When my sister and I were little we spent every Easter weekend at Grandma’s house in Belleville, Ontario. This visit was different than the rest. This visit we knew that the Easter Bunny would come – Sunday morning there would be a basket for each of us with a chocolate bunny tucked inside, and throughout the downstairs there would be jellybeans hidden. We would race down the stairs, gathering up the jellybeans that were between the railings and hidden at the bottom, and the hunt was on!
I do remember being aware, at some point, that Mom and Dad (and possibly others visiting) hid the treats. But before that, in the early years, I’m pretty certain I believed that there was a magical bunny that came to hide the candies.
An odd question that occurs to me while writing this – does everyone think of the Easter Bunny as being male? I just noticed that I automatically think “He came to hide treats,” and I’m curious.
Anyway. Now I have Cameron, and was unsure of what to do here. I easily could have skipped over Easter treat hunts entirely, either ignored the holiday or given him the preschooler-friendly version of why we celebrate this day (from spring and renewal perspective as well as Christian). I could also easily have just said, “Tonight we’re doing something special, I’m going to hide treats and in the morning you’ll hunt for them!”
But no. We don’t even just have an Easter Bunny visiting. We have bunnies, plural, coming. There are carrots beside the fish tank for them.
Cameron even gave me an easy-out. There was a special playgym at the community centre today, complete with an Easter Bunny for pictures and an egg hunt. The Easter Bunny was a spectacularly freaky looking costume – a skinny white rabbit in waistcoat and bow tie, with bizarrely enormous eyes. Cameron freaked. He was terrified. There was NO WAY he was getting close to that thing, and even chose to not participate in the egg hunt because that would involve going to the same end of the room as this creature. He was horrified at the idea of THAT visiting our home, and forbade any bunnies to enter. They could leave the treats at the front door, thankyouverymuch.
For some reason I pushed. I took great pains to explain that the thing he saw was not really the Easter Bunny. Yes, I was careful to not say, “Not the real Easter bunny,” as I didn’t think I could directly state that the Easter bunny was real with a straight face at this point. I repeated many times that what he saw was nothing more than a man wearing a silly costume. I showed him pictures of cute, fuzzy, baby rabbits online. I did everything I could to get him okay with the idea of bunnies visiting, leaving treats!
Finally, he amended the rules. The bunnies could visit, but that man in the scary costume could not. Yes, they could come in the living room if they would leave treats, but they have to go into his room and give him bunny kisses. He has all kinds of plans for what they’ll do, because he’s sure he’ll wake up. What plans? Oh, he’s going to tell them about the man dressing up like them and scaring little kids!
This age is a magical time, when a child hasn’t yet figured out the direct link between cause and effect, and has little concept of what is really possible. Things happen because they happen. That there are bunnies that visit and leave jellybeans but no turds, or an old elf who slides down chimneys to deliver toys, are accepted without even so much as a blink. Is this wrong? I don’t think so. Whether or not a child is presented with these magical and fun fantasies he or she will still see the world with the harsh edges of reality and possibility blurred. What child doesn’t wish that some parts of fairy tales would come true? This is just giving them a wee piece of that – a few years to believe that yes, anything is possible. I think that having a few years of living in that fantasy world is beneficial, allowing the child to explore their imaginations, to see that creativity is acceptable, before critical thinking creates boundaries.
(Now to run around hiding jellybeans for Cameron. I’ll chop the ends off the carrots to leave out, nibbled a little. Whee!)