COLORADO SPRINGS, Colo. — Organizers of an annual Easter egg hunt attended by hundreds of children have canceled this year’s event, citing the behavior of aggressive parents who swarmed into the tiny park last year, determined that their kids get an egg.
That hunt was over in seconds, to the consternation of egg-less tots and their own parents. Too many parents had jumped a rope set up to allow only children into Bancroft Park in a historic area of Colorado Springs.
Organizers say the event has outgrown its original intent of being a neighborhood event.
Parenting observers cite the cancellation as a prime example of so-called "helicopter parents" — those who hover over their children and are involved in every aspect of their children’s lives — sports, school, and increasingly work — to ensure that they don’t fail, even at an Easter egg hunt.
"They couldn’t resist getting over the rope to help their kids," said Ron Alsop, a former Wall Street Journal reporter and author of "The Trophy Kids Grow Up," which examines the "millennial children" generation.
"That’s the perfect metaphor for millennial children. They (parents) can’t stay out of their children’s lives. They don’t give their children enough chances to learn from hard knocks, mistakes."
Alsop and others say the parenting phenomenon began in earnest when Baby Boomers who decorated their cars with "Baby on Board" signs in the 1980s began having children. It has prompted at least two New York companies to establish "take your parent to work day" for new recruits as parents remain involved even after their children become adults.
Last April’s egg hunt, sponsored by the Old Colorado City Association, attracted hundreds of parents and children and experienced a few technical difficulties, said Mazie Baalman, owner of Rocky Mountain Chocolate Factory and sponsor of the event.
There was no place to hide the plastic eggs, which were filled with donated candy or coupons redeemable at nearby businesses. So thousands of eggs were placed in plain view on the grass. A bullhorn to start the event malfunctioned, so Baalman, master of ceremonies, used a public address system that was hard to hear.
"So everybody thinks you said ‘Go,’ and everybody goes, and it’s over in seconds," Baalman said. "If one parent gets in there, other parents say, ‘If one can get in we all can get in,’ and everybody goes."
Jennifer Rexford used to live near the park and now lives in Galveston, Texas. She said she used to participate in public Easter egg hunts with her three boys, ages 3, 8, and 14. She doesn’t anymore because of "pushy parents" she experienced at hunts in Florida and Texas.
"It just seems to be the mindset. People just want the best for their kids," Rexford said.
Lenny Watkins, who lives a block away from Bancroft Park, took his friend’s then 4-year-old son to the hunt in 2009.
"I just remember having a wonderful time, him with his Easter basket" Watson said, adding that he can understand why a parent would step in.
"You have all these eggs just lying around, and parents helping out. You better believe I’m going to help my kid get one of those eggs. I promised my kid an Easter egg hunt and I’d want to give him an even edge."
Alsop said that dynamic is at play with parents who hover over their children, even into adulthood.
"I don’t see any sign of it abating," he said. "It seems everything is more and more and more competitive, fast paced, and I think parents are going to see they need to do more to help their kids get an edge."