There will be no Easter egg hunt in Colorado Springs’ historic Bancroft Park this year, according to USA Today. The cancellation is due to what the newspaper calls “helicopter parents” jumping last year’s rope line to ensure their tots pocketed eggs.
Following the Seven Commandments of a Civil Easter Egg Hunt will ensure you don’t join the ranks of parental offenders.
1. Thou Shalt Not Help Thine Child Find Eggs
In 1993, a PBS investigation found that Wild America host Marty Stouffer had staged scenes, including tethering a bunny so that he could film it being killed by a raccoon. There are a couple ways in which this is relevant to your Easter egg hunt. First, you should not chain bunnies — Easter or otherwise — to things regardless of proximity to holidays and/or presence of predators; second, by managing a situation, you take away its authenticity. If you steer your child to eggs, it will always be you and not your child who found them. If you absolutely must enter the field of battle (and are expressly permitted by hunt officials to do so), enter only with a camera to document the natural history of the event and/or to aid in keeping your child upright, rather than to affect the course of egg-finding events themselves.
2. If Thou Beest an Organizer, Thou Shalt Hide Eggs Well
One factor cited in the USA Today article describing the Great Colorado Springs Egg Riot of 2011 is the fact that organizers roped off a square section of open ground and then scattered the grass willy-nilly with eggs. Have you seen what happens when you throw a handful of seed among pigeons or, maybe more appropriately, a cow into the Orinoco River? In Colorado Springs and other short-grass, open-field hunts, it’s less about “searching” for eggs than it is about tripping, elbowing or biting the competition in a mad dash for obvious eggs that’s certain to be over in two minutes — the time it takes piranhas to strip a cow in the above-mentioned river. A little ova obfuscation makes the competition a “hunt” instead of a “race,” releasing time pressure and thus decreasing the bloodlust of egg-crazed parents who tend to approach a field of obvious eggs in the same way Mel Gibson approached the English in the movie Braveheart.
3. Thou Shalt Practice Beforehand
Imagine you’re standing in a crowd, wearing your best slacks or an Easter dress (it’s your imagination, so the choice is up to you). Parents and grandparents are hiding in the year’s first tulips with long lenses pointed at you like machine gun nests on the beaches of Normandy. Then a guy on a ladder fires a gun and the crowd makes a break for it. If you’re not among the 17.6 percent of kids who take an immediate nosedive and are trampled, you run for your life — run out into a field where you’ve been told, despite the obvious affront to the laws of nature, that a rabbit has laid eggs. You know there’s something you’re supposed to do, but what exactly that something is escapes you. It’s time to cry.
Instead, practice a couple mock starts at your house the day before or, better yet, early on Easter morning. When the event is upon you and yours, a little comfort borne of familiarity will go a long way.
4. Thou Shalt Not Feed Thine Child Sugar Before the Event
First the Book of Ecclesiastes and then Pete Seeger and eventually The Byrds understood that “to everything there is a season, and a time to every purpose under heaven.” The general idea is valuable, and even the most secular Easter egg hunters should consider the following line to be gospel: “A time to be born, and a time to die; a time to plant, a time to reap that which is planted; a time to feed your kid sugar, and a time to stomach pump even the hint of sweetness from your young child’s mouth” (turn, turn, turn…).
Second only to Halloween, Easter is a holiday predicated on altered states of consciousness borne of cane sugar. You know it will happen and you know, like Axl Rose and Lindsay Lohan, that what goes up must come down. Don’t let your child come down to find him or herself magically and horrifically planted in the midst of the scene described in Commandment No. 3.
A corollary to this law is that you should adequately feed, water and pee your child before the lineup.
5. Thou Shalt Work to Diffuse Firecracker Parents in the Starting Gate
At the 2009 Breeders’ Cup, the horse Quality Road didn’t like the gate — on YouTube, you can watch as he refuses to go in, then tries to buck off his rider and kick the trainers. Even after blindfolding, the horse has the look of an animal that, if the gate were opened, would run blind down the track and kill himself and likely others. You know the look. It’s the look of an Easter egg hunt parent who’s given him or herself over to the seriousness of the event — perhaps is irrationally controlled by the idea that their child’s egg(s) can fill an empty piece of their own past or that said eggs will pave their child’s road to Harvard and a confident adult persona. Whatever the case, it’s your job to diffuse this parent. Caution: Don’t directly impugn the event, parent or child, lest you become the target of the Easter egg hunt’s particular brand of berserker rage.
6. Thou Shalt Set a Reasonable Egg Limit
Like the mercy rule in youth soccer that either ends the game or imposes restrictive goal-scoring rules on a dominant team ahead by 10-ish goals, if your 4-year-old is shaving, don’t let him (or her) bogart the eggs. Count the kids, guesstimate the number of eggs; divide eggs by kids and add one (or two). That’s your kid’s egg limit. Upon reaching this limit, consider asking your preternaturally talented egg sleuth to recuse him/herself from the field of battle or to re-hide a couple eggs in spots where less-gifted sleuths can find them.
7. Thou Shalt Not Take the Event, Your Child, Nor Yourself at the Event Too Seriously
Easter is a traditional time of rebirth — of flowers and bluebirds and bunnies and pastel shirts that no self-respecting adult should wear any other day of the year. It’s a time of optimism and growth. OK, it’s also traditionally a time of bloody sacrifice, but that’s a bit counter to the point. The point is this: Have a good time and don’t get so stuck on your idea of what a good time needs to look like. Seen through a kids’ eyes, Easter is simply fun and an Easter egg hunt is about the joy of discovering the impossible. And if your kid doesn’t get an egg? Nuts. She’ll get one next year. (Between now and then, you have 365 days to practice chanting “Kill! Kill! Kill!” while doing zig-zag running drills in the park.)