The White House egg roll is a kid-centric spring party that has turned the South Lawn into an Easter playground since 1878. Over the last 138 years, the event has become a public crucible for new administrations expected to keep the tradition alive while also making it their own. This year, pundits and political reporters are warning that due to poor planning and understaffing, the Trump administration egg roll could be a thoughtless “disaster.” But the political narrative completely and perhaps intentionally misunderstands what makes a good kid’s party. Ariana Grande may be great, but her latex bunny-eared attendance isn’t critical.
Earlier this week, the New York Times, clued in by tweets from the family business that typically manufacturers wooden eggs for the event, published an article spotlighting hastily ordered party favors and slow-to-arrive invitations. Naturally, the story was aggregated by everyone and their blogger. That makes sense: It’s a funny tale that plays into a political metanarrative about the Trump administration being perpetually blindsided by predictable events. Commentators quickly conflated the administration’s ability to throw a kid’s party with its ability to pass a tax package or a healthcare bill. Rhetorically, the jabs landed.
“Could this White House, plagued by slow hiring and lacking an on-site first lady, manage to pull off the largest, most elaborate and most heavily scrutinized public event of the year?” asked The Times.
But here’s the thing: The egg roll isn’t about politics and it isn’t for politicians. It’s for kids. And, as any parent would attest, “pulling off” a successful kinderparty requires just three things: sweets, some kind of cheap favor, and other kids. That is literally it. The wonderful thing about kids is that they can make their own fun whether they’re on the South Lawn of the White House or the front lawn of a two-bedroom.
The problem, then, is not that the White House will ruin the egg roll for children. It’s that Trump will somehow ruin it for adults. That is not — to put it mildly — a significant concern. Is the administration’s failure to staff up concerning? Sure. But a low-key egg roll isn’t. In a sense, these stories seem to mourn the end of the Cool White House, where the Obama had parties attended by celebrities and tastemakers.
Those days are over, but let’s not pretend that kids care.
The fact that the Obama White House, largely thanks to the First Lady, excelled at creating press-friendly events is undeniable. They brought in Grande and the then-relevant, nee-neeing Silentó and had a yoga garden. But that’s not what set the Obamas apart in regards to the egg roll. Their success with the event was a product of warmth and graciousness. They wanted the White House to be “The People’s House.” And it’s possible Trump will succeed on that level on his own terms. If the kids are happy, the party is a success. Guessing whether children will have a good time playing around in the grass is not a great use of time.
The truth is that there were likely hundreds of kids collapsing into tears at the Obama’s egg roll, because of a broken egg, or a fall, or because a parent said no to more jelly beans. And there will be thousands and thousands that will laugh and jump at Trump’s egg roll. Because it’s fun.
Want a true Easter egg disaster story? The first year my kids were old enough to really celebrate the holiday, I decided to orchestrate an egg hunt. The night before, I took my kids’ precious, dyed eggs and hid them in the backyard. The next morning, my boys woke to find they’d all been destroyed by an animal in the night. The yard was strewn with brightly colored shells – no ovum left behind.
You know what happened next? They opened the cheap toy in their Easter basket, ate some chocolate, and played in the yard with one another. They had a blast. No sweat. Good party.
So unless the egg roll is canceled (as it was between 1917 and 1920, and between 1942 and 1953), or the whole damn thing is attacked by D.C. coyotes, the kids will likely find a way to have fun. If not, maybe there’s a story in it. Maybe not. But none of the children involved will see it as a referendum on a political party. They’ll likely move on faster than the commentariat.