Sunday, March 31, 2013

Easter Treats, Love, and Food Allergies

We're having a good Easter. My kids are now 18 and 14, but my 14-year-old daughter likes her traditions and still insists on the full basket-and-egg hunt, even while she's announcing she's really too old for all this.

My son has refused to hunt, or even to get out of bed the last couple of years, so this year my husband put the rest of their school-year allowance in the eggs. $10 an egg. Suddenly, he's in there fervently hunting. (They're down to their last couple apparently-unfindable eggs and are busy snarking at each other, so it's a good time to write a post.)

Easters past have been all about the...Legos? I will just admit it. Throughout my son's childhood, I simply inserted toys in any slot where candy was supposed to show up. A Lego for Easter. A Lego for a difficult trip to the doctor/dentist. Multiple Legos for Halloween. Secret Legos, slipped to him surreptitiously, while all the other kids are eating cake and ice cream. Over the years, our basement has turned into a Lego hoard that would make the builders at Legoland jealous.

I look back now and think why? Why did I invest so much money in redundant toys that really should have gone into his college fund?

And then I think about the cousin Easter baskets. Every year, the baskets would get handed out, and each child would sit down and fondle their chocolate wonders. The shiny wrappers! The giant bunnies! The enormous candy bars! And, in my son's basket: Lifesavers, Mike & Ikes, Airheads and Twizzlers.

The same candy at every party, every holiday, every lunch, every classroom treat.

By the time my son was in the late elementary years, he had learned not to care about the candy at all. It simply wasn't the important part of the party for him. If I had stood back and really looked, I might have seen that taking the food part of things away was actually helping him to enjoy and invest in the rest of the party in a more engaged way. My son loved parties and he loved people. He really didn't care about the cake. I did.

Food is love, after all, and the Lego was the best I could do to show my love in place of all those shiny, wrapped candy bars and Cadbury eggs and cheese-stuffed pizza and butter birthday cake with real cream ice cream.

Does different always = unequal? Does food always = love? Do we do our kids a favor by rushing into the gap with that Lego so they don't have to sort those equations out for themselves?

My son, despite my Lego-whenever-he-might-feel-left-out program, seems to have grown into a young man who can acknowledge, but not resent, the differences in his world. Yes, it's a PITA that he can't eat at his girlfriend's favorite restaurant...but what a testament to his character that they end up there often, anyway. Somehow, despite the Legos, he has learned it's not all about him.

That's something I'm very grateful for this Easter season. Sometimes they grow up well in spite of us.

Wishing you all a safe and very happy Easter!


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