“When are you going to hide those eggs with jelly beans inside of them?”
“Is the Easter bunny going to bring us something for Easter?”
These are some of the recent questions posed to me by my 4 and 6 year old boys. These questions haven’t exactly come at the easiest of times. When picking my 4 year old up at preschool, juggling a baby on one hip and assisting him with his coat and hat, he inquires when those jelly beans are going to happen. I had an impulsive and quick response, “soon, dear.”
Wait. What did I just say?
Obviously, Easter has come to us before. Last Easter was a blur as we were busy preparing ourselves for the any day now birth of our third child. It just sort of passed. The year before I vaguely recall buying some bunny related goods and the year prior to that I have actual pictures of dying Easter eggs with my then very young sons.
Not much has changed about my worldview in the last few years.
But, my sons are now a lot more conscious about the world around them. They know things. Things that I did not know when I was their age. They know, for example, that we are a family that doesn’t believe. And they know that there are many families that do. They know that, in fact, nearly everyone they know lives in a family that practices beliefs of God. And they know us to be “different.” And we know they need to be respectful of others beliefs and we have to work hard to relay that to them, because to their little skeptical minds, believing in the supernatural is a bit, well, funny.
I grew up in a conservative Methodist Christian family attending a country church faithfully every week. I had a great upbringing and the Christians I interacted with were good folks. I can’t complain. But, I did have a lot of questions. Questions that were not exactly welcomed. Questions that had answers that did not make any sense. I didn’t lose my religion because I was abused by religion. In fact, religion was a beautiful part of life until it wasn’t. I lost my religion because I don’t believe the things that it touts. I simply do not. For a long time I wished I did. I am well past that stage now. The new stage I have found myself in is the gap between my peace of mind and the way the majority of the community we live in indoctrinates children (including, by proxy, my own) into the Christian world view. I can’t exactly stop it, and I do my best to talk to my kids about it. But with Easter, comes a quandary.
I’ve pretty much deduced that my kids want the following out of Easter: Candy, Gifts, Treasure Hunts, and they don’t know they want this part but likely they would enjoy dyeing the eggs. In that order, I believe this is their motivation for Easter. This doesn’t support my very anti-consumerism/materialism beliefs so I’m actually really good with not handing them these experiences.
Still, that little tiny voice inside me asks, ‘are you robbing your children of memories of Easter baskets, dyeing eggs, seeking treasures inside little plastic eggs that are hidden in our family home and yard?’ Because I had those things and my experience was good and my memories are wonderful. And I thoughtfully answer it: Maybe. But, what I am giving them instead are memories of hikes in the wood over Easter weekend and a treasure hunt of searching for just the right leaves and just the right rocks to explore.
I can’t actually give my children the same childhood I had, because I am not indoctrinating them into beliefs of faith, but I can give them a great, secular, childhood. A beautifully natural life, filled with hikes and caves and explorations of the Mississippi River. I can give them these things that I did not have and I can give them a reason to celebrate every day, not just Easter.
So the next time that my 4 year old greets me with a question about religious practices when I’m shuffling papers and focusing on zippers I’ll try harder to tell him the truth, “son, we are going to have a wonderful weekend full of treasure hunts and family fun.” And that is just what I intend to do.