Every year since we've had kids we've tried to find a way to balance Easter with it's fictional side kick, the Easter Bunny. We're not so big on loading the kids up on candy, and aren't entirely keen on having to have what is essentially another opportunity to drain our pocketbook for toys our kids will forget about in a matter of minutes. We have a hard enough time with the seemingly unavoidable consumerism that has taken over Christmas, to willingly participate in the same misguided excess at Easter seems too much. So when push came to shove this year, we simply opted out of the Bunny of it all, and dove more deeply into the real reason for celebration, the death and resurrection of Jesus. And you know what? The kids didn't notice. They didn't complain. They didn't ask where their baskets were. We had lots of special family gatherings, ate more than our fair share of desserts and enjoyed each other. A little bit of chocolate found its way into their hands, which I had no problem with at all, as it came as the loving gift of family and not at the hand of a bunny on steroids.
So if we didn't have the Bunny, what did we do instead? After a long, TV free Lent (excluding joyful breaks for Papal election fun, a few very special feast days and Sundays), we watched a movie or two. The kids were overjoyed with the idea, although often they would just wander away from the TV to play. Go figure. We read lots of books. We enjoyed their Daddy's first 4 day weekend since they were born (excepting of course the birth of children). We ate home made hot cross buns (not exactly the best buns ever made, but the kids LOVED them. There's no accounting for taste). We went out for a big lunch at both our parents' places (ham and turkey!) and had our own quiet ham dinner. We talked a lot, played even more, and delighted in wearing our new Easter clothes. Each of the kids got to feel their baby brother kicking them through my belly! And that's just what happened at home.
The big thing that we did this weekend was celebrate Jesus and His gift to us! On Friday, we went to the Solemn Good Friday Liturgy, which was a few hours long. The two young ones fell asleep (baby girl on me, and little boy on our new baby boy's Godmother), but woke up in time to venerate the Cross. Little boy knelt and lovingly kissed the Cross with such complete faith I could barely hold back my tears. Big brother and sister also venerated the Cross with the same child-like faith. They've each heard of the Passion, death and Resurrection of Jesus, so they drank in the liturgy. We were blessed to have a sign language interpreter for our hearing impaired parishioners, and big girl was enraptured with her facial expressions and hand gestures. During the Psalm, which has a repeated refrain for the congregation, she attempted to imitate with some little success the complex sign language.
On Saturday night, I attended the Vigil Mass while the kids stayed home with their Dad. If I didn't have the pee every few minutes, I doubt I would have noticed that it lasted a marathon 3.5 hours! As I sat and listened to the history of salvation through the 9 readings and 7 psalms, I felt my heart drawn up in gratitude. I felt myself at each reading echoing the beautiful Hebrew phrase "Dayenu", it would have been enough, and with each new reading and then the sacrifice of the Mass I was reminded that God always goes beyond enough with His children. It made me want to be a better Mom, who doesn't allow "enough" to be my measure for how I show my love to my children.
On Sunday, we woke up bright and early. I had a dessert to get ready for our family lunch at the in-laws, which I managed in no time. Once the kids got up, I quickly got the kids dressed in their finery. The girls each had new dresses, and the boys got one more use out of their adorable dress suits (sadly biggest boy has outgrown his now). My husband and I did our best to look even half as nice as they did. He succeeded handily in his handsome grey pinstripe suit (he wore the dress pants, a nice shirt and the vest and he looked like a million bucks). As I'm getting to the point where I'm too pregnant for most of my fancier clothes, I opted for some dress pants and a nice shirt. Ideal for kid wrangling. Mass was wonderful! We had three infant baptisms, amazing praise music, and our usual high quality homily from our Pastor. The kids were filled with joy, and even baby girl got in on shouting ALLELUIA! All their talk revolved around gratitude, joy, and Jesus.
It was exactly what Easter should have been about. And no talk of bunnies. Or chickens. Or chocolate eggs. Or what present they were getting. We sat back and let the Church lead us through Easter, with faith, tradition, and gratitude. Without have to force them, our kids gladly kept their eyes on the Cross and joined with Mary in her awe over the empty tomb. The Easter Bunny is fine, and mostly harmless, but I'm glad we didn't put the effort into what would only have been a distraction for our kids.