Friday, March 30, 2012

The Easter Bunny Conspiracy

Are you ready for the Easter Bunny? It won’t be long. Once again, he’ll be making his annual appearance, bringing us baskets of goodies. But does the Easter Bunny belong in a Christian celebration of the resurrection?

I know there are some religious types who are down on the Easter Bunny. They won’t allow the pagan symbol of spring into church nor home. Well, I’m not one of them. (Although whether or not I’m a “religious type” may be questionable.) Peter Cottontail is okay in my book. So is Santa Claus. And the Tooth Fairy, as well. I would never deny children the fun these colorful characters bring. But…

I also would never be a part of the adult conspiracy that passes these fictional characters off to children as real. It’s deceptive. It’s wrong. And it’s damaging to the faith of children.

What may seem like harmless play to adults is not so harmless from a child’s perspective. I remember well the angst I went through as a child when I started detecting holes in the Easter Bunny story. It just didn’t make sense that a rabbit could do all the stuff people were insisting he could do. And once the Easter Bunny toppled, Santa soon followed, and then the Tooth Fairy. I remember feeling deceived by adults. I had no idea what a conspiracy was, but that’s clearly what was going on. I felt betrayed by people I thought I could trust. And I wondered what else they had lied to me about.

Perhaps God, too, was something adults made up to get us kids to be good. After all, grown-ups seemed to go to similar lengths to convince children that their far-fetched stories were true. And then there were the threats that if I dared question the existence of someone like the Tooth Fairy, I wouldn’t get money under my pillow, so I’d better play along and keep my doubts to myself. Yes, the God stories seemed to follow the same pattern.

When my kids were born, I vowed that I would never lie to them, especially about matters of faith. (Yes, to a child, for the above reasons, the existence of the Easter Bunny is a matter of faith.) So, I was always up front with them about the Easter Bunny, Santa, and the Tooth Fairy. From the get-go I told Gretchen and Ben, “The Easter Bunny is pretend."

I don’t believe it ruined anything for them. Of course, in their earliest years they didn’t know exactly what pretend meant, nor did they care. All of these pretend characters still “visited” our house, and we’d all play along, because it was fun. As they grew, they came to understand the difference between what’s real and what’s pretend, and it just wasn’t a big deal. They never had to face the harsh truth about the Easter Bunny because it had never been hidden from them. Best of all, they never had to wonder why their mother had lied to them.

I wasn’t a perfect parent, by any means. I messed up a lot. But to this day, I feel especially good about the way I handled this, and I encourage new parents to consider taking a similar approach with their kids. You don’t have to banish the Easter Bunny from your home. Just be up front about it with your children. Let them know that the Easter Bunny is pretend. Then, when it comes to matters of faith, they’ll be able to trust you.

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