An Easter Bunny All Moms Can Get Behind
April 15, 2014 § Leave a comment
When JP was three years old, and I went from working full time to staying home full time, these were the thoughts that kept me up at night: What will happen when my children see me as “just a mom” instead of as a mom and a professional? Will they respect the work I do? Will they think of it with the same importance that they bestow upon their father, when he leaves for the office every morning? Will they grow up believing that women aren’t capable of the same career success as men—or entitled to make the same sacrifices, reap the same compensation for comparable work? Will I be a role model for them or merely someone whom they take for granted?
In the past four years, I have largely reconciled my angst around these questions. I’m keenly aware that even to have the choice to stay home is a luxury not afforded to all—and one that could abruptly end for me someday. The work that I do every day on behalf of my kids, my husband, and our house makes all of us happy. But I’m also aware that when I did work 9-5, the time that I made for my (at the time only) child was quality, focused time. I got down on the floor and played with my son more than I probably do today, when too often I’m in the kitchen or chatting to other moms on the sidelines of playdates. I think about my own mom, who was around every single day, and how out-of-this-world excited I got when my dad’s car pulled into the driveway at night. There is perhaps some inevitability in taking for granted quantity and romanticizing quality.
But perhaps at no time do I feel greater validation as a mother—stay-at-home or not—than when I take out The Country Bunny and the Little Gold Shoes (Ages 4-10) and read Du Bose Heyward’s 1939 classic to my kids each Easter season. As much as the story is a celebration of traditional motherhood, it is also one of the earliest feminist tales—for a simple mother bunny outwits her bigger, stronger, prouder, and more handsome male competitors to earn the coveted position of fifth Easter Bunny. Although Mother Bunny initially believes that motherhood has trumped her ability to compete (“now she was nothing but an old mother bunny”), it is precisely her resourcefulness and creativity used in managing a thriving household of 21 little Cottontail bunnies that wins over Grandfather Bunny, master of ceremonies at The Palace of Easter Eggs. If successful parenting can be defined as rendering yourself superfluous so that your children can someday thrive in the world without you, then Mother Bunny can teach us all a thing or two. She gets her young bunnies to sweep and make their beds and do the gardening and cook dinner—all with good cheer and singing and dancing to boot!
The long story, dotted with softly shaded pastels by the lovely Marjorie Flack, can easily be broken up into two sittings (if your children will allow it—mine will not). There are essentially two dramatic arcs. The first comes when Mother Bunny stands with her 21 bunnies at the choosing ceremony and proves Grandfather Bunny mistaken in his assumptions about the ways in which motherhood has held her back. (You think I’ve had “no time to run and grow swift?” Just watch me release my children onto the Palace lawn and then round them up again in a matter of seconds!) But the dramatic tension really escalates on Easter Eve, when Mother Bunny, already exhausted from the evening’s work of delivering eggs, is given the dangerous task of bringing one last egg to a sick boy at the top of a treacherous mountain peak. My children can scarcely turn their heads away from Mother Bunny’s terror and failure as she trips repeatedly, rolling down the side of the snowy mountain and getting up again—all the time picturing a little boy whom she does not want to disappoint. Even the bravest of souls knows when to accept a little help, so when Grandfather Bunny appears with a magical pair of little gold shoes, she doesn’t hesitate to put them on and soar directly up the mountain to the sleeping boy’s cottage. What’s ultimately most compelling about Mother Bunny is that her generosity extends beyond her own family into the world beyond.
Perhaps a part of me hopes that my children might recognize even a tiny glimpse of me (on my best days) in Mother Bunny—of the good intentions behind my desire to include them in household chores; of my continued attempts at cleverness in getting them out the door; of my fervent desire to try a little harder every day. But I also hope that they might see in themselves the mother or father that they might someday become—when they too have the chance to parent with their own combination of wisdom, kindness, swiftness, and bravery. Whatever that looks like.
Other Favorites About the Easter Bunny:
Here Comes the Easter Cat! by Deborah Underwood (Ages 3-5)
The Story of the Easter Bunny, by Katherine Tegen & Sally Anne Lambert (Ages 4-7)
The Easter Egg by Jan Brett (Ages 4-7)