My son is scared of the Easter Bunny. Terrified, to be more exact.
It all started on the first day back to pre-school after CC's Spring Break. Let me paint the scene. Here was a class full of toddlers who had just returned from about 12 days spent at home. Mondays are often emotional for little kids because they settle in to life at home by the end of every weekend. Just imagine what a week-long vacation does! His beloved teacher, Miss A. was also out on vacation abroad so the teacher the kids were left with was a substitute.
As a rule, kids aren't super flexible. Even the smallest change to their routine can result in meltdown - so I would categorize this situation as a toddler powder keg. It also happened to be the school's annual Spring Celebration so their anxieties were about to be soothed with games, treats, and special activities. Maybe, I thought, CC's first day back to school will go alright after all.
And it may, in fact, HAVE gone alright, until the staff decided to introduce a stranger in a bunny costume to the mix. The story I was told about CC's reaction to his very first mascot costume character was heartbreaking. They told me that all of the kids ran screaming from the bunny to hide behind their teacher's legs, but CC seemed especially upset and was actually shaking and chattering with fear.
Needless to say he was a total wreck when I picked him up. He talked about the Easter Bunny all afternoon and cried at bedtime, telling me that the Bunny was going to get him and was waiting outside his window. He woke up screaming with nightmares multiple times the first night and off and on again for many nights after that. Every day when we went to school it was the same thing.
"The Bunny, Mama. The Easter Bunny get me."
And then Easter came. We had to warn everyone in our family not to bring up "You Know Who" which was pretty tough because everyone we ran into wanted to ask CC if he was excited to get a visit from him! Even strangers at the grocery store would chime in, telling CC how the Bunny was coming to his house and asking him what did he think of that?
I'll give you three guesses as to what it was he thought.
Luckily, CC didn't seem to associate the Easter Bunny with Easter itself and was pleasantly surprised by the actual holiday. He was thrilled with his basket of treats and had a blast hunting for eggs with his cousin. In a strange twist, Easter was a big hit and he has ALSO been going on and on about how much he loves eggs and baskets ever since. It's pretty much his favorite holiday.
You know, except for the whole evil murderous bunny thing.
So, would you believe that even after months and months the poor kid still brings this up? Like, all the time?
Just the other night we were snuggling up for bedtime when he told me the Bunny was at his window again.
"I scared, Mama. The Easter Bunny, Mama."
I launched into my usual routine of explaining that the Easter Bunny was certainly not outside his window and could not hurt him or get him. I told him there was no Easter Bunny here and that he was safe.
He nodded, but I could see the look of worry on his face. He was staring into space and nodding, his little brow furrowed. I know how that look feels. It's the look I get when I want to believe something someone is telling my but my gut disagrees. It dawned on me then that he wasn't just talking about a costumed stranger. He was scared of the boogeyman - of the world outside of our cozy little home where there were very real things (and people) who could hurt him.
The concept of danger and consequences is a relatively new discovery for CC. He's always been a bold and daring child. Only recently has he taken time to stop and consider getting hurt before launching his body wherever it wants to go.
While he is still a very friendly child he's now run into adults that scare him, make him uncomfortable, or even behave inappropriately - like the old bearded grandpa-type who thought it would be funny to growl and bark at him while he ran from Mommy at the zoo, or the not-so-great replacement teacher at school whose high anxiety level and motormouth caused him to come home every day in a frenzy.
CC is discovering that not everyone he meets wants to be his friend, nor are they all people that HE would like to be friends with.
As for me, the dangers of the world and how they relate to my tiny precious child have been my constant companion for a very long time now. Before I ever even considered becoming a mother the idea of being responsible for someone so small was scary. Once he was here I could see how easy it would be to slip into a cloud of anxiety and never come out. I'd never loved anyone so much in my life, so I'd never been so vulnerable.
Lately the mama-fear has been pressing me harder than usual as we prepare for CC to have a small surgery sometime in the next month or two. My baby is sick, and even though all of the odds and statistics and general medical wisdom point to him coming through the whole experience completely unscathed it is difficult for me to not become consumed by fear.
Many things have changed since I became a parent, but nothing is more altering than the knowledge that I can not live without him. He's as much a part of me as my beating heart and my fear of him being hurt or lost is the only thing that surpasses my fear of failing to do the right thing as his Mama.
So when he was cuddled up to me, whispering his fear about the big bad world outside I held him close. I promised to protect him and keep him safe and to love him forever and ever. I saw his face soften and his body relax as he looked at me and said, "OK, Mommy."
I breathed in and out, my nose in his hair, taking in the smell of his hot little head and the warmth of his soft little body in my arms. I reminded myself that he's right here and that he's OK, and at least for a little while even my Boogeyman kept his distance.
How do you help your kids cope with their fears? How do you manage your own? Comments below, s'il vous plaît.