Friday, April 24, 2009

Some bunny

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?"

"Yes."

"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.

14 comments:

kristina said...

The ability to balance contradictory thoughts (the Easter Bunny/mom quandary) at the same time---isn't this a stage on the developmental path, the understanding that things can come in shades of grey, rather than being solely in black or white?

(Or, since we're talking about Easter baskets, bright blue or bright red or a rainbow's other of hues, depending on how the eggs are dyed.)

Quirky Mom said...

This is really interesting, most especially the way you handled it/are handling it. You rock. :)

Sally's World said...

you handled this amazignly well, it must be so hard for kids, we create alot of imaginary things to make them feel good, but mix it with some of the bad stuff they hear..it must be pretty confusing... well done you, he is such a bright little guy to have the questions...

Niksmom said...

Aw, this is utterly wonderful. I want to be you when I grow up! :-) Or was it the Easter Bunny??

kristenspina said...

We had a similar quandry this year, but like you, I didn't push and things turned out okay. As I think about it, the only part that truly bothers me is the anxiety my son feels over these imaginary characters. It's not the same as simple excitement, but more a mixture as you describe of excitement and fear and a bit of perseveration tossed in for good measure.

Seems to me you handled this exceedingly well!

Betty and Boo's Mommy said...

As with many, many other issues, MOM-NOS, you handled this wonderfully. I love the mom/Bunny collaboration!

Maddy said...

Well done holding back. I always want to delve deeper, unravel and 'know.' It's hard to exercise restraint, for me at least.
Cheers

cathy said...

What a beautiful way to handle the situation! I love the way you let Bud lead you through where he needed to be in his belief in the Easter bunny. So interesting and sweet - and exciting - all at the same time!

pixiemama said...

Bud is such a sweetheart.

And you, friend - I learn so much from you about how to keep a cool head when my kids start questioning. I'm not at all ready, but at least I have some solid insights when the time does come.

love.

Natalie said...

What a brilliant way for him to work out the problem in his head. What a smartie!
Natalie

Stimey said...

This is such a great post. What a really nice way to transition away from belief in the Easter Bunny. I love the way that you and Bud worked together to get there.

Let us know how it goes with the tooth fairy.

Lolasmom said...

Great story! (as Lola would say)

As an aside, Lola's brother lost his first tooth at a very young age, and was completely freaked out by the idea of a fairy climbing through his window and poking around under his pillow at night. We settled on putting his tooth in a little "magic bag"** hung from his doorknob. Personal space issue solved! (And it made coin placage MUCH easier on us tooth fairies.)

** We chose a little blue suede jewelry bag from Tiffany's ... magic indeed!

Anonymous said...

When my wonderful aspie kid was 5, he asked me if Santa was real. I asked him what he thought. He responded that he didn't think he was. I've never been comfortable with lying to my kids at all and I NEVER believed in Santa, so I told him he was right. Turned out that he was just trying to bait me into confirming that Santa was real. I broke from the script in his head by telling him he wasn't. 9 years later, he is still upset with me for that. He insisted on his little sister believing for as long as possible. She was mad at me for letting her believe something that wasn't true. Sometimes you can't win. :-)

Crystal said...

I know exactly how you feel. My four year old son is obsessed with Baby Einstein, and may be, in fact for the rest of his life. I recently sat down and watched an entire episode with him. No freakin' wonder he likes it. It about put me to sleep...when my son has a bad day, he zones out to Baby Einstein, and I couldn't blame him a bit. :) Dierks Bentley, though, could possibly have the same effect. :)