When it made news that a Colorado town cancelled an annual Easter egg hunt due to aggressive parents, I understood. Parental misbehavior the year before made organizers cancel the event, normally attended by hundreds of children and parents, after parents could not stay out of the children-only area to make sure they secured an egg for their own child. I understood because this was exactly what we experienced at the Holbrook-Palmer egg hunt in Atherton when our daughter was a tiny toddler.
We picked the egg hunt at Holbrook-Palmer Park when our daughter was young because we thought it would be tame. It’s in tony Atherton, it’s put on by The Atherton Dames, and it’s not free – the cost is $10 per person. Other towns nearby had their own Easter events, and we expected those to be crowded because they were free, which pushed us toward the Atherton hunt for our daughter’s first egg hunt. Everything seemed fine as we stood by the area for children under either age two or three, with our tiny girl wearing a fancy dress, holding a basket nearly twice her size. This was the only section where one adult was allowed to accompany each child. The areas for older kids were strictly kids only. Still, we had no concerns, as one of the organizers explained to all that there was a 10 egg per child maximum, and if eggs remained – and based on the numbers, there would be extras – the children were to return to the other side of the line, and once everyone had their 10, the hunt would restart for the remaining eggs.
We were relaxed and trusting until the rope line was dropped. That’s when people went bonkers. Everyone ran. Not one parent or grandparent stayed behind, and older siblings who were too greedy to go to their own section, ran into the toddler section, scooping up as many eggs as they could. It appeared that each toddler went in with a team.
We were naive. Like everyone else, we saw plenty of eggs, but we gently prodded our new walker toward them, only to have them grabbed from right in front of her by older kids, or worse – parents. I wanted to blow my top. My husband found a hidden egg, away from the crowd, and he called out to our daughter, when an adult man reached down and grabbed it. We looked at him incredulously, but we didn’t want to cause a scene, plus, we were still naive and thought it would work out. We thought an organizer would call out the kids with overflowing baskets, but no one did.
Next, a five year old boy grabbed an egg our daughter was picking up. It was in her hand, but he took it. His mom watched the entire thing, and when I said, “That was hers and she has none.” The mom weakly said to her son, “Do you have more than 10?” She started to count, but she stopped at nine, when it was clear he had nearly 20 eggs. The boy walked off and the mom followed. It’s one of those moments when you understand why fights break out at these events. Again, we said nothing, expecting help.
We were stupid.
We left soon after with not a single egg, but an overflowing reservoir of resentment. The egg patch was cleared out in minutes, to a fantastic meley with the worst sorts of parenting and behavior on display. We’ve never gone back.
The next two years we held our own egg hunt, inviting friends over the week before Easter to scour our backyard for eggs. After three years, we finally tried another public egg hunt, this one held by the Redwood City Mothers Club. While not as fancy as Holbrook-Palmer, they enforced the egg limit, and encouraged parents to take a step back. It actually worked, and my kids enjoyed it.
I hope the brave decision in Colorado sends a message to parents, but it will probably be ignored. Agressive parents who break the rules and allow their children to do so, especially when the stakes are pretty meaningless, not only ruin egg hunts, but they’re ruining their children too. It’s a plastic egg with a cheap chocolate inside. Keep things in perspective this weekend.