Gustafson: Running of the Eggs
It’s a sight to behold. This Sunday, all across the country, youngsters in their pretty little Easter outfits will lineup like little hordes of prize-seeking miniature Dothrakis, whipped into sugar-pledged frenzies by anxious parents. And then, crouching like sprinters, they’ll await the starter pistol at their annual Easter egg hunts.
At the signal, stampeding like spooked cattle, they will bolt in a clumsy pack, soon resembling a cage fight minus the cage. They’ll tear around, scrambling to snatch up as many little plastic eggs as possible. Overzealous parents will jump into the mix, mistaking the chintzy plastic and cheap candy for something of substantial value, and then they’ll begin “helping” their kids to ensure a hefty haul. Sun bonnets and Sunday slacks will be muddied and bloodied. Little kids will wander in tears, looking for an egg or for their mommy. Big kids will loot after a fellow hunter trips and spills her basket. And if you blink or fumble with your camera you will probably miss the whole thing.
OK, you say, she must have a jaded propensity for hyperbole. But I can assure you that I’ve witnessed this first hand in different places, over different years and with different crowds. It’s true that for many across this great land, Easter Day, in actuality an important religious holiday, typically involves some variation of the above events. Yet still the beloved Easter egg hunt remains a central cultural part of this holiday.
I’m sure few parents gear up for the annual Hunt by stretching their elbow-jab reflex, pounding their chest to intimidate, or running push-and-grab drills with their 2-year-olds. But it seems as if that shotgun-start ignites, in some of us, a frenzied primal urge to compete and to hoard; perhaps it’s a survival mechanism? It is a sight to behold watching a grown man hip check a 5-year-old in a sundress; god bless America — land of the ruthless capitalist and their offspring in-training.
I am not trying to pontificate from a pulpit of perceived moral superiority, or state of preeminent parental enlightenment. I can certainly understand the impulse to ensure that your children don’t end up disappointed. But I can almost guarantee that for the novice youngsters, the quantity of eggs is a much bigger concern for the adults,than it is for the little ones who have not yet been trained to hoard with rancorous vigor. I venture to guess that the vast majority of youngsters view it more like a treasure hunt and seem content to find anything to place in their little baskets, until they are taught otherwise.
Most of us parents also can relate, admittedly or not, to how easy it might be to find ourselves seduced into padding the odds of success for our own kids. Perhaps not to the degree of the recent college admissions scandal. But somewhere between helping your child hoard Easter eggs and cheating on college applications, lies that gray line where helping becomes hovering becomes hindering all to the tune of moral detriment hidden behind the facade of parental support.
Maybe if we work harder to encourage collective success, the seeds of compassion that exist in every young child might continue to grow instead of being stunted by an overemphasis on competitiveness. Or perhaps if we allow small opportunities to experience disappointment early in life, self motivation will propel the next generation into action as opposed to encouragement through prizes and rewards.
A quick history lesson: The Easter Bunny comes from German culture, dating back to the 1500s. For obvious reasons, rabbits and eggs symbolize fertility, an important theme for spring, which represents new life on Earth. The Easter Bunny legend, like Santa, was created to encourage children to anticipate rewards for good behavior by the delivery of colorful eggs and eventually candy. The church would later connect Easter eggs to the new life received through Jesus, and the rebirth of Christ coincides with the rebirth of fertile land in the spring.
It all fits neatly together, but I still wonder at how this celebration of rebirth, symbolized by bunnies and eggs, has in some ways morphed into a manic competition between 2-year-olds who are egged on by their overly competitive parents.
Let’s exchange a piece of my mind for a little peace of mind; after all, if we always agree what will we talk about? Britta Gustafson appreciates an open mind; share yours and email her at email@example.com.