Here is one of our family's favorite photos from Easters long ago. That's my youngest son on the left, snuggled into his Daddy's side--screaming with joy, his gaping mouth chocolate-stained. Sons #3 (middle) and #4 (right) are looking on, sharing this priceless holiday moment with their baby brother.My middle son is holding up proof that the Easter Bunny exists and has visited our house: a hollow milk chocolate bunny (which, picky eater that he was, happened to be one of his top ten favorite food items at that point in his life). My baby and my fourth son are apparently having a contest to see who can open his mouth the widest. With five boys, everything was a competition in our household.
Son #5 was just over a year old in this picture, which means that he hadn't yet fully grasped the concept of the Easter Bunny. At this point, he was merely feeding off the excitement around him. And with four older brothers aged six through ten, there was plenty of excitement to go around. But about three Easters later, this little blond cutie would put the kibosh on all the Easter Bunny hoopla once and for all by announcing with utmost seriousness: "There's no bunny. It's just a man in a bunny suit." Sorry, Charlie. He just wasn't buying it. He was not some rube who just fell off the turnip truck. Santa Claus? Sure. He's an actual person, and he has the help of those magical flying reindeer who land his sleigh on the roof so that he can slip down the chimney. It could happen. But the Easter Bunny? A furry little animal hopping around, carrying baskets of candy to every house in the world? How many could he carry in his mouth at a time? One, maybe? Give me a break. (Apparently, my son was more comfortable with the notion of some creepy guy sneaking into our house in an Easter Bunny costume!)
Try as they might, the older boys could not convince my baby, once he reached the advanced age of four or five, that the Easter Bunny was real. By that age, they couldn't convince him to go and see the latest blockbuster Disney or Pixar film with them, either. When he was one and two, "Lion King" was his life, and the VHS tape we owned almost wore out from overuse; but a mere three or four years later, he thought only babies watched animated films--and when the latest one came out in theaters, he refused to go. He was sure that his brothers were only humoring him, pretending to want to see it for his sake. They had about as much success convincing him that they actually liked Disney movies as they did convincing him that the Easter Bunny was not just some random dude in a bunny suit! And the funny thing is, they really did like animated films--in fact, to this day, they like them. When "Lion King" was re-released recently in 3D, most of my baby's older brothers, now in their 20's, went to see it in theaters. (Moreover, son #2, who is 27, owns an extensive collection of kid-friendly DVD's and counts "Aladdin," "Happy Feet," and "How to Train Your Dragon" among his all-time favorite movies!)
I guess my baby has always been an "old soul." My first four sons came along bing-bing-bing-bing--four in four years--and then he was born five whole years after son #4. He was always trying to "catch up" with the big boys. When he was very young, people used to comment that he seemed like a little old man in a child's body. It was very sweet, yet sometimes heartbreaking, to see him trying to leave behind the trappings of babyhood in a hurry so that he could be just like his older brothers.
What my youngest son didn't understand back in his early childhood days was that those brothers he looked up to with such awe and admiration were just a bunch of big kids themselves. And now, at 19, he's a big kid, too. Because in order to be like his brothers, one must have a Peter Pan-like quality and be a die hard fan of Disney/Pixar animation. And he is: when "Lion King" came out in 3D, he wouldn't have missed it for the world! I guess my baby boy is growing up.
Could that mean that he's finally going to start believing in the Easter Bunny?