Today a friend invited Emerald and me and some other little pals and their mamas over for an indoor Easter egg hunt. The hostess had spent days hiding plastic eggs for her two year old son over and over again, and she thought that our little people would enjoy it, too.
She was right.
They were all so adorable, carrying their baskets and buckets, searching for eggs that were sitting in totally obvious places, yet still missing them somehow. So, all of the mamas made a big thing of loudly whispering clues (or just pointing directly at eggs) to help the kids find them all.
Once they had collected every egg in the house, they all sat down with their treasure troves of Easter surprises and began opening each plastic egg to see what was inside. The mama who provided and hid the eggs had filled some of them with prizes or candy, but some of the eggs she had left empty. Emerald began digging through her bucket, pulling out eggs of different colors and sizes. If she opened one that had candy or a toy inside, she was thrilled. And, if she opened one that was empty, she was just as excited. She would turn it over the way a poor man turns out his pockets to prove he has no money, and she would say, “All gone!”
I think we could’ve hid those half empty eggs ten more times and they would’ve all been perfectly entertained for the rest of the afternoon. The wise mother who had invited us all over knew an important fact about small children: the joy of an egg hunt is really in the hunt itself, not in the prize.
Sure, it’s nice when the hunt is over and you have tons of candy to eat. It’s neat when you win cute prizes. But, the experience and the fun that you remember is the actual searching for the eggs, not the candy eating.
As I watched Emerald open her empty eggs, I wondered if maybe we mothers could learn a thing or two from our little Easter egg hunters. What if we stopped focusing so much on the “prize?” What if we quit feeling like failures when our kids mess up? What if we didn’t base our worth as mothers on how our kids grow up to behave or how many As they make? What if we didn’t decide that we aren’t enough unless we’re staying home? Or unless we’re working?
What if we just experience the joy of being with our kids for the short time that we have them? Without pouting over a moment that feels a little empty, like Emerald’s eggs? Imagine how our lives would be different, and how our kids’ lives would be different, if we just put the bad moments behind us with a little shrug and an “all gone!” And moved forward with anticipation of what the next moment will hold, and even more, excitement about just the experience of living through each little surprise, both the good and the bad, with our favorite people in the world (even if they are sometimes the source of the bad surprises).
Because we may be mothers forever, but we can’t mother our children forever.
Someday Emerald will outgrow Easter egg hunting. And, someday my kids will outgrow my current brand of mothering. But, I am determined that, like Emerald, I will focus on the joy and fun and excitement of the experience. I don’t want to get bogged down with my sometimes unrealistic ideas of the prizes of motherhood.
Empty egg moments will come. But, they don’t have to devastate us. We can face a whole bucketful as long as we remember that the real joy is in the day in, day out experience of living life with our children. And sometimes we will amazingly find a great golden prize egg right smack in the middle of a regular day of motherhood. And, we can rejoice for a moment before getting back to the real business of being a mama.
That’s where the real fun is.