Grown ups are no fun.
We have known this since we ourselves were children.
But it is sometimes impressive to see how great they are at ruining a fun time.
Take the Easter Egg hunt we went to today.
We thought a community Easter Egg Hunt sounded like a fun time, and since entry donations support a local woman’s shelter, we also thought it sounded like a good cause.
The place was packed. Swarming. We were a little surprised. PH had to drop us off and park a klick up the road.
I got Owl registered and we found our way to the section for ages 3-4. I thought it was smart of them to divide it by age group so that big kids wouldn’t be snatching from little babies.
When we got there I discovered that “hunt” was a bit of a misnomer. The playground area had been roped off and little bags of chocolate eggs were strewn willy nilly over every horizontal surface within the small boundaries. I realized it would be less of a hunt and more of a grab-what-you-can. Think of the Cornucopia Blood Bath in The Hunger Games.
I positioned Owl close to the ropes, handed him his basket, and quietly advised him that if he was having trouble getting any candy, he should head up the playground equipment because the kids would probably scramble for the stuff on the ground first.
They started the count down. 10… 9… 8…
When the count go down to “go!” something strange happened.
I had been expecting all the kids to rush in and mob the playground.
Instead, the adults standing around the edge all grabbed their kids’ hands and shuffled in, creating a solid wall that Owl couldn’t get past, and sweeping up all the candy like Roombas so there was nothing left for the kids behind them.
I directed Owl to dodge between a pair of adults and try to get in front so he could actually, you know, hunt for Easter eggs.
He disappeared beyond the wall of adult bodies.
The adults had zombie-shuffled across the entire field, and it was packed with adult and small child bodies. The playground equipment was in complete gridlock, with children wedged into every available space and practically overflowing around the edges. None of them were my son. None of the kids around the base of the equipment were mine. Nor could I see him around the edges of the play area.
Now, I don’t usually worry too much if I lose sight of Owl. I may suffer from anxiety, but I also trust my kid and for the most part I trust other people. Owl knows he’s not supposed to go out of my sight and he isn’t the type to completely disappear. He doesn’t leave the general play area without permission. So when I lose sight of him it’s usually because he’s behind something or under something and simply out of my sight line.
But in this densely packed environment, with adults and kids swarming everywhere, I could see how easy it would be for a child to get snatched.
Each second felt like an eternity as I scanned helplessly for his bright blue sweater and wondered when I should start trying to shout his name over all of the hubbub. You aren’t supposed to go around calling your kid’s name if you lose your kid. It tells potential child snatchers that a child is lost and what his name is. Easy for them to say “are you Owl? Come with me, your mommy is looking for you” and lead them to a van.
But of course my child had not been snatched, I reminded myself. Abductions by strangers are extremely rare – I can’t even find a statistic for it in Canada.
But I grew closer and closer to panic as my eyes swept the area and found no Owl.
“Is that your mommy?” said a voice behind me.
“Mommy!” said Owl happily. I turned and found him in a smiling lady’s arms.
“Thank you!” I told her and hugged Owl. “I couldn’t see you and I was scared!” I told him.
“I didn’t get any eggs,” said Owl sadly, holding out his empty basket. “Let’s go look.”
Locusts could not have done a better job at picking an area clean in a short 5 minute period. There was nothing to be found. Some kids were walking by with full baskets. There were more kids like Owl.
“Did he not get any?” a mother asked me, as Owl ran futilely to an empty wrapper he had spotted on the ground. I shook my head no. Her soon had two bags of eggs, and she suggested he give Owl one which he did without complaint. I patted him on the shoulder and told him what a wonderful kind little boy he was and gave the mother an incredibly grateful glance.
That made Owl happy, of course, although he really wanted to find his own, and not just receive charity eggs. But that was impossible. So we found PH, who was only just returning from parking the car, and then we found the port a potties because Owl had had to pee since before the blast-off.
I got a text from a friend of mine and found her standing around the age 5-7 area, waiting for their go-ahead. Once again it was just a big piece of field roped off in a circle and filled with bags of eggs.
I told my friend and her husband what had happened with Owl’s group.
“I mean, I could see going in with your kid in the 0-2 age group,” I said, “but at 3 and 4 years there’s no reason to help them pick up candy. It’s not like it’s hard.”
“Yeah, that’s crazy,” my friend’s husband agreed. “That’s plenty old enough to do it on their own.”
We didn’t say it out loud, but the unspoken assumption was that this would definitely not be a problem for the 5-7 year olds. I mean, there wasn’t even playground equipment to be climbed. It was just a small grass circle filled with candy.
Guess what happened?
You got it. The adults all swarmed in. My friend’s son, who ran in on his own, found himself actually pushed and shunted aside by the adults around him, all trying to lead their kid to a part of the stash.
Just as I had with Owl, my friend lost all sight of her son as the adults closed in around him. When the field was picked clean, he was nowhere in sight.
They split up to look for him, scanning the entire field. They were on top of the hill and had a good view of the entire area, but they couldn’t see their son. Neither could I.
After about ten minutes, an announcer down at the main tent called out his name and description, and a relieved father ran to get him while my friend sobbed in relief.
Now, this boy is one of my son’s closest friends. Despite being nearly a year older, he plays fantastically with Owl. He is good at sharing, and not quick to anger. He’s a pretty unflappable kid. I have never seen him particularly upset. He’s not clingy either – in fact when he was smaller he nearly gave his mother grey hairs by taking off for the horizon every chance he got.
Even when he was a baby and I would babysit him, a couple of quick tears were all that he would shed when his parents left, and that was the end of it.
Today, he was sobbing his guts out. Owl ran up to him and hugged him and he didn’t even acknowledge his friend. He clung to his father and cried and cried.
“He was actually shaking when I got to him,” his father said. “I’ve never seen him SHAKE.”
Fifteen minutes later he was still inconsolable. His basket was empty but that didn’t seem to bother him. Volunteers came by and tried to pour chocolates into his hands but he didn’t want chocolate. He just wanted to be held. He couldn’t get over the fact that big kids and adults had PUSHED him, and that he had been so thoroughly separated from his parents that they had to be called over a loudspeaker.
“I told the people at the tent that they need to stop adults from going into the ring,” said my friend’s husband. “It’s crazy. It’s bad enough that it happened with the 3 year olds, but I never thought people would do that with the big kids. And they said ‘oh, well, adults aren’t supposed to go in’, but they need to get better signs or actually enforce it because clearly no one knows or cares.”
They ended up taking him home. He had no interest in playing. My friend tells me he remained shaken for the rest of the day, although a long cuddle and a private egg hunt at home helped.
Owl enjoyed a grilled cheese sandwich and danced to some music before we piled him in the car and took him home.
We don’t regret donating to the woman’s shelter, but I don’t think we’ll be going back next year.
Because adults ruin everything.