It was only a couple of Easters ago that I hit my parenting low point.
We were in Hilton Head, visiting my parents. It was a gorgeous Easter weekend and we’d headed over to the huge egg hunt at one of the many marinas. There were sections corded off by age so we navigated Peanut to the toddler section, conveniently located in the playground. The eggs were all hidden in plain sight and at eye-level for the 2- and 3-year olds.
Our emcee ran down a list of instructions…
Keep your kid behind the ribbon until we blow the whistle.
Each of the eggs have candy but some also have tickets for prizes that can be collected after the hunt.
One golden egg has a special prize inside.
I heard the shuffling of feet as the kids moved closer and closer to the ribbon. I saw those young eyes scanning the sandy playground for the elusive golden egg. I watched Peanut, oblivious to it all, with her “just glad to be here” attitude.
And something switched inside of me. I wanted her to want the golden egg. I wanted her to find the golden egg. My sweet girl deserved the golden egg.
The whistle blew and dozens of tiny feet padded forward to gather eggs. Peanut got a few, sauntered around, then found a few more. I, on the other hand, watched the judges eyeing one particular section of the playground with interest.
I navigated Peanut to that side of the playground and started shuffling my feet in the sand, determined to ‘mistakenly’ unearth the golden egg.
My toes found it under one of the sit-and-dig toys in the playground.
I brought Peanut over to that site and playfully insisted that she look around the toy. She did. And she ‘found’ the golden egg.
To this day, I get red-faced retelling that story. I’m not proud.
I share this story to remind myself that I can be that mom when I allow my competitive nature free reign. Unleashed, my desire to win can co-sign some pretty ugly behavior.
Each Easter season, I remind myself of this character flaw to remember that I’m not all that different than the mom who tells her 2-year-old, “Remember Johnny, the more eggs you get, the more STUFF you get!” right before the egg hunt starts.
I’m not so far removed from the dad who helps his son get a head start by slipping his toes under the ribbon before the whistle blows.
I’m not better than the parents who outrun deserving toddlers to pick up the last eggs for their child.
But this year, I got a stark reminder that sometimes our children are our best teachers.
We were in Hilton Head again this year for Easter. And again, we found ourselves at a large organized egg hunt with areas corded off by age group. Peanut and I headed toward the 5-8 year old section.
Before the whistle blew, I took a moment with Peanut to scan the sidelines, considering just how many kids would be participating. We talked about how there were enough eggs for every kid and that this was an egg hunt, not an egg race.
Then the whistle blew and pandemonium ensued.
I hung back, wanting to watch how Peanut would handle the crowds and the overwhelming dynamic. She went at her own pace, picking up eggs and avoiding the fray. A few moments in I spotted her eyeing the baskets of other kids. I regretfully noted that this could be the birth of a competitive streak. I winced, knowing that I’d possibly laid the foundation for the “less for you means more for me” attitude with the golden egg debacle.
And then something amazing happened.
A young boy wandered over near Peanut and busied himself gathering an egg or two. Peanut looked over and realized that he had fewer eggs than her and the hunt was almost over.
The boy turned around, searching the ground for more eggs. While he wasn’t looking, Peanut dumped half of her basket of eggs a few inches from his feet. She then quickly turned around and walked away.
The boy turned around, looked down, and quickly snatched up the eggs, none the wiser of Peanut’s deed.
She walked over to me a moment later and told me she was all done. When I asked her how many eggs she got, she shrugged and said, “Just enough.”
I wish I could take credit for instilling her with this generosity. I wish I could tell you that we’ve systematically taught her how to consider others or to be happy with enough instead of always craving more. And while I’d like to think that we’ve helped her learn some good lessons along the way, the truth is that this bottomless generosity of hers comes from her, not from us.
I don’t always recognize myself in my children. I don’t equate their strengths with my strengths and I’m constantly surprised at how different our personalities and interests and paths in life are. I’m learning to celebrate that.
Where I am self-centered and selfish, this daughter of mine is endlessly compassionate. I am highly distractible and easily irritated; she is observant, gentile, and beyond sweet. I can isolate and be obsessively driven while Peanut rejects competition of every kind and wears every feeling on her sleeve.
I have so much to learn from this kid.
Before I had children, I was convinced that my kids would look and act like me. I was sure that my kids would be sassy, precocious little versions of me.
Thank god the universe has a sense of humor! Instead of getting the kid I thought I wanted, I got the kid I need. This daughter of mine is my balance. She is an-constant reminder of how love is better than winning. How kindness trumps competition. How we are all just enough.
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