Waking up on Easter morning with everything in its place, I open my eyes to an animated Ian – just what I need at 6 am. Despite that he is almost 15 and starting high school this fall, Ian views life through the lens of a little boy. With incredible enthusiasm, he bounds through the house searching for the plastic eggs hidden in unusual places by the Easter Bunny. Of course this is no challenge for the ‘Hide and Seek Master,’ as he easily locates every egg in record time, and proudly announces, “Wow, Mom, that Easter Bunny is good, but I still found all of them!”
Every colorful egg contains a quarter, maybe two. As if he won the lottery, Ian spills each one onto the floor and counts his loot. I see the wheels turning, and I know exactly what is coming next. Before he even gathers all of the coins, he heads down the hall for his wallet. While walking away, he yells back to me, “Mom, can we go to Target right now so I can buy a toy?” Translation: “Can we drop everything, go to Target, stand in the toy aisle, debate for an hour and spend my $2.50 to buy a toy that really costs $20.” Yes, we are still working on the concept of money. Though he still has an overflowing Easter basket to explore, he is quickly obsessed with the next new, big toy he can buy.
I love the fact that we are still able to pretend that special holiday treats are magically delivered to our house in the middle of the night. I remember when Grace, like all kids around eight, realized that I was secretly playing the roles of Santa and the Easter Bunny. My emotion was a mix of sadness, as this meant my little girl was growing up, and a sense of relief that now we would be able to talk about it. Luckily, I continue to have a Mom’s luxury of being Santa and the Easter Bunny. And an added bonus: Grace has become my accomplice, and together, we assume these fictitious roles for Ian’s joy.
There is no logical way the Easter Bunny could drop off eggs to everyone’s house around the entire world, yet Ian maintains his strong belief that the Bunny will visit and maybe even bring him a Fortnight Battle Pass. The key word here is ‘logical.’ This type of reasoning, that will eventually bring his beliefs into question, is not yet developed for Ian. We assume he is capable of understanding these concepts at some point, but his brain is developing through these stages at a much slower pace.
This notion came to light recently when Grace called me from school one afternoon. I immediately heard the excitement in her voice, as she began to explain how a particular chapter in her Human Development course helped her make sense of much of Ian’s crazy, and often unnerving behavior. As she read from this chapter, I remembered taking that class at UW-Madison more than 30 years ago, yet I had never related it to Ian. He may be able to perform multiplication or understand a complex video game, yet on the flip side, he is not yet in the concrete operational stage. According to Piaget, “between 7-12 years old children enter the “concrete operational stage” of thinking — understanding the world through logical thinking. They are in an observant phase of questioning impossible things.” As a teenager, Ian should be well past this stage, but the reality is he hasn’t even entered it. With the knowledge that his brain prevents him from some of the logical thoughts we wish he had, I hope we are able to have a new way of approaching Ian’s behaviors before quickly becoming angered or frustrated. For instance, when he is unable to keep a secret (as he is not able to think of others’ feelings yet), or when he expects us to be able to build something out of cardboard that is not structurally possible (as he is not yet able to understand the limitations of certain materials). For now, I will enjoy the innocence of this time, knowing eventually he, like Grace, will grow out of it.
The day will most certainly come when someone will try to explain to Ian that the Easter Bunny and Santa are, in fact, make-believe. I guarantee he will likely think they are crazy, or he might say, “They didn’t visit your house because you were naughty.” I have never witnessed any moment of disbelief from Ian, and why would I? In his mind, superheroes exist, and he will fly a Fortnite glider to school, when I buy him one, that is.
I must admit, I love having a teenager who is growing up in many ways, yet still often lives in his world of make-believe. I can easily picture him asking to apply for the Easter Bunny job when he grows up, so he can perform the job better than the current magical character (a.k.a. me/Mom). I know for sure he would add a lot more junk food to the basket. And I also know that it would not be out of the realm of possibilities to ensure a delivery of a hot, delicious Big Nastys to every household on Easter (or any holiday imaginable)!
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