Easter Traditions?

Tl;dr: how do you blend family traditions successfully?

The fairy tales don’t cover the very important fact that when you marry (or in any other way connect deeply) another person, you are also marrying their traditions, their families, and their memories. Cinderella and friends make it seem as though two independent individuals can get together, form a unit, and then begin their lives from some sort of rarefied blank slate. I assume. Fairy tales never actually get into the nitty-gritty of the ever after.

While I don’t strive to live up to a fairy tale, I grew up with the trappings of what my mother and sister like to call a White Picket Fence family or a Little Golden Book Family. I think that’s ridiculous not only because it’s impossible, two-dimensional, and unattainable but because those books didn’t prominently feature mental illness and its consequences. But, on a very surface level, I have a fair amount of Norman Rockwell story-lines in my past.

Now and then, Debra relays some piece of family history or experience for which I don’t have context. Even without fully understanding, it helps me form an evolving picture of her family life which in turn supports our ability to blend traditions and create a reasonable reality for RR. But I often forget at the outset of each new beginning that my own experiences aren’t the same for us both and are not the correct route in any way.

Enter Easter. This is our 5th with RR and probably the first that she’s really remembered what happened last year and generated some expectations. It’s also the first year that she’s understood candy as a thing that has value.

My childhood Easter basket? A handful of jelly beans scattered into some grass in a basket, a chocolate bunny, and (in the early days) a small stuffed toy. When I got older we also got a couple of Cadbury eggs. There was an egg hunt for my two sisters and I after church, still clad in matching Easter dresses, usually consisting of two dozen hard boiled and dyed eggs and another dozen plastic eggs with jelly beans inside. Munching of jellybeans before breakfast was not happening. And, if I recall, those baskets disappeared the next day, candy along with them. Debra’s childhood basket looked nothing like this. As I understand it, there was a candy extravaganza and a few toys. I’ll bet she got to eat as many jellybeans as she wanted.

RR’s basket conundrum. I did not get the right kind of jellybeans (my family: strict adherence to large, traditional beans. Debra’s family: small beans, tropical beans.) I wanted to strip out the packaging (my family: preserve the Easter Bunny mystery. Debra’s family: who cares about the boxes?) My number of jellybeans did not align with my wife’s. My idea of how many toys should be in my child’s life did not align with my wife’s. My idea of how much candy one child should get to eat did not align with my wife’s. How did we not discover this in the previous 4 years?

And so, RR ate a lot of candy before breakfast and added another stuffed bunny to her collection. She had a wonderful time hunting stuffed plastic eggs. She and my wife spent almost an hour playing with a bubble wand. And, I shiver to admit it, went to brush her teeth for bed having just knocked back another handful of beans. It was a perfectly fine Easter, basket-wise.

That said, how do I keep from being a candy and toy scrooge? We’re probably safe until Halloween but I still have to negotiate a basket’s worth of sweet goodness. There’s a tradition at stake here for someone and, while I’m willing to let go, I can’t seem to like letting go. Suggestions?





10 Responses

  1. I definitely don’t have the answers here, but for myself, I try to let go of the candy limits (within reason) on the day of. So yesterday, Frances ate way more candy than I would normally allow (and ditto Halloween and Christmas). I did say no a few times – or rather – you may not have any more until you eat some actual lunch or dinner, but mostly I tried to roll with it. After she goes to bed that night, all the candy gets put in our treats cabinet and she gets one a day (and only if she remembers to ask for it – I do not offer).

    • This pretty closely mimics my plan. I’m not sure what my anxiety is really – it’s not going to kill her. It just feels like so. much. Putting it away though, I’m on it this evening.

  2. The way I look at it is there’s no permanent harm from gorging a few times a year. It actually helps them regulate because they see how they don’t feel so great if they eat too much. And then maintain moderation during the rest of the year.

    • Great perspective. I wasn’t a particularly good moderator as a kid so I guess I’ve just assumed it’s something she would struggle with, too. Clearly I should give her a chance!

      • You weren’t given the opportunity to learn to moderate. No they don’t learn it right away but this is actually important for the development process. Have you read the Whole Brain Child? I recommend it for choosing what limits to set. This is an area of conflict in our house too so I am learning what makes sense given our understanding of the brain.

  3. I will be following responses with great interest. This is still a work in progress in our house. Some things–Christmas Eve, Hannukah, Valentine’s Day–were easy (take each of our favorite/most meaningful bits and mash them together, ignoring the rest) but when Christmas rolled around last year, I was shocked to learn hat my wife had already had The Talk with Clementine about Santa. Previous years we had mostly sidestepped the issue (presents appeared, who cares how) so I figured we would talk to each other before deciding to embrace or do away with the tradition entirely. But no, it just happened. Surprise! Good thing I was leaning that way anyway (mostly because I have a hard enough time getting my own act together because I am notoriously lazy and inclined toward procrastination). But still a little sad to lose the magic I loved as a child. Easter Bunny followed naturally from that, but it actually feels more like the other holidays I mentioned earlier–keep my favorite parts (egg hunt, dyeing eggs) and forego the baskets and bulk sweets because consumerism but really, lazy. So I guess my answer is pick one thing to be passionately committed to and let the rest go? And then find some principle that justifies whatever scenario ends up coming to pass? I feel this is a bit of the coward’s way out, though.

  4. I feel like because you brought cheese crips to the marriage, you get to do whatever the fuck you want with everything else. Not joking.

  5. Much to my in-law’s horror, we don’t do much to celebrate Easter, other than eat candy all day. All of us (Just like Halloween, Edie starts self limiting the day after). I don’t make a huge holiday dinner (although I do tend to get a nice piece of fish for Easter Dinner) and we don’t go to church. How we celebrate holidays has never been much of an issue – we tend to spend them here, just the three of us, without much fuss. If there was something from our childhood that we liked, we incorporate it. If there was something we didn’t, then we don’t do it. That’s pretty much our approach. Thus, candy for breakfast, with us eating more than the girl because she’s self limiting and responsible and all that jazz.

    Jelly beans though – if I don’t get the right jelly beans, there is much sadness and disappointment. They absolutely must be the Brach’s plain old fashioned regular jelly beans. It doesn’t matter that the girl would prefer the fancy kind, it’s just not Easter if her dad doesn’t get the right jelly beans. Thankfully, she’s content to eat her fancy jelly beans the rest of the year while we have the traditional ones on Easter, because that’s the only time her dad will eat them.

  6. I wish I had some brilliant life-changing advice to offer here, but to put it bluntly, we suck at this. Big time. We even argued about WHERE TO LEAVE HER EASTER BASKET. Seriously. She’s 8 freaking months old. Do we really think she cares whether her Easter basket is next to her crib or on the dining room table? Sigh. Marriage. Holidays. Traditions. It can be hard sometimes.

  7. My celebration consists of Half Price Candy Day. So… whatever.

    The feeling of too-much, though, I do experience regularly. I think I feel kind of oppressed by all the STUFF that comes along with a kid, and the inevitable uncontrolled mess that the adults have to pick up or supervise or step on or get rid of eventually. The stuff represents a prioritization of time and money that I generally have other plans for. (Maybe I need to go have a stiff drink and chill the fuck out, really. One more thing won’t break my kids.)

    I’m also really uncomfortable with Candy As Rewards (which Easter egg things are not!) and the candy all the time for every celebration kind of feeds into that (for me) because, I don’t know, I just don’t think it’s great for my kids. And we get a helping of Christian Celebrations In Public Schools, which always involves sweets and pisses me off….. I guess I just hate everything this month.

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