On Saturday Harmony and I went to a local park after hearing that there would be an Easter egg hunt. She’d had a little practice already picking up a few Easter eggs, so I figured that with her cute basket that grandma decorated she’d have fun getting a few more. The Smarties candy she found in one of the eggs before had been a big hit!
Once there, it was evident that this was a big event. Hundreds of people crowded the cordoned off areas of a large soccer field. We found the designated area for one and two year olds (Harmony is twenty-two months) which had eggs neatly lined up in a straight row down the middle of a dining room-sized square surrounded by tape. Seemed simple enough! The bell would go off and the little ones would toddle into the area to get a few eggs, right?
I talked with Harmony about what would happen. She was excited to get the eggs, pointing out several yellow ones near the edge that she wanted (her favorite color). She held her basket and sat on my lap watching the other toddlers around her in various states of patience and impatience. As the bell was preparing to ring for the children to gather the eggs, the parents got their kids in ready position. I held Harmony’s hand next to the line.
The ringing bell startled the children. They all, including Harmony, looked momentarily surprised at the loud noise, many of them reaching for their parents for comfort. Then, to my shock, rather than reassuring their children that everything was okay, the parents instead began dragging the little ones into the ring, snatching up eggs to shove into their baskets, shouting “get them, get them! Pick up the eggs, quick! Grab that one before he gets it!” and causing utter mayhem.
Harmony dove for my arms, completely overwhelmed by the confusion. As I held her close, sitting on the sidelines, I saw only one child actively picking up eggs on her own. I was the only parent not hovering over the eggs. Several toddlers were crying as their mothers or fathers added eggs to their baskets. Within half a minute they were gone. Harmony and I sat bewildered. One woman came back and dropped two dented eggs into Harmony’s basket, saying that she saw my child hadn’t picked any up. I managed to thank her half-heartedly.
Fortunately, Harmony didn’t seem to care at all that she hadn’t participated. She was ambivalent to the two eggs given to her. I was feeling upset still, but once the crowd dispersed, Harmony calmed down quickly. We played on the playground nearby, talked with some new friends we met there, smelled the spring flowers, and enjoyed the swings. For my daughter, this was more exciting than an egg hunt, and it was a good reminder for me to see what really mattered to her.
Afterwards, I found out that several of the eggs had tiny X’s marked on them which meant that the child could exchange the special egg for a prize, such as a stuffed animal, bunny ears, or small toy. This explained a little more the mad dash for eggs that the parents had exhibited. But were their actions justified? Not in my mind. What exactly had been the point of the egg hunt?
As we prepared to leave, another volunteer offered Harmony a lollipop. Despite never eating a lollipop before (my child is super picky, even about candy), Harmony accepted it this time, and was soon happily licking away. She smiled at me as we left the park.