The Holiday I Realized My Kids Had Grown Up

I headed into Easter this year already expecting it to be a letdown compared to years past. The coronavirus stay-at-home orders meant we were stuck at home and couldn’t enjoy our typical Easter brunch at a beautiful restaurant with a gorgeous view. It meant we weren’t even able to visit with any family or friends, near or far.

But I have always loved holidays and was determined to find a way make it special and keep as many of our family traditions as possible.

My youngest, age 11, had asked if we could still have an egg hunt. So, my husband and I filled two dozen plastic eggs with some candy and the “golden eggs” with money. We live in a townhouse without a private yard, so we scattered the eggs in the grassy area between our back patio and the small lake behind our home. It was not a challenge in the least, but hiding the eggs in the most obvious of places made us laugh.

The younger one was mostly appreciative of and mildly amused at our lame egg hunt. The 13-year-old, like most teenagers, was unimpressed. She begrudgingly participated because I didn’t give her much of a choice.

All she wanted out of the entire holiday was a bag of jellybeans. It was the singular thing that mattered to her.

Jellybeans. Nothing more.

The day before, I baked a Pane di Pasqua (Italian Easter Bread). It’s a beautiful braided bread with dyed Easter eggs baked into it. I’ve never made one in my life, but I spied it on Pinterest and in the spirit of trying to make this Easter less lame, I gave it a try.

“Doesn’t this bread look FUN girls?” I asked with a desperate enthusiasm. In my eagerness to make the day special, I was reduced to trying to sell bread as fun.

Bread is not fun my friends.

I asked my girls if they wanted to color the eggs for the bread. As with the egg hunt, the youngest was all for it, the teenager not so much. So, the youngest colored all five eggs by herself. Well, not exactly. She colored four, lost interest, went to her room to watch YouTube, and left the sole remaining egg for me to color.

It seems egg coloring is not fun either. At least not anymore.

I resigned myself to the fact that going forward, I will be retiring their custom Easter baskets they had used since they were infants. Once upon a time, I would fill them with coloring books, sidewalk chalk, bubbles and other inexpensive goodies that captivated them. Now it seems a handful of their favorite seasonal candies is all that is required or wanted.

I bought both of my daughters their favorite Easter candies and put them in a small gift bag. But that morning I was still in denial, so I placed the little gift bag inside their traditional Easter baskets, clinging fiercely to that ritual. Seeing those sad little bags inside the big empty baskets was the visual confirmation that nothing is what it used to be.

I feel the holidays as I have known them since becoming a mom are slipping away. No matter how much I tighten my grip, I can’t seem to hold on. And the more I try to cling to the old ways, the less happy everyone ends up.

I tried to rationalize the lacking enthusiasm for Easter this year. They’ve been stuck at home going on four weeks now, cut off from friends and the world outside of our neighborhood.

It’s hard to get excited about anything right about now, I tell myself.

They’re a little depressed at life on lockdown, I tell my husband.

Next year will be different. Next year will be back to normal.

Except it won’t.

Next Easter they will be older and even less enthused about little kid things, like egg hunts and Easter bunnies.

After reflecting on my disappointment in the day, I realized that I have to let go of my expectations about what Easter, what all our holidays in fact, should look like. Many of the traditions we have enjoyed with them as little children no longer hold their interest.

But I don’t want to just get through the holidays with my growing children. I don’t want to go through the motions, focusing on and longing for what used to be. I want to truly enjoy the years we have left together under one roof, before they have moved out into the world on their own.

Achieving this means letting go of the past and embracing new ways of thinking. It means holding onto the precious memories of when the children were little, chubby little fingers covered in dye from dunking eggs, sweet round faces sticky with chocolate bunnies, and excitement about overflowing Easter baskets. It means finding joy in making new memories, celebrating in a way that is meaningful to my children’s maturing hearts and minds.

Changing and adapting the ways we celebrate holidays is bittersweet. It’s just one reminder for parents that our children are growing up, and ultimately, away from us. We know they need to grow and let go of our helping hands as they move towards being independent adults. But it is so hard for our hearts to accept.

It’s the paradox of parenting.

Grow up, but please stay little.

Next year there won’t be an egg hunt and we won’t bother with coloring eggs. The Easter Bunny isn’t going to fill their big Easter baskets.

But we will discover new ways to make memories and come together as a family. We will come together different, always changing, always evolving, but together all the same.

It’s ok if the traditions change, as long as the love is there. When the children are grown with children of their own, it’s that feeling of love and family connection that they will carry with them.

That’s the tradition worth keeping.

Previously published on “A Parent Is Born”, a Medium publication.

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Photo credit: Gabe Pierce on Unsplash