Sunday, April 01, 2012

Walking on eggs

I should have known by the barrier that this was going to end badly. The tape keeping the throng of sugar-crazed toddlers at bay read 'CRIME SCENE DO NOT CROSS.' Parents all around us were laying out strategies for their kids so complex I expected at any moment a mom or dad would pull a chalkboard out of a stroller and diagram the game plans with arrows, Xs and Os. 
This was an egg hunt of epic proportions, and we were out of our league.”

That is how I remember the first town-sponsored egg hunt my daughter ever attended. It was chaotic and eerily similar to the event Colorado Springs recently cancelled because of some bad eggs – parents. Ours had all the earmarks: anxious parents, hundreds of kids, thousands of eggs in plain sight and a sufficient amount of technical glitches to cause pockets of confusion throughout the crowd.

It's enough to make you think the seed for the “The Hunger Games” were planted on a field littered with plastic eggs.

Oh, I jest.

Others don't, apparently.

Where I see tiny gladiators fighting house cats for balls of fluff, they see helicopter parents ruining a time-tested rite of passage.

And while some parenting experts worry the modern Easter Bunny won't provide the necessary hard-knock reminder that life isn't fair . … I just want to go home, fill plastic eggs with Cheerios and hide them under the shrubs.

Stupid, fluffy Easter Bunny. Making people think this Easter Egg hunting thing is just a bit of sweetness, not a Battle Royale where two-year-olds must learn they don't always get a happy ending … or an egg.

It's survival of the fittest.

But parents stepping in seems to cross a line. We all know how that usually ends. It's not as if parents haven't been making Little League games and Girl Scout meetings unbearable for generations.

Mob mentality can make the best of intentions come undone.

Our own Egg Hunt education started uneventfully enough: getting to the event early, finding where we were supposed to stand and waiting patiently for further instructions. As we stood behind the tape, holding our girl back from snitching an egg before it was time, a man with a megaphone informed us they would be starting with the youngest group soon. Then he asked for parents who would volunteer to guard the borders so there would be eggs enough for the next horde of hunters.

A quick game of Rock, Paper, Scissor dictated I would volunteer to go into the field of battle. My husband thought it would entice our daughter to run out to me, picking up eggs as she skipped along, no doubt, to an internal soundtrack of “Ode to Joy.”

My inner mother was screaming for me to tell him she would need help not just incentive. But I didn't say anything. We didn't want to cross the line. So instead I watched in mini-horror as the signal was thrown and hundreds of tots broke rank. Our daughter was frozen. She clung tightly to her father's stain-proof pants, afraid to join the fray.

In seconds all the eggs were gone. More nimble arms had swept away all the colored orbs. In the melee I had forgotten my job and let dozens of kids into the next territory. By all accounts it was a dismal failure.

When it was over our daughter realized her basket was empty, and began to cry. Talk about heartbreaking. A toddler at an Easter Egg hunt without a single egg. Even more heartbreaking was, as the crowd thinned out, no one seemed to notice the weeping tot and her useless parents.

We stood there feeling helpless and wondering why we hadn't just brought some eggs to plant in case of such an emergency. A neighbor came over to see about the tears. Her daughter had found four eggs, two of which she happily shared with our daughter.

It wasn't the end of the world after all. On the contrary, it was the start of a lovely friendship and the impetus for planning to survive the next year's hunt if, by some tragic twist of fate, the Easter Bunny didn't see fit to cancel.

It was either that or pray for rain.

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