Can I confess that we celebrated Easter this year on Cinco de Mayo? We were traveling unexpectedly during the “real” holiday in April and didn’t have the forethought to toss any recycled plastic eggs in our hastily packed suitcases. Besides, the date people celebrate Easter changes every year, anyway, right? (This is one major advantage of my five-year-old not paying much attention to the calendar yet. It’s whatever day we decide it is.) All that to say, we put Easter at the top of our “to do” list as soon as we got home. She was on board with that.
I’ll preface this by saying I never really planned to do the whole Easter Bunny thing.
I celebrated Easter with Good Sir Bunny when I was a child (apparently I’ve formalized his name since then), but had mixed feelings about doing it for my own little one. I always wanted to tell her the truth. I still believe that’s important. At the same time, I also believe in allowing for some fun and nostalgic traditions, with honest discussion around the topic anytime she’d ask.
Following her enthusiastic pro-Easter Bunny lead when she was younger, however, my husband and I signed on for as long as her belief would last, wiggling our pink bunny noses in agreement.
The evening before the Big Day we’d celebrate, however, and at the dinner table right before bedtime, my daughter had a question.
“Mommy, is the Easter Bunny real, or do you and Daddy just hide all the eggs yourselves?”
Thoughts raced through my head: “She’s only five; almost six. I wasn’t ever sure we’d even do the Easter Bunny, but now that we have, should it be over so soon? Is she growing up right before my eyes?”
I recalled the importance of answering questions with questions when it comes to addressing tricky inquiries that have “loaded” answers.
On one hand, I wanted to protect her sweet little heart from breaking, just in case it would. On the other hand, and much more importantly, I wanted to respond in a way that would continue to foster a lifetime of trust with my child.
So, I asked her, “What do you think is true?”
She responded, “Mommy, I just want you to tell me. I don’t want you to joke with me. I want the real answer, please, for real-real.” (“For real-real” is what she says when she’s unequivocally serious.)
Me: “I understand. What do you want to be true?”
Her: “I think you and Daddy hide the eggs.”
Me: “What does your heart tell you is true?”
Her: “That there is no Easter Bunny. It’s just you and Daddy.”
3, 2, 1…goodbye, part of your childhood innocence. You’re about to take another step into the world of grown-ups.
I took a moment and a breath.
Then, I responded factually, “You can always trust me to tell you the truth. You are correct. Daddy and I hide the eggs.”
There. It was out.
Before I could mourn my little one growing up before my eyes, she added, “You know, Mommy, it makes perfect sense. When I think about a bunny hopping all over the place with baskets full of eggs, it really is kind of ridiculous.” Then, she laughed heartily and requested that her Daddy and I hide them inside rather than outside.
She seemed relieved, really. I don’t know how long she’d been wondering about the Easter Bunny, but it seemed as if a small weight had been lifted off her little shoulders.
Her shoulders are still little. At almost six, she’s still little.
She went on playing today as usual. She woke up excited to find the eggs we’d hidden. She remarked that some were “too easy to find,” but others still took her awhile to locate.
She wasn’t heartbroken at all. She was, if anything, validated.
At dinner tonight, the day we celebrated Easter as we always have, she asked to read the book, “‘Twas the Night Before Christmas.” She asked nothing about Santa. I suspect that part of her already knows about him, too. And part of her—in fact, almost all of her—is still just as innocent as she was yesterday before dinner.
She’s growing up perfectly well, trusting that it’s safe to ask the tricky questions.