Easter is right around the corner, and suddenly my Facebook feed is full of little kids sitting on the laps of adults wearing rabbit costumes, otherwise known as the Easter Bunny. The images are often adorable: kids all dressed up, smiling those little-kid smiles, with seasonal backdrops behind them. Visiting the Easter Bunny, and taking pictures with him has, for many families, become a tradition just as important as visiting Santa Claus in December. In my family, however, that’s just never going to happen. My partner and I will never, ever, force him to sit on the Easter Bunny’s lap, and there’s one huge reason for that. We believe in bodily autonomy. We believe teaching our son consent, and respecting his ownership over his own body, is a million times more important than any cutesy photo opportunity.
I’m not sure when the grand tradition of adults dressing as holiday characters began, but it’s become a pretty big deal. Obviously the biggest one is Santa Claus, but it permeates into other major American holidays as well. Many parents consider stories like that of Santa and the Easter Bunny to be part of the magic and whimsy of childhood, and worry that these moments are a quintessential part of being a kid that children shouldn’t have to “miss out” on. To be perfectly honest, I think that’s a load of crap.
If I’m not going to make him sit on a relative’s lap, why in the world would I force him to sit on a stranger’s?
My kid may be very young still, but I respect him as an autonomous human being. Respecting him means a few things to me. First of all, I tell him the truth. I’m not opposed to make believe, but I’m sure as hell not going to pretend that make believe stories are true just because it’s “magical” that small children trust their parents and therefore believe them when they spin tales. That includes the Easter Bunny. Sorry kid, but I believe that the Easter Bunny is an ancient pagan myth that’s been appropriated for the service of commercializing a Christian holiday. There is no one sneaking into your home to leave you a basket full of goodies, and there’s no one hiding eggs for you to find except maybe your enthusiastic grandparents. I’m not opposed to fun, I just don’t think you have to lie to your kids to have fun with them.
Respecting him also means that unless it is absolutely necessary (read: diaper changes!), I let him decide when and how he wants to have physical contact with other people. Even with us, his parents, and yes, even other people in ridiculous costumes! If he doesn’t want to sit on someone’s lap (or give someone a hug, or be kissed by someone, or whatever it happens to be) he never has to, and I will fight anyone who tries to tell him otherwise. Learning that he has the right to control what happens to his own body (and other people, theirs) is so important for his emotional development. But he can’t learn that if I’m making exceptions to our bodily autonomy rules for the freaking Easter Bunny. If I’m not going to make him sit on a relative’s lap, why in the world would I force him to sit on a stranger’s?
Growing up, I was a painfully shy kid who suffered extreme anxiety about meeting new people. It was especially stressful for me in high pressure situations, and meeting the Easter Bunny definitely qualified as high pressure for me. There were very few things that felt worse than being a tiny little kid, being scared and freaked out, and being told to just “get over it.”
And that is exactly what it often amounts to. I’ve seen it. Maybe the parents bundled the kids up to get the cute picture to share with the grandparents. Or maybe the kids were excited about meeting the Easter Bunny when they got in line, but got cold feet when they got to the front of it. Either way, I feel like there’s a whole lot of parents goading, guilting, and yes, forcing, children to climb into a bunny’s lap going on. And I’m just absolutely, positively, 100 percent not OK with that. Not now, and likely, not ever.
It hits particularly close to home for me, because of my personal experiences. Growing up, I was a painfully shy kid who suffered extreme anxiety about meeting new people. It was especially stressful for me in high pressure situations, and meeting the Easter Bunny definitely qualified as high pressure for me. There were very few things that felt worse than being a tiny little kid, being scared and freaked out, and being told to just “get over it.” I likely won’t ever get over that, and I refuse to put my child through that.
If, when my child is older, he asked to go meet the Easter Bunny, I’ll probably take him. And if he decides he doesn’t want to sit on the Bunny’s lap, that’s cool; he doesn’t have to! In the meantime, we’re skipping the Easter Bunny altogether. As an added bonus, there is no line for sitting at home and eating candy.