Are your kids counting down the sleeps until the Easter bunny pays a visit? If so, I’m green with envy. Because there’s no such anticipatiion in my house, and it’s all my fault. You see, I accidentally killed the Easter bunny.
I never meant to put the kibosh on the Easter bunny; I still blame my son’s nursery teacher for setting in motion the wheels that spelled the Easter bunny’s untimely end.
So what happened?
Every kid’s favourite chocolate-laden cotton-tailed character met with his demise a few years back when my son came home from nursery gabbling ten-to-the-dozen that he couldn’t wait to see what the Easter bunny would bring for him this year.
I was washing up the dinner dishes at the time, in my defence, so my mind was probably on the morality of opening the wine before bath-time, not the wider ethics of encouraging kids to believe in a fictional giant rabbits who hand out chocolate willy-nilly. (At least Santa makes kids work for their spoils, after all.)
So I certainly wasn’t thinking straight. That’s the only explanation I can find for why I told my cherubic three year old that the Easter bunny wasn’t real. I might as well have bludgeoned that poor bunny to death right there in my kitchen before my son’s very eyes.
And now that I think about it, there may be a bit of a pattern emerging here. I did also disavow him of the Santa myth a little while later BUT he’d cornered me in the bathroom and demanded that I tell him the truth; so what else could I say? So in hindsight his preoccupation with the veracity of childhood legends might all be traced back to the fateful day I killed the Easter bunny.
So there he was, one minute babbling away about the Easter bunny’s imminent visit and full of wide-eyed wonder and speculation as to just how enormous his stash of chocolate eggs might be, and the next he was struck dumb - slack-jawed and round-shouldered - all the Eastery life drained out of him.
‘You know the Easter bunny isn’t real, right?’ I ventured, without pausing to think about the implications.
And of course it doesn’t end there, oh no. Inadvertently dispelling my toddler’s ardent belief in the Easter bunny I could handle, but gaining a reputation among his teachers and all his classmates’ mums as 'that' woman who killed the Easter bunny? Well, at least I have an answer if anyone ever asks me about my biggest regrets in life.
Because the next day he set foot in the nursery classroom to find it transformed into the Easter bunny’s answer to Santa’s grotto. It turns out that his anticipation of the Easter bunny’s visit wasn’t just misguided toddler nonsense; the nursery staff had whipped the kids up into a frenzy on purpose because overnight they’d decorated the class from top to bottom, leaving chocolate eggs and Easter gifts on every child’s seat, and a trail of Cadbury’s buttons on the floor. Apparently I was the only mum in town who didn’t know that’s the way the Easter bunny rolls in our neck of the woods. It just wasn’t like that back when I was a kid. And I never even got to query the buttons thing - presumably the Easter bunny has a bowel issue but I didn’t like to ask, having already done enough damage
Because you can guess what happened next. My newly-sceptical and worldly-wise toddler took one look at the dazzling array of Easter treats and decorations around the room, rolled his eyes, and announced to the whole class in a pitying tone:
"The Easter bunny isn’t real, you know."
Let’s just say I got something of a dressing down at pick-up time, and I never got a Christnas card from the nursery teacher again. And for years the other mums took delight in recounting the emotional scars which their children still bore, thanks to my thoughtless act of Easter savagery.
Even though my son has long-since forgiven me and is now of an age where believing in the Easter bunny is only one step down from not having a mobile phone in the seriously-uncool stakes, I still regret executing the Easter bunny.
My kids still get chocolate eggs every Easter, of course, and it’s a meaningful time for us as a family, but I can’t shake the feeling that I missed a trick by inadvertently making the kids miss out on a little of the Easter magic, even if it’s just a bit of fun.
I’m now firmly of the view that kids grow up too quickly as it is, so anything which helps to preserve those innocent, wonder-filled years should be prioritised, not passed over as I did.
I wish I hadn’t been quite so quick to tell my kids the 'truth' about such things, as if convinced that a belief in fairy tales might in someway arrest their emotional development.
I think I resisted fuelling my children’s belief in the tooth fairy, Santa and the Easter bunny because I hated the idea of them being crushed with disappointment when they eventually discovered the truth.
But that’s not what happens when childhood belief in magic eventually runs dry, I’ve since discovered. In fact, research shows that when children who believe in Santa and his mythical mates eventually discover the ruse, they feel pleased rather than woefully short-changed. It’s like some rite of passage that signals to the child that they are now wise to the world, and more in the know than their younger counterparts, and that feels good.
So if you’ve yet to choose how to play it when it comes to the Easter bunny, let me remind you that one day those magic-believing little brains will be way too old for wonder, and you might even long for just one more day of it again. One more chance to watch their eyes light up at the sight of chocolate eggs hidden in the garden.
So don’t be quick to kill off the Easter bunny, and don’t stamp out child-like belief in the impossible.
Because life, alas, will do that all too soon without your help.