Have a Happy Easter, whether you want to or not

Posted by GT on October 9th, 2008 — Posted in Newspaper columns

Originally published in April 2006, The Daily Sentinel, Grand Junction, Colo.

Our older girl, 5 1/2, knows Easter is near and she’s excited. She wants to hunt plastic eggs filled with prizes. She wants to dip real, hard-boiled eggs in vinegary cups of coloring at the kitchen table. She wants to wear something pretty.

Go to church? Not so much that, but she’ll do it and resist the urge to fidget. Some weeks, I wish the people running the services appreciated just how strong the urge to fidget grows after an hour for both of my daughters (not to mention me) and cut a song or two short, maybe saved some announcements for the bulletin.

Our oldest doesn’t recall much about past Easter Sundays because she’s too young, but she does remember last year, particularly the office Easter egg hunt, and she knows she had fun.

At 2 1/2, our younger girl hasn’t reached the stage where she gets worked up about much before it actually happens. But come Easter, she’ll throw herself into whatever we do with her usual gusto, having a ball while my wife or I keep watch to make sure she doesn’t hurt herself.

All this Easter stuff is old hat to me, of course, the same way all the Valentine’s stuff, the St. Patrick’s Day stuff, even some of the Halloween and Christmas stuff are old hat. First I did all of it year after year during my own childhood, now I’m repeating it with my kids.

For the first three or four years, I was able to get into the spirit of things the way a parent is supposed to, seeing how much fun the girls were having and enjoying that. But the luster has worn off and too much of what the kids consider “fun” I think of as a “parental responsibility.”

If we’re at a store, I glare wearily at the crowded “seasonal” aisles and want to dodge my daughters’ request to travel through them.

“We’re not buying anything today,” I tell them, but that never puts them off. They’re happy just to sightsee, so I start navigating through the people and try not to run over plastic Easter ducks previous visitors dropped and never picked up.

What I try to remind myself when I feel bored with the holidays is that someone in my position – a father – has a lot of power to ruin what should be great occasions for kids.

Want to make sure your kids’ brows furrow at the thought of you when they get older? Then show them your own furrowed brow and make “hurry up” noises while they’re trying to balance an egg on that cheap wire dipper that comes with packages of coloring. Better yet, groan loudly when one of those eggs rolls off the dipper and hits the floor.

Really, it takes only a little effort to make something special for my kids. Not lifelong memories, maybe, but enough to make them happy.

Sometimes, they need us to stay out of the way for a while and let them run and play with the other kids. That’s sometimes hard for me, particularly when I see little bullies or sick, dripping kids whose parents plainly weren’t worried about spreading germs.

If I watch, though, I might be rewarded with a moment in which one of my girls points me out to another Easter egg seeker and says without reservation: “That’s my daddy.”

It’s always a thrill to see my daughters don’t hesitate to tell the world I’m with them. I’ll never be ready for the day when they won’t want me there, but I hear it’s coming.

More importantly, we have to know when our girls need us to pay attention. That means a lot of encouragement, an occasional boost and a little applause.

Throw in a snack and some laughs and pretty soon the holiday’s a success for everyone.

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