Sunday, October 4, 2009

The Tooth Fairy

Our family has a very irresponsible tooth fairy. While she always eventually gets the job done, she is known for forgetting to pick up the tooth for a couple of days. Our kids are often left in suspense as to how long it will take our absent-minded fairy to remember to bring them their money.

A few days ago, Jared lost a tooth at school. He brought it home and excitedly showed me the specimen, showcased in all of its glory in a plastic ziploc bag. It didn't really surprise him that the tooth fairy forgot to come that night, but when she hadn't come for a couple of days, he started to get a bit annoyed. One night he said to me, "Mom, the tooth fairy probably isn't even real. Is it you, mom?" I hemmed and hawed and avoided the question. As I went to tuck him into bed that night, out of earshot of his younger sister, he asked, "Mom, are you the tooth fairy? C'mon, you can tell me. It's not a big deal." So I finally confessed that yes, I am the tooth fairy. It's a fun thing that grownups like to pretend to make losing teeth fun for kids. I even still have all the teeth that I've collected from him and Camryn.

I didn't think it was a big deal until a few minutes later. I was rocking Jackson to sleep in his room when the door opened and Jared appeared with tears on his face. "What's wrong?," I asked. He said, "Now that I know that the tooth fairy isn't real it takes all the fun out of it." Now I started to feel bad... Have I scarred my child or made him unable to trust me because of this lapse of truth-telling? Have I broken some unwritten code of parent-hood by admitting to my child that I really am the tooth-taker that leaves money under his pillow? Jared continued, "I mean, if the tooth fairy isn't real, that probably means that Santa isn't real. I bet there really isn't a Santa Claus. There's just some guy at the north pole with a beard that is glued on. Or maybe there's just one Santa for every neighborhood... because it would be impossible to take that many presents...."

I didn't finish the job on the subject of Santa Claus, although maybe I should have- Jared is 8. It's just a little bit sad to see a child outgrow childhood fantasy and magic. I know there are a lot of people that advocate not "lying" to your child by teaching them to believe in Santa Claus or the tooth fairy, but would my childhood really have been better if I had never believed in Santa? I think there is a time and place for fantasy and magic and part of me wishes that we didn't have to outgrow it so quickly.

A day or so later, Jared asked me if he could see all of the teeth that I'd collected over the years, that I'd mentioned earlier. In typical tooth fairy style, it took me a couple of days to get around it, but I finally showed him and he thought it was way cool. Now he really likes the fact that he knows a big secret that Camryn doesn't know and has even seen the secret stash of teeth to prove it. It's cool to be in on a grown-up secret. So maybe I haven't scarred him for life.


janeannechovy said...

My sister in law had a conversation with her oldest about Santa last year, and she blogged about. My comment (which I still stand by 100%) is at the end:

Lara said...

You know, I think you did good. Really. He asked, and you were truthful. He didn't really ask about Santa quite so directly. And he has to find out sometime.

Our toothfairy is quite absent-minded, too. I always put the blame on myself because I tell my kids that I have to call her to tell her a tooth was lost, so at least I'm the fall guy for that. :) For now.

K kid said...

I LOVED your comment on the Santa conversation, JaneAnne. I think it is easy to pigeonhole the issue into a "truth vs. lies" debate rather than discussing fiction vs. nonfiction when your children want to find out. I would rather have my children believe in Santa, a man who spends his whole life making children happy (if somewhat improbable and preposterous), and then eventually find out that he is fictional vs. having them grow up as tiny cynics who have never experienced a magical Christmas (or then making a Christmas that is magical for their own kids). It's sad enough to have to outgrow being able to "hear the Christmas bell" (from the Polar Express), but to never have even experienced it seems a downright tragedy.

Suzie Petunia said...

What a coincidence! We also have a habitually tardy tooth fairy that visits our house! Waverly lost a tooth last week and was only just barely "paid" for it a night or two ago. Of course she figured out the truth of it all a while ago, but whenever she says something about there not being a tooth fairy, I remind her that if she doesn't believe in the tooth fairy (or Santa for that matter) then the tooth fairy won't believe in you... ie no money under YOUR pillow! I'm not looking forward to this Christmas, as I am pretty sure Henry will want some straight answers for the first time about Santa. Sometimes he takes things waaaay too seriously.