Monday, April 24, 2006

So much for soft and cuddly

rarin to go

I should have known by the words on the palisade that this was going to end badly.

The tape keeping the throng of sugar-craving toddlers at bay read "CRIME SCENE DO NOT CROSS." The message I chose to ignore was clear: There is nothing warm or cuddly about an Easter egg hunt.

We didn't attend our town's Easter egg hunt last year. We thought it would be too chaotic for a child still learning to walk. Instead we held a little hunt of our own in the front yard. I spent a few minutes hiding eight plastic eggs filled with Cheerios and other dry cereals in plain view. With a little help from her grandparents, Ittybit found all eight orbs in short order.

But this year we were ready to join the community of egg hunters. We even got to the hunt a half hour early afraid of the consequences of being late and also to hobnob a little with the neighbors. As we stood behind the police tape trying to keep Ittybit amused with songs and games, stopping every once in a while to explain why her soft pleas to "do out there and pict some ayes" were going unheeded.

I listened with interest as parents all around us were laying out strategies for their kids so complex I expected at any moment one of them would pull a chalkboard out of a stroller and diagram the game plans with arrows, Xs and Os. But even that didn’t register as odd. I was too giddy, as I clutched my camera, to notice.

Just when we thought it wouldn’t be possible to wait any longer, the man with the megaphone informed us the tiny tots’ event would start momentarily. He asked for volunteers from the parental audience to come into the field and guard the borders, a little assurance there would be eggs aplenty for the next gaggle of gigglies.

My husband said I should go out there. He thought it would entice the young 'un to run out to me, picking up eggs as she went. While my inner mother was screaming for me to tell him she would need his help, the outer one I didn't say a word. Off I went to be a minuteman.

When the signal was thrown dozens upon dozens of tiny tots broke rank. All except for our little one, who clung tightly to her father's shiny stain-proof pants.

Within minutes all the eggs were gone. I had even forgotten my job and let dozens of kids into forbidden territory as I watched my own little peanut move haltingly toward a shiny green egg a few feet from where I stood. I held my breath as she got closer and a blur wooshed in between us and it was gone. She stood there blinking in disbelief. By all accounts it was a dismal failure.

I had brought candy with me on the chance that the eggs were filled with a confection too advanced for her small palate. But she had her heart set on picking up an egg. As her tears started to fall like rain, I chastised myself for not scrubbing the soap scum out of last year’s mismatched egg halves, now transformed into misfit tub toys.

Talk about heartbreaking.

What's worse, the crowd was dispersing and no one seemed to notice the little girl with the empty basket. As we stood there like deer in headlights a neighbor came over to see about the tears. Their daughter had snagged four eggs. (She had been to the event last year and was a professional marksman at the tender age of two). After a brief conference to entice the child to hand over one of her eggs, our little benefactor happily handed over two.

I have never wanted to hug someone else’s child more than I did that very moment. I think Ittybit wanted to hug her too.


Be Still said...

Awww, poor little thing. That just breaks my heart. Ittybit, competition is overrated.

We did an Easter egg hunt at my mom's house this year. She must have had a hundred eggs for 4 kids, which turned out to be a good thing.

My step-brother is raising his kid to be the one with the most eggs in his basket, even if that means taking them from the other little ones. Charming.

Thankfully, Jude got a few but really seemed to enjoy smelling the flowers more. I hope he stays that way!

toyfoto said...

I'm with you on the competition thing. I was kind of appalled by one woman who, just before the event, bent down and stage whispered to her four-year-old daughter: "GET AS MANY AS YOU CAN."
It just seemed so ... wrong.

Be Still said...

I'm mortified to hear that... I think we are entering that time in their little lives where the competitive parenting starts to crank up. I'm gonna need to meditate more to cultivate the compassion to handle this 'cuz I'm am definitely not ready.

toyfoto said...

The thing I worry about is that I won't recognize it in myself. *shudders to think it.