I think it’s time that we admit that a holiday combining jelly bean- and chocolate-filled baskets with fancy clothing poses a challenge for parents. Unfortunately, I’m a big fan of both Easter candy and Easter clothes. Easter is a big holiday, after all, the biggest in the whole liturgical year, totally deserving of special clothes and candy!
During a long Lent in the midst of uncertain spring weather, Easter appears as a bright spot on the horizon. There’s the promise of a heartfelt alleluia to reward for those somber liturgies focused on repentance.
Also important is that promise of excessive chocolate at the end of fasting and penance, combined with photogenic children in their Easter best.
Last year I unthinkingly allowed my sons to choose their own Easter suits while out shopping. It seemed like a good idea at the time, as there were only a few options, all of which were suitable for Easter Sunday, and, of course, adorable posed photos of the four boys along with their two older sisters in coordinating Easter dresses.
I have to take advantage of them all agreeing to wear the matching clothes for as long as I can. Besides, what’s not to like about light gray? It’s a classic spring color!
OK, here’s one thing not to like about light gray. Chocolate and jelly bean stains show up nicely on light gray. I had this realization before Easter Sunday, so I made plans to keep the Easter basket frenzy separate from getting dressed for Mass.
There would be plenty of time for the kids to find their Easter baskets, rejoice with excitement and even eat some celebratory treats with (or for) breakfast before Easter Sunday Mass.
The suits and dresses would stay in the closet until the last minute, just like my neatly frosted lamb cake would stay tucked away at the back of the counter, partly concealed by the hanging paper towel roll.
The key is planning and preparation. Of course, that’s what Lent tells us. The planning and preparation for Easter make Easter all that much more special. Penance comes before rejoicing. Preparation before celebration. If we do Lent well, we will do Easter well. And if we keep the suits separate from the chocolate, we can focus on enjoying that amazing Easter Sunday Mass.
My plans for Easter sort of worked. That is, the kids were thrilled with their Easter baskets and had time to look over them and enjoy a few treats. But then came the time to put the treats away to focus on getting dressed for Mass, and surprise!
By leaving getting dressed for the last minute, we were suddenly left rushing. The girls took care of themselves and finally the boys were all dressed too, chocolate traces wiped from their faces. All that was left was to put on the toddler’s shoes.
Oh, no. Where were they? One was in the shoebox, but not the match. And suddenly fluorescent green tennis shoes seemed to be a good option. Who looks at a toddler’s shoes on Easter Sunday anyway, especially when they’re busy admiring his light gray suit with plaid shirt and bow tie? Well, no bow tie, he’s refusing to wear that. Oh, well, out the door we go!
Out the door, into the muddy front yard. Mud shows up really well on light gray, I’m sorry to say. Also, light gray suits don’t help kids behave at Mass, even really big important Masses, like Easter Sunday.
Bow ties, it turns out, are pretty fun to whip at an unsuspecting brother. And jelly beans can be easily snuck into suit pockets, apparently.
In the end, Easter isn’t all about our planning and preparation, after all. Whether the kids look and act perfect or are splashed with mud, the church’s celebration of Easter Sunday happens.
If we succeeded brilliantly or failed terribly with our Lenten resolution, Christ’s resurrection still illumines our day and our life. Even though the kids purposely cross their eyes for the photo and the lamb cake is missing an ear, there just is no stopping Easter! And about that, I say, let us rejoice and be glad!
Maria Morrow earned her doctorate in theology from the University of Dayton and is the author of “Sin in the Sixties: Catholics and Confession, 1955-1975.” Morrow currently resides in New Jersey with her husband Jeffrey and their six amazing children.
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