Eggactly what are we teaching our children here?
Easter is coming and, here in the South, that still means new dresses, fancy hats, and Easter egg hunts. These days, most egg hunts involve hundreds of plastic eggs full of sugar-laden treats. I'm probably going to sound like some grumpy spinster aunt, but, as someone who has fought the "battle of the bulge" pretty much all my adult life, I just have to pose this question: What, exactly, are we teaching our children about good self-care, when it seems every major holiday includes massive amounts of sugar?
Halloween is a given, although one could hand out stickers or fun pencils or baseball cards or stuffed toy bats! (I love bats! You should too! Hang up a bat house! Support these flying mosquito-munching critters!) But I digress . . .
Easter, "back in the day" as they say, used to include a wonderfully smelly, messy activity known as, "dying eggs." Real eggs. Adults would boil dozens of eggs in large vats of water and then children would eagerly inhale the rank smell of vinegar as the brightly colored dyes swirled in individual tea cups so the colors stayed pure.
Year by year, one grew from a clumsy egg-dying 4-year old novice to an 8-year-old expert. Ten and above, you were a supervising dye master for the youngsters. The novice egg-dyers typically ended up with dark circles on one side of their eggs, where they had let the egg sit on the bottom of the cup, or in a spoon, for too long on one side. As one progressed in skill, the eggs took on the finesse of uniformity in their coloring.
On Easter Sunday, after church, adults took a basket of rainbow eggs and hid them. If the weather was nice, the egg hunts took place outside. If it was rainy or snowy, egg hunts were never cancelled - you just hid them behind the sofa, in the coffee can, behind the faucet and the one TV in that huge console that took up an entire wall in the den.
And everyone, for the week following Easter, ate odd-colored egg salad sandwiches and nobody got salmonella or e-coli or anything. We giggled as green and purple bits of egg whites smooshed out of the edges of our Bunny Bread white bread sandwiches. And all was right with the world.
These days, plastic eggs have replaced the vast majority of hard-boiled eggs. And nobody wants to find an empty plastic egg, so the eggs are typically filled with candy. Lots of candy. I hear adults these days say, "it's tradition" to put candy in plastic eggs. They don't want to disappoint the children of today.
But think about this: today's children are tomorrow's adults. My generation is the first generation of Americans to have to deal with rampant obesity, morbid obesity, diabetes, heart disease, and many other health issues that are all related to an overconsumption of sugar.
Fast food. Processed food. Commercially preserved food. And "Big Food" selling us a ticket to an early grave by pushing sugar in every possible form on every possible front. Including holidays and candy-filled eggs.
Struggling against the modern trends and fighting to regain one's health and fitness is a huge battle for folks of my generation. Our bodies have become addicted to sugar and so have we as a society.
Don't our children deserve BETTER? Shouldn't we be fighting Big Food to stop the excess consumption of processed sugar and help our children understand how to fuel their bodies in ways to increase their health and wellness and vitality for their entire lives?
Habits learned in childhood are especially challenging to change, so it is vital to, as the song says, "Teach your children well . . ."
So I encourage you to support a local farmer and go buy a few dozen real eggs. Locally produced white eggs dye up beautifully. Brown eggs will dye up too, just with fascinating color combinations. And some folks decorate brown (or white) eggs with stickers and other fun things. You'll have a blast with your children boiling the eggs and dying and decorating them. Consider it an afternoon for "old school" parenting or "vintage" activities. In short, it's FUN.
If you just haaaave to use plastic eggs, here's an idea that my brilliant sister, Frankie Holt, came up with for this year's family egg hunt: put a coin in each plastic egg and a dollar bill in the "golden" egg(s). This gives the children fun treasures to find and - bonus - provides an entry into great teaching moments about money, resources, saving, spending, and stewardship, including giving to others. Talk about a "win-win!"