Parenting Dilemma: What Do You Tell Kids About the Easter Bunny?

Filed under: Holidays, Amazing Kids, Amazing Parents, Cabin Fever

"Is the Easter Bunny real, or are you the real Easter Bunny?"

"Well... if you believe in the Easter Bunny, then the Easter Bunny is real."

"But I just want to know if the Easter Bunny is you."

She's four years old. And I'll be honest, I haven't got a clue what to say next. My instinct is to tell the truth: Yup, you're right. I'm the Easter Bunny. In a few years, you'll come to know me as the Tooth Fairy. And Santa Claus? Busted. That's me, too.

In fact, the first time the question came up -- years ago, when my eldest was approximately the same age -- I told the truth without hesitating. I wasn't comfortable lying to my kids about anything, even if it was in support of a culturally sanctioned myth and all in good fun.

But something unexpected happened next. The kids (then ages four-ish and three-ish) decided they preferred to believe in the Easter Bunny after all. And even though we all knew we'd had a conversation otherwise, as holidays rolled around the kids continued to refer to Santa Claus and the Easter Bunny as characters unto themselves. In other words, they wanted to pretend not to know.

I'm curious: how do other parents handle this question? Does it feel like you're lying to your kids (or choosing not to), or is the issue more complex: about the meaning and wonder of symbolic stories?
For Christians around the world, Easter is a sacred holiday marking both the death of Christ, and celebrating His resurrection.

The parallel secular holiday, with its symbols of bunnies and coloured eggs sitting in baskets of fake grass, celebrates a different, earthly resurrection, of the end of winter and the arrival of spring. Both bunnies and eggs are symbols of fertility and new life, as is that springy fake grass in the bottom of the basket. At our house, we hide treats and eggs and the kids search for them and gather them in baskets, a metaphor for hunting for and finding the signs of spring, and the riches and bounty that come from the earth.

The question is: Would the Easter egg hunt be just as fun if we told the kids that we were hiding the eggs? Is there any reason to carry on pretending there's an Easter bunny? I'm not asking because I have the ultimate answer at my fingertips. I'm asking because I genuinely wonder what these imaginary symbols mean in the mind of a child. Is it important for children to connect to a larger story, a shared mystery, a myth that has comfort and joy in it? Or is the perpetuation of the myth--pretending there's an Easter bunny--as simple as embracing the wonder and magic of childhood? Do my kids actually believe in the Easter bunny, or are they just more willing than me to suspend their disbelief and play along whole-heartedly in the moment?

"I want to know if you're the Easter bunny!"

Her seven-year-old sister pipes up. "You just have to believe in the Easter bunny."

"But is it Mommy and Daddy?"

I look at my husband. "I don't know what to say," I tell him. He shrugs. He doesn't know either.

"Do you really want to know? Really? Because it might make you sad to know."

"I just want to know."

Well. Okay. I decide to tell her. Because she wants to know. And maybe, knowing, she'll decide to believe anyway.

What would you do?

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AdviceMama Says:
Start by teaching him that it is safe to do so.