dozen of plastic pink, yellow, orange store bought eggs with fancy stickers.  He insisted on the basket with the shredded poly fibrous green grass.  As I placed the rubber duck, book and marshmallow chick lollipop (bought...again after my husband insisted, and I quote, "It wouldn't be Easter without some kind of candy!" ) in the basket, hubby sighed wistfully and asked if there was a way we could, ehem, "jazz it up and make the basket pretty."  I told him that she wouldn't notice whether or not the basket was, um, jazzy or not.

And true to a toddler's nature, Ila woke up from her nap to a giant basket on the dining room table.  She took one look at the new rubber ducky sitting in the "unjazzy" basket, grabbed hold of it and immediately got down to play with it.  My husband, feeling a bit queasy at the slightest hint that the fantasy may not go his way, tried to engage her by oooing and ahhing over the other items in the basket, but she wasn't having any of it.  Feeling sorry at the dejection I witnessed take over my husband indicated by his slightly slumping shoulders, I took our daughter into the living room (and using my best falsetto voice) I said, "OOOO, Ila.  What do I see?  Did the Easter Bunny hide some eggs for you?  Look here!  Next to the TV!  Why I think there is an egg back there!  What do you think the Easter Bunny put IN these eggs he hid?"  But Ila didn't answer.  She was too busy spinning round and round watching her fancy dress billow out so that we could all see her fancy stockings with the ruffle on her bum.