Sometime between my childhood and my children’s, Easter became Christmas 2.0. Each year, my social media feed overflows with overstuffed Easter baskets. I feel old just staying this, but when I was a kid, you got a peanut butter egg from the church fundraiser and some stale jelly beans. Maybe a chocolate bunny, which you had to share with your sibling. Now, anything goes: Toys, movies, video games, trips to Disneyland (OK, that last one might be a stretch, but I’m sure someone, somewhere has done a “Disney Dream Vacation” reveal inside a golden egg.)
I’m all for cutting back on the candy, which I’m guessing is how this whole Easter present arms race started. We're a family who tries to limit sugar, so our children's baskets are mostly non-candy items as well. I guess I’m just super cheap about it. I stock up on coloring books and small toys at the dollar store, and that’s it.
I've built my website on the concept of non-judgmental parenting, but when I see the Easter baskets my friend and family pull together each year, I can’t stop thinking, Seriously? What are these people doing?
As if the promise of everlasting life isn't enough, now I'm supposed to run out and buy Blu-Ray discs and a jumbo pack of Troll figurines. My favorite aunt just sent me a video of an adorable puppy with the message “Easter gift for the girls?” I think she was kidding. Kind of. Maybe.
Then I remind myself not to be an ass.
I try to think about it from someone else’s point of view. It is fun to watch your kids receive something they really wanted. Plus, if you live anywhere with winter, you’ve all been stuck inside playing with Christmas toys that lost their new-toy sparkle a month (or longer) ago. That "Moana" DVD is sounding pretty good right about now.
Still, I know I’m not hopping out to Target to stuff my cart with toys. I want my kids to be excited about dollar-store bubbles. I want them to find fun without expensive things. I feel pretty good about it... until they see what the Bunny brought their cousins and friends.
No child goes home and complains, “Why did she get bubbles and I only got an X-Box?”
This, I’ve decided, is the root of my parental judgment. I’ve made a parenting choice that differs from someone else’s, and I have to explain it to my kids.
No child goes home and complains, “Why did she get bubbles and I only got an X-Box?” If they do, return the X-Box, buy some bubbles, and call it a parenting win.
But when my kid comes home asking why her friend got something amazing for Easter and she got sidewalk chalk, it begins an entire dialogue about being appreciative for what we have. She’ll nod in agreement, but I see her disappointment. This is the part that makes me question myself.
Am I too cheap? I can afford to buy them the X-Box. I choose not to buy it, or anything that costs more than a couple bucks. My kids have a roof over their heads, food in their stomachs, an exceptional school district and the promise to attend college on us. I fill their days with experiences that do often cost money, like trips to the zoo.
So no, kid, you did not get an X-Box, but you have it pretty good.
Still, I sometimes worry that when my kids are grown, they’ll think back to their childhood holidays and birthdays and say to each other, “Our parents were such cheap pricks.”
I recognize all this internal back-and-forth pales in comparison to the inner dialogue of a parent who scrimped to afford the dollar-store toys. I remind myself to be appreciative for what I have, hit the dollar store for my kids, and use the money I didn’t spend on their baskets to buy another little girl, who has less than mine, a new Easter outfit.
Then, I’ll do my best not to judge whatever is in your kid’s Easer basket. I just hope you’ll return the favor and not think I’m too cheap for what I didn’t put in mine.