Never have I regretted words like I regret telling Sophia that there is an Easter Bunny.
Maybe it’s because I wanted Kevin’s traditions represented in the household as well as mine. Perhaps I didn’t want Sophie to be denied the pleasures of an Easter Basket that I had as a child. Or maybe I’m just as easily caught up in the sweeping wave of consumerism that accompanies every holiday in this country as much as the next person. But I went to Target and I got the makings of an Easter basket.
Nothing crazy. A felt bucket decorated with Sophie’s power animal, a monkey, wearing a pink dress. I filled it with gardening tools, seeds, and gloves. The only candy it contained was a couple of naturally flavored and colored (Kosher) jelly beans from Trader Joes.
Then, just before sending her off to bed, I said, “When you go to sleep tonight, the Easter Bunny is going to stop by and bring you a basket. It will be here when you wake up.”
Sophie seemed pleased, went to bed without incident, and Kevin and I retired to the attic to watch a movie. Not long into it, I heard screams emanating from below.
I flew down the steps, popped open her bedroom door. Sophie was standing up in her crib, holding herself, sobbing, “I’ve got to go to the bathroom, Mommy!” I scooped her up, hopeful that we would not have an incident like the last time she cried out for me in the middle of the night, when she blazed a trail of urine from her crib to the toilet.
Thankfully, she held it and went to the bathroom, but when I put her back to bed, she protested. “No, Sophia. It’s time to go to sleep,” I whispered, and headed back upstairs.
Not much later, I heard her cry out again, “Mommy, bathroom!” Kevin raised his eyebrows at me. I knew that there was very little chance that she actually had to go. But I was willing to give her one chance before I moved to “planned ignoring” of her pleas.
I walked into her darkened room and warned her, “Sophia, you better squeeze something out into that toilet.” And she managed to, though it did look effortful. When she finished, I warned her: “Okay, Sophia. This was the last time. Now you need to close your eyes, rub your Snakey Pie and go to sleep.”
Less than a half an hour later she called out, “Daddy, daddy, Daddy!” At least she knew not to call for me. Kevin looked at me. She quickly escalated to full-scale bawling. “Just one more book! I need one more book!” came her cries. Kevin said he would go down, say that she was to go to sleep and not call out again. Because this behavior is so rare now, I found myself really rattled by her cries. They hurt, like when she was an infant. I stood on the stairs, listening to him, and then her, begging and sobbing. He closed the door on her and seemed satisfied.
But now I was on hyper alert. I could no longer focus on the film. My ears strained for her cries.
“I have to get the monitor,” I told Kevin,
“You have to?”
“Yes, I’m straining to listen for her. Being able to hear will help me relax.”
“Okay, if that’s what you need to relax, go get it.” He turned off the movie we were watching and channel surfed while I fetched the monitor from the kitchen. I set the monitor to voice activated and re-joined him on the couch.
A few seconds later, the wailing started up again.
“Do we have to listen to that?” Kevin asked, irritated. He didn’t see the point in it, if we weren’t going to respond. It was interrupting his ability to focus, his ability to relax. I felt torn. I knew what I was feeling was irrational, but I needed to know when she calmed down and feel asleep. I needed to know when I could stop listening. I turned down the monitor. Her muffled cries continued to distract us.
Then, suddenly, there was a slight rattling sound and it got quiet.
“See? She finally exhausted herself and went to sleep.” Kevin said, rubbing my shoulders. I had a brief flash—perhaps I should check on her? But the part of me that was relieved that she had stopped crying, that I could finally chill out and enjoy the rest of the evening with my husband overrode the impulse.
An hour later, we descended the stairs. The second floor looked like a crime scene. Sophia’s door was open, a chair was positioned under the light switch and the light turned on. We walked in. Sophia was no where to be seen. Her crib tent was unzipped and the crib was empty. “Sophia?” I called?
I was vaguely worried. Though all of the evidence pointed to the fact that she had escaped, the Lindberg case popped into my head: the missing child, no one heard a thing, the ladder up to the room. “SOPHIA?” I called, louder this time.
Still no answer.
Kevin and I padded down the stairs to the living room. And there she was, sitting on the couch, sucking her thumb and rubbing Snakey Pie, not doing anything. When she spotted us she announced, “I’m waiting for the Easter Bunny.”
A pox on the Easter Bunny! Perhaps this is why Jews don’t worship idols.
“Sophia,” I began the series of lies parents tell their children that the seminal lie of the Easter Bunny begets, “he doesn’t come if you’re awake.”
“I am going to stay up ALL NIGHT!” three year old Sophie announced.
“Well, we’re going to bed,” I told her.
“I will stay right here. Daddy you can sleep there,” she said, indicating the easy chair in the corner. “And Mommy, you can sleep in your chair,” she added, pointing to the overstuffed chair-and-a-half.
“No, Sophia. We are all going to sleep, IN our beds.”
“No No NO!” It was about this time I considered telling her there was no Easter Bunny. It was all a hoax. Kevin read my expression and mouthed, “Don’t you dare.”
Kevin started to reason with her, in his calm, psychologist way. But I could see she was beyond the point of reason. “This is going to end right now,” I announced. “You’re going to bed,” and I picked her up in the way that always manages to wrench my back and carried her upstairs.
I put her in the crib, zipped up the tent, said goodnight, and shut the door.
But now that she had figured out how to get out, there was no keeping her in. Thirty seconds later, she appeared on the stairwell. “I think we need to put her in the bed. There’s no point to keeping her in the crib now. She’ll only hurt herself trying to escape.”
“NO! I can’t handle the bed. I CAN’T HANDLE THE BED!!!” Sophia objected. Amid her protests, Kevin dragged the mattress out of her crib, plopped it in her toddler bed and flipped the crib over on its side, rendering it unusable.
What ensued, is typically referred to as "jack-in-the-box syndrome":
He put her in.
She came out.
I put her in.
She came out.
He put her in.
She came out.
I put her in, pulled a chair up to the door and waited. I stood stock still in my chair for 15 minutes. When I no longer heard her, I got up.
She came out.
Tomorrow night we are having braised Easter Bunny for dinner.
I told Kevin to go ahead to sleep. There was no point in all three of us being up all night. At least the next day was Sunday and I only had to be minimally functional.
I went into my room and got ready for bed. Sophia ran back and forth between her room and the bathroom. Repeatedly “trying to go.” She had no idea what to do with this freedom, how to conduct herself in a wall-less bed. It was a skill deficit she was going to have to work through. Upon her third trip back to her room, I walked in and announced.
“Okay, Soph. I’m going to bed now. I don’t want to hear you come out of this room again.” I locked the gate at the top of the staircase, so she couldn’t accidentally tumble down during one of her midnight runs. I took an extra helping of sleep medication. I popped ear plugs in my ears, and I went to sleep.
My eyes popped open at 6:30 am, to find Sophia breathing into my face. “I woke up!” she announced. This came as something of a relief, since it meant she must have gotten some sleep. “I looked out the window and it’s light outside so it’s time to get up.”
Curse the vernal equinox. Spring is conspiring against me.
She climbed into bed with me and we read together, just like old times. Then, we sat in my picture window and gazed outside, playing I Spy. When it finally seemed late enough to wake up Kevin, we headed downstairs.
There, on the kitchen table, was the Easter Basket. “OH! The Easter Bunny came!” Sophie shouted as she ran toward it and emptied its contents, exclaiming over each thing. I brewed the coffee and fixed Matzo Brei as she played with her new gardening tools, raking our Welcome mat, which had become a garden plot.
Outside our picture window, a feral rabbit made its way across our yard. In my mind’s eye, I silently gave him the finger.