There comes a time in each child’s life when they learn the hard facts about Santa, the Easter Bunny, the Tooth Fairy and the myriad of other white lies and half-truths we as parents perpetuate upon our children with the best of intentions. In the interest of letting my kids experience childhood to the fullest, I’ve wistfully tried to hold on to the last bit of innocence as long as possible until I could deflect and avoid questions no longer.
I can’t say I’ve enjoyed lying to them. But the sparkle in their eyes as we read Twas the night before Christmas on Christmas Eve and their joyful scurry into my bedroom to show me their money the morning after a freshly lost tooth was tucked under their pillow, kept me hanging on. I’ve always intentionally had the bigger Christmas presents be from us parents vs. Santa – because hey, he’s imaginary, I want credit for the good stuff! I’ve also lamented about our overworked Tooth Fairy when she forgot to take a tooth or even left an IOU because she clearly ran out money with all the houses she stops at on a nightly basis!
My older daughter and I had been playing a bit of a cat and mouse game for some time regarding the Tooth Fairy. She had gotten clever and inquisitive and was making a pretty solid case for the Tooth Fairy not being real. She claimed one night when she left a tooth under her pillow that she was only pretending to be asleep and was really awake when I came in and left money under her pillow. I had been fervently denying the claim, telling her that she must have been dreaming. Did she really think that I would spend my time sneaking into her room when I could be sleeping? Did she think I was growing quarters on trees? I was the Mom who never had any cash or change since I always used my debit card. Why would I want her teeth anyway? She pondered my answers and smirked knowingly. But I refused to break. I insisted I was not the Tooth Fairy!
I had already reluctantly confessed the truth about Santa Claus to her. She was 10 and I knew her days of believing were numbered. She was asking a lot of pointed investigative questions about the ‘how’ of Santa. If she didn’t hear about Santa Claus not being real on the school bus, she was bound to figure it out for herself soon enough. I took the approach of asking her to join the Santa Claus cause and help keep the magic alive for her younger sister. She happily accepted the job of helping with presents, nibbling on carrots left out for the reindeer, filling stockings, and continued to pretend to believe so she would still receive. I swore her to secrecy for the sake of her sister, her school friends who still believed, and the younger neighborhood kids.
But the truth about Santa had given her a boost of confidence to continue to question the Tooth Fairy. How could the Tooth Fairy possibly fly? How did she get in the house? My daughter even talked of building a trap to catch the Tooth Fairy in action.
One day, she was in my bedroom grabbing something to bring downstairs to me. For some reason she looked in my nightstand drawer and discovered about 15 tiny teeth! She came running downstairs and said, “I know you’re the Tooth Fairy! I just found teeth in your nightstand.” I like to think as a Mom I’m pretty good at thinking on my toes when it comes to kid questions. But I was at an utter loss of how to explain away the teeth! I quickly ran through some potential answers in my head. 1) I killed someone and kept their teeth (yikes!) 2) They’re not teeth – they’re fossils from a science kit. 3) They’re not teeth – they’re small rocks? Yeah, she wasn’t going to buy any of these! I knew I was a goner. I admitted I was the Tooth Fairy and she danced in glee that she had been right all along and had finally caught me!
Why didn’t I hide the teeth better all this time?! All these years of tooth-losing, in my sleepiness I had gently swapped money for teeth and groggily stumbled back to my bed, sticking the teeth in the nearest spot which happened to be an unlocked and easily accessible nightstand drawer. Why was I so reluctant to let the Tooth Fairy go? Well, because once Santa goes and the Tooth Fairy goes, we start losing the beautiful naiveté of being a kid and start to broach some of the bigger, deeper, tougher topics of growing up. Can’t we just snuggle in the twinkling Christmas lights and magic of Santa a little longer? Let’s carefully count and stack your coins received from the Tooth Fairy while you show me which tooth you think will be the next one to come out and tell me what you plan to buy with your riches.
Later, I walked upstairs and opened the nightstand drawer to touch the tiny teeth. I had no reason to keep them except sentimentality. I closed the drawer and with it, closed a chapter, carefully removing my invisible Tooth Fairy crown and relinquishing one of my many Mom Roles. It was bittersweet, but my Tooth Fairy work for this daughter was done.