Earlier this month, as Easter was approaching, I found myself thinking about Bud's stated preference for the very real Dierks Bentley over the very pretend Teletubbies and how it all related to the Easter Bunny, the Tooth Fairy, and Santa Claus. I wondered where Bud was on the developmental path of drawing distinctions between fantasy and reality, and what the belief-rate was among his typically-developing peers. I wondered if it would ever occur to Bud to question the veracity of the Bunny/Fairy/Santa legends or if he would simply continue to accept them at face value, as he does with most things in his life. I wondered if I was doing him a disservice by perpetuating the myth and allowing the gap between Bud and his same-age peers to grow, or if I was providing him harmless joy by extending the magic just a little longer.
I decided to down-play the Bunny business this year, to not really bring it up one way or another, and to talk about the egg hunt and the basket, but not about where they come from. But the day before Easter, Bud brought it up on his own - the Easter Bunny would hide the eggs, he told me. The Easter Bunny would bring his basket. I neither confirmed nor denied - though, in reality, Bud wasn't looking for confirmation. It seemed he was just stating fact.
As we got closer to bedtime, though, Bud's anxiety began to grow, the same way it does at Christmas, when he experiences the push-me/pull-you of simultaneously looking forward to presents and being a little freaked out by the idea of a bearded man creeping through the house at night.
"The Easter Bunny is a man in a bunny suit?" Bud asked as he settled into his bed.
"Do you think so?" I asked back.
"Yes," he answered.
"Who do you think it is?" I asked.
"Neighbor Jim?" he guessed, as I suppressed a snort at the thought of the man across the street, who we pay to plow our driveway in the winter, sneaking through the neighborhood with floppy ears and a basket of eggs.
"I don't think it's Neighbor Jim, " I said, still wondering if it was time to come clean. "Do you think the Easter Bunny could be a woman?"
"Yes," he answered.
"Who do you think it could be?" I asked.
"I don't know," he said.
The conversation ended, and I tucked him in and said goodnight. A few minutes later, he called out to me in a frightened voice. I went back in to him, and he said "The Easter Bunny crawled out from under my dresser!" I turned on his light and sat down next to him, conflicted about what I should do and concerned by his needless anxiety.
"Bud, that would never happen. The Easter Bunny would never scare you. You don't have to worry. I promise."
"You promise?" he asked.
"I promise," I said.
"The Easter Bunny will not come in my room?" he asked.
"Not if you don't want the Easter Bunny in your room," I said. "How does that make you feel, Bud?"
"Worried," he said. "Because... I'm just a little... shy." I put my hand on his chest and felt his heart racing.
"Bud, what if I did the egg hunt for you instead of the Easter Bunny?"
"You did it?"
"Instead of the Easter Bunny?"
"Yes. If it makes you nervous, then I could do the egg hunt for you instead."
"You do the egg hunt with the Easter Bunny," he suggested.
"With the Easter Bunny?" I asked. "You want us to do it together?"
"Yes," he yawned, his nighttime medication having kicked in and overtaken his anxiety.
"Sure, Bud," I said. "I can do that."
When morning came, Bud bounded out of bed and set off excitedly on an egg hunt that led him to a treat-filled Easter basket. He was delighted with it, but made no mention of our conversation from the previous night. I wondered if he remembered it, or if his almost-asleep state had made it fade from his mind completely.
Later that morning, as Bud took inventory again of the things he'd found in his basket, he turned to me and said, "I love my Easter basket things! Thank you, Mom."
"You're welcome, honey," I said, wondering if he'd elaborate or clarify or give me any indication of how he thought the basket had come to be in the house. But he didn't.
Still later, he talked to his dad on the phone. "The Easter Bunny came, Dad!" he crowed. "I had an egg hunt! I got a basket!" But still, no mention of a Bunny-Mom collaboration; no hint that he wasn't a full-fledged believer.
And then, at bedtime, as he gathered up the books he'd gotten in his basket to bring them up to bed with him, he asked, "You gived these to me, Mom?"
"I sure did, hon," I said, waiting for a reaction.
But the only one I got was a heartfelt "Thank you, Mom."
And that has been that. There's been no further conversation about the Bunny or the hows and whys of Easter. I don't know how he's made sense of it inside his mind, but he seems perfectly comfortable with whatever explanation he's settled into. And there's a part of me that wants to push - wants to delve - wants to know - but there's a bigger part of me that thinks it's important to give him space to sit with this and to continue to work it out on his own.
In the meantime, he's got a tooth that's getting wigglier by the day - and when it falls out, I can't wait to see what happens.