Holidays have always been major events in our home. My wife has a gift for going above and beyond on holidays and birthdays. Christmas always included elf sightings, various incarnations of live Santa in the neighborhood or Santa “accidentally” being captured by the family video camera for later viewing. Going to see the “mall’ Santa was a generally lame kick-off to the season which my wife made sure got more and more exciting as the “big day” approached. Based on shared Irish heritage, St Patrick’s Day was also a big deal – through the magic of food coloring, virtually everything ingested in our home on March 17th was green. Birthday parties included everything from animals brought in from a petting zoo to a local cop showing up to participate in a detective party and a “snow white” lookalike recruited from the frozen food section of the grocery store to wear a rented outfit at a Disney themed party.
|Smiles were the norm at Easter|
Like most families with more than one child there was an implied “fairness doctrine” in our house – whether it was gifts at Christmas, candy on Halloween or birthday presents – the idea was each of our daughters would get their “fair share”. We employed the technique of letting one divide a shared item and letting the other one have the first choice. Sad to say - it sounds a little bit like we practiced “Obamanomics” before the current regime was on Pennsylvania Avenue.
Our annual Easter Egg hunt was typical in most ways. A bunch of colorful plastic eggs with a piece of candy or two inside were hiding in plain sight around the house and yard. The girls happily picked them up and put them in Easter baskets. We labeled 80% of the eggs with one initial that could only be “found” by the initial holder to ensure a “balanced outcome”. We left 20% of the eggs for open competition. Each of our daughters wound up with a similar amount of candy but there was a more Darwinian contest within the hunt – the quest for the Golden Egg.
|Cash in the golden egg made our hunt more interesting|
The outcome of the golden egg hunt was binary. Winner take all. This special egg was slightly bigger than the cutesy colored eggs left for easy finding. The golden egg was - full of cash and sometimes other treasure. Besides the dollars, Yen or RMB depending on where we were living, the golden egg could include other things. Perhaps a “get out of chores” voucher or some other promissory note. Running the golden egg hunt concurrently with the regular hunt added a strategy element to the festivities. Was it better to ignore the regular colored eggs since a certain percentage were guaranteed to each participant? Or did securing a larger % of the unlabeled colored eggs potentially make up for losing the golden egg. Each year we arranged a different outcome of egg largesse to keep the hunt interesting.
We have two wonderful but very different daughters. The elder is more competitive and given to playing “hard ball”. Her negotiations in the street markets of Shanghai for North Face gear are the stuff of legends. Our younger daughter is a non-confrontational “peacemaker” - at least for 364 days and 23 hours a year.
|Cailin honing her egg hunting skills at age 2|
In the early hunts, the three year age difference between combatants for the golden egg seemed an overwhelming advantage but like March Madness underdogs often win. Once the crucible of the golden egg competition began – the personalities of each daughter was manifest. The elder energetically rushing around the house and yard hoping to quickly notch a victory over her seemingly phlegmatic, younger competitor. No quarter was given nor expected. No parental help forthcoming. The battle was on – it could last just a few minutes but in one case in Shanghai lasted well over an hour. We never had harsh words during the hunt or after although there were tears from time to time.
|No harsh words but occasionally we had to edit hand gestures when the sting of defeat was too much|
In well over a decade of golden egg hunts in three countries our younger daughter exhibited a mastery over her elder sister that is still hard to fathom. The longest losing streak was five years but our elder daughter (affectionately known as “the biggest loser” at golden egg hunt time) never managed back to back winning years. Never one to gloat (much), little sister often seemed surprised by her success. Far from being scarred emotionally by her losing ways, our elder daughter (now 25) speaks fondly of the golden egg hunt and is insisting we have one this year – her little sister is in California so she is pretty confident of a win. But then again – she still has to find it.
|Cailin completing her "five-peat" by finding the golden egg in a stone lantern in Shanghai|
If you would like to read my daughter's view of "Golden Egg" events, click here.