Eleven years ago, almost to the very day, a bundle of joy came into my life. She was plucked from the bowels of her mother and brought into this world, kicking and screaming. (To be honest, I am not even sure she was kicking and screaming.) Because of the cesarean section my ex had to have done, my daughter was quickly placed in my care. This lead to the first of many comic situation with my daughter, who decided that she was going to attempt to breast feed from her dad. I knew she might be hungry, I just didn’t realize she would be desperately hungry. And as much as I wanted to connect with my daughter, I was sure that she wasn’t going to want to have a mouth full of hair with her breast milk. While my daughter was trying to grab herself a mouth full of shirt (no I did not go topless to surgery), I was having to sit and stare at the monitors beeping off and on, reading my ex’s vital signs. The situation seemed surreal. As crazy as it was, being that we seemed to be bouncing back and forth from the hospital during this time, it was a good Friday. And lo and behold, it just so happened that it was Good Friday.
Given that we were in the hospital for Easter, I was going to be in charge of Easter that year. I suppose I should have been thankful I was not made to hide Easter eggs throughout the hospital. I just had to go and pick out the perfect Easter baskets. I want you to notice that this was plural and not singular. My ex insisted that I needed baskets for her and the baby, regardless of whether or not the baby should be getting Easter candy. You just do not argue with your pregnant and in pain spouse, not if you hope to sleep in a bed at any time in the next century. (I suppose if you considered the earth to be your bed, then maybe you would be ok with this arrangement.) So I went out to create Easter Baskets for my daughter and my spouse.
This search led me to a dilemma. What was I going to put into the Easter baskets for the two of them? My ex was really big into chocolates and little toys. Those are things that are easily found at any grocery store. Even the premade baskets seemed to be stuffed with things that would fall under these two categories. But for a newborn, what was I going to place into the basket? I could put chocolates in there, well aware that she was not going to be eating them. I was fully aware that most of the chocolates would find their way to my ex and not to my little daughter. So, instead of chocolates, I could search for little toys. But anyone who has a newborn can attest how few small things do not have the 3+ sign on the top corner of the box. (I think I counted zero. Does one even count zero?) I was going to have to be creative. Or I was going to have to sit there and give my daughter an Easter Basket that said do not open until 3+. Given how well I was as not opening gifts that were for me the moment I saw them, let alone presents that were not from me, making my daughter wait three years would have been torture. So I decided to go with a split between chocolates that would find my way to my ex, and bigger toys that would fit into an Easter basket.
Years went by with me making Easter Baskets that my daughter could actually enjoy, some years with chocolate candies for her. Divorce interrupted all of that. Once I separated from my ex, we had a de-facto understanding that I was going to make an Easter Basket ever year, assuring my daughter would get at least two baskets, one from her mother and one from me. (I’m curious about what other divorced parent’s solutions are about celebrating Easter, if you celebrate it.) This year has to be an extra-special one for my daughter as it just so happens her birthday falls on Good Friday once again. I guess it is not unlike the people who only get to celebrate their birthday once every four years due to it being on leap day. Only for my daughter, this rare event is even rarer. It came eleven years later. (Eleven seems to be a theme for me, somehow.)
Eleven is a period of change for kids, as they move from childhood to adulthood. And parents are having to adapt to all of the changes that their children go through. While being forced to adapt, parents begin changing how they treat their children. Eleven is about the time where parents finally admit to all of the lying that they have been doing, confessing there really is no Easter Bunny, Santa Claus, or Leprechauns. (I’m going to still believe in Cupid because some baby with arrows is going to help me find my true love. I just know it!!!) I don’t know whether this is because of laziness, kid’s peers convincing them that these mythical creatures do not exist (except maybe the sandman who keeps all teens asleep in bed past the time they need to get up for school), or kids natural inclination towards discovery pushes them into catching their parents in the act of being the Easter Bunny. (Not even a full on Easter Bunny costume would convince them of the Easter Bunny’s existence at that point.)
Furthermore, divorced parents have greater difficulties. Unless you have an amazing relationship with your ex, it can be difficult to sit them down and get them to agree with anything you want to do with your child. You say the sky is blue. They say it’s green. There is just no agreeing. Now try telling that other parent, who still wants to call pancakes “pamcakes,” like she did when she was a child, and wishes that her child still called meatballs “meatbobs,” that at some point it is necessary to sit down with their child to inform them that there is no jolly fat man riding a sleigh with reindeer, one of whom has a lit up nose; or there really isn’t a giant six-foot invisible bunny dropping colorful plastic eggs everywhere with candy, toys, or money inside. It’s like talking to the wind. It will be silent; or, when it does answer you, you will be whipped around and carried off to some magical world with evil witches, munchkins and ruby slippers. Nothing will make sense, unless you have been hitting the prescription drugs too hard; and your hair just won’t be as pretty.
But you also don’t want to be the person who is the shmuck with the stupid look on their face when facing your child after they have found out for themselves that you don’t have a white fuzzy tail, or that your white beard is removable. (I apologize in advance to all jolly fat men with long white beards who are fathers. Keep on keeping on!) And you REALLY don’t want to be the person, with the stupid look on their face, after you have heard from your child that your ex told them you have been lying to them the whole time about the Easter Bunny; and, Rudolph is really your best friend Steve, whose nose gets bright red after one too many drinks. You can just feel that sinking feeling with every word from your child’s mouth. This sinking feeling gets even more pronounced after they announce to you your supposed “co-parent” told them they never wanted to lie to them. You had forced them into lying to your child all those years and they feel horrible about it.
So I admit, I am in a pretty precarious position. Either I will come up with the greatest Easter Basket known to man, ducking the ever vigilant eyes of my inquisitive eleven year old, or this will be the most epic failure in the history of all parental Easter Bunnies. I will have to turn in my parent Easter Bunny union card, number 186315746; and, give up my yellow Easter Bunny suit. The horror!!! I will miss that fuzzy cotton tail. Seriously, I am trying to picture what I am going to do for this Easter and so far no light bulbs have been popping up over my head, unless they are exploding ones that I am ducking from.
Despite my fears, I do have one idea how I want to handle this, after one final celebration where we had short men, dressed in green suits, with red beards. I need to sit down with my child and ask her if she wants to know the truth about any of the holidays. If she does, I will tell her. Secondarily, I will inform my daughter’s mother that I would welcome her to be there the day that my daughter finally decides she wants to have that important conversation. I would tell my co-parent first, but I feel like I have been trying to have this conversation for the last couple of years; and the response has been as welcoming as Vincente Fox is of Donald Trump coming to Mexico. (BFF’s forever. You know it!) I just want my daughter to know that I would not lie to her forever about any issue. Trust is so important for any parent child relationship. When that child becomes a teen, that trust is even more important.
And as for the Easter Basket dilemma, I have many things to be thankful for. One, I don’t have to worry about the 3+ on the toys any more. You have to be grateful for the little things, right? Two, I don’t have to wrap up a basket full of chocolates and make her wait a few years before she eats it. She can have some right away, even if I want to portion out the rest like I am rationing water in the state of California. Besides, I may convince her to give some of it away to kids who are less fortunate. I think this is something I feel like she would feel good about. And finally, if I screw it up this year, I will not have to worry about another Good Friday and Easter right around her birthday for another eleven years. I’m thinking she might not believe in the Easter Bunny by then.
So what do you think? I know many of you are grateful you do not have to deal with an ex. You have a loving spouse or you are a single parent with a former partner whose face should be on a milk carton for how quickly they disappeared. You do not have to argue with someone about how to handle the big reveal. Nevertheless, how do you handle dealing with informing your child about the magical creatures from their holidays? Celebrations and traditions become so important to them from an early age. What do you do as these celebrations have to change as your children grow older? Do you inform them or do you let them find out on their own? And if they already found out about it, how did your kids handle it?
In the next couple weeks I hope to do at least one Easter Recipe. Should be fun doing with my child. And hopefully it ends up on here, or the cover of Epic Food Fails Magazine. Fifteen minutes of fame is still fifteen minutes!
Until next time. This is me, signing off again.
David Elliott, Single Dad’s Guide to Life