Charlie isn’t feeling well today. He has been complaining of a stiff neck, sore muscles and a sore throat and he has had a fever. My wife googled the symptoms and found meningitis. I started making calls to the Mayo Clinic and clearing a landing site for the air ambulance. My mother-in-law, a recently-retired nurse with extensive pediatric experience pulled us down off the ceiling and explained how a sore neck and a fever is not meningitis. I was skeptical, but we waited until this morning to seek further medical advice.
A brief examination by a physician’s assistant at our local clinic this morning yielded a diagnosis of a sore neck and a fever, the latter probably from sleeping on the floor. OK, so maybe I overreacted a bit . . . maybe.
Charlie was in the back seat resting as we turned off the main road toward our house. Ahead of us, I saw a white flash cross the road. It was a snowshoe hair in his winter white. He is in his winter white because we do serious winter up here and we are still covered with snow.
“Look, Charlie!,” I called out. The boys love seeing wildlife and you don’t see many white snowshoe hairs because the are white . . . and in the snow. “He just crossed the road! Look to your right!”
“Whoa! That is so cool!,” Charlie exclaimed. “It’s the Easter Bunny, Dad!”
“What? That’s a snowshoe hare, Charlie.”
“It’s the Easter Bunny!!!” Charlie is a full blown nut for Easter and he was beyond delighted to see the rabbit.
This was starting to take on a definite weird air. “I can’t imagine that is the Easter Bunny, buddy,” I reasoned. “Easter was three days ago.”
“Dad,” Charlie said softly in that tone that implies the word is synonymous with “idiot”. “He is obviously doing follow up to see how all the kids are doing with their Easter toys.”
Follow Up. Obviously.
I had mixed emotions. Charlie will be 10 years old tomorrow and I am charmed that he still believes in the Easter Bunny, yet a little concerned that he hasn’t started calling us out yet on the feasibility of a Rabbit delivering eggs and toys. I guess I was a little startled by the fact that he used a presumed desire for a high level of customer service to link a random snowshoe hair to the Easter Bunny.
Charlie still believes. He believes in the Easter Bunny and he believes fiercely in Santa Claus. He has no doubts that a chubby bearded man in red is solely responsible for his Christmas presents. He and his little brother, Eli, are so convinced that they make it easy to explain any gaps my wife and I may inadvertently put in our Santa cover story. Charlie can explain to you the “Sub Santa System” in which Santa, by license, allows organizations to use the Santa Suit and other likenesses to promote the holiday. In exchange for bringing in shoppers and charitable donations, the sub Santas agree, by contract, to forward gift requests and other messages up the chain to the North Pole. It’s win-win. Santa gets gift requests and stores get shoppers.
I explained a stash of presents in the back of the closet one year by telling Charlie and Eli about advance distribution and storage principles and labor issues. I explained to them that Santa was forced to spread the Christmas Eve workload out over the holiday season because the elves joined a union. They used the union to collectively bargain advance staging of presents in homes starting about the middle of November. This forward distribution allows the elves to meet the challenges of a growing Christmas consumer base without working overtime on Christmas Eve.
They bought it. “Wow,” Charlie said. “Santa really knows what he is doing.”
One of the things that distinguishes kids from older people is their willingness to the point of desire to believe wonderful and wondrous things. As parents we love that our children believe. We look at their bright eyes and shiny smiles and we love the joy and happiness that their belief gives them. It is beautiful and it is innocent and it only lasts as long as the outside world allows it.
The irony is that in order for children to keep believing, they eventually have to learn the truth. The truth is that Santa doesn’t bring the toys or negotiate labor contracts and the Easter Bunny doesn’t bring candy and is not that concerned with customer service. The truth is that parents and caring adults supply these things with wondrous cover stories. Why? Because childhood is a time for the wondrous and the incredible. They have the majority of their lives to be adults and deal with reality. By having a brief period when it is ok to believe in Santa Claus, The Easter Bunny and The Tooth Fairy, adults get to at least remember a time when the wondrous was normal. As adults we pay forward the innocent time our parents and other adults gave us to our children. We have to stop believing in the specifics at some point. The trick is to let go of the details and keep believing in the wondrous and pass it on.
My fear is, frankly, that Charlie will mention to his buddies at school that he saw the Easter Bunny crossing our road or in December he will explain the process of elf labor negotiations resulting in advance staging of presents and the bubble will burst. He will learn the truth the hard way from children who probably just learned recently themselves. I am not sure what to do about that. I don’t want his time of innocence to end, but I also don’t want a 23-year-old asking for his wisdom teeth from the dentist so he can put them under his pillow.
Charlie will learn the truth someday . . . but not today. As his parents, it is our job to introduce him to life’s realities while helping him to remember that the world can still be a wondrous place. He will learn soon enough . . . but not today.
Charlie watched the rabbit disappear into the bushes at the edge of the tree line. He sat back with a smile. “So,” I said. “I’m not sure that was the actual Easter Bunny.”
“What do you mean?”
“Well, with the increase in demand for Easter candy delivery The Easter Bunny set up service regions with customer service rabbits . . .”
Thanks for reading and sharing. We’ll see you soon on This Side of The Diaper.