“What?” He replied, looking at me quizzically (he has a hard time with sub-audible, for some reason I have yet to understand.)
“We have a problem…she doesn’t believe in the tooth fairy.”
My daughter (currently seven) had been working on her left-front-tooth for what seemed like weeks, and had finally won the battle. As expected, we had now moved on to the moment of pillow-placing and fairy discussion. The problem? She was convinced I was the tooth fairy.
You see, in addition to the tooth fixation, she had also recently developed an accessory obsession. This led her to looking (i.e. sneaking) through my jewelry box one weekend, where she unfortunately stumbled upon her other two baby teeth (I keep them at the very bottom, in the macabre tradition of all mothers who wind up with hidden boxes full of teeny tiny teeth). At the time she called me on it, but I thought I had squeaked out of the accusation by weaving an on-the-spot explanation about how all parents have a “contract” with the tooth fairy wherein she generously gives back the first couple of baby teeth so the parents can keep them as a memento. She seemed to buy it at the time – or so I thought.
Fast forward to the front-tooth occasion, and we were at it again…
“Mom, you are sooo the tooth fairy.”
“Honey, really, I am not the tooth fairy. Why would you think that?”
“Because I found those teeth, and I think you give me the money, because you always have money in your wallet.”
“Sweetie, I have a million other things to do besides going around being the tooth fairy, don’t you think?”
“Nuh-uh, I’m sure it’s you.”
“Seriously now, and what, I guess I’m Santa too, right?”
“OOOOOOOH no. Santa’s TOTALLY real, Mom. That’s a WHOLE other situation.”
(I secretly almost fall over with relief at this one while trying not to laugh in the process, but quickly refocus on the issue at hand.)
“Well it’s almost time for bed, so get under the covers and I’ll be right back.”
At this point I went out searching for reinforcements, because I was clearly losing ground. After my quick-whispered panicky plea, my husband came in to say goodnight, and she started in on him too.
“Dad, Mom’s the tooth fairy.”
“Really? How do you know?”
“I just know. It’s her. I’m sure of it.”
“Well, everyone in the world knows the tooth fairy, right?”
“Well, DUH, Dad.”
“But, not everyone in the world knows Mom…”
At this he kissed her on the forehead, grinned at her, and left the room, leaving her looking a little baffled. Score one for the Dad! I decided it was my moment to try again, so I chose distraction as my strategy and got busy getting the tooth and the pillow ready. She seemed irritated at this point. I wasn’t sure if it was at us or at the situation in general. Finally, she spoke up again.
“Well, if you’re not the tooth fairy, then I have some questions.”
“Okay,” I said, and sat down on the bed, ready to spin some answers.
“No, Mom, WRITE THEM DOWN!”
Grief. Up I stood to find pencil and paper, and then quickly readied myself to scribe. Here were the pressing queries she insisted be answered, and placed alongside her pearly tooth in the pillow for the night:
- What color is your dress?
- Where do you live?
- How old are you?
- Can you bring me a $5 bill?
Children are open books, when they’re young. The imaginations of youthful minds are eager to trust in the hearty laugh and rosy cheeks of a jolly old man from a far off frozen land; they revel in the possibility of a puffy white tail bounding down their doorsteps on an early spring morning; they show no fear when a mysterious tiny winged creature sneaks under their pillows in the darkness to replace their teeth with gleaming coins. But as they grow, logic and common sense (and, let’s face it, in-your-face-truth-telling from the slightly older crowd) start to seep in and the familiar characters of our youthful world slowly fade away.
As parents, we have a responsibility to guard our children’s safety; teach them right from wrong. And yet, we go to great lengths to extend this childhood gullibility as long as we can. Bites out of the cookies at Christmas time; flour tracks on the floor at Easter. As if the longer we can get them to believe, the longer we can extend their childhood. And really, it may even be more for us than for them.
Clearly, I was not about to let this challenge go unheeded. As soon as I was sure she was asleep, I sprang into action. I found my “fancy” stationery (the kind that looks like parchment paper with the feathered edge), a pretty pink pen, put on my best fairy persona and began my official Tooth Fairy response (in fancy cursive writing, of course, with a British tone…I figured giving her an accent would help with the authenticity):
Thank you for having your mum write me a note. I like questions! Here are your answers:
1) My dress is a lovely lilac color but my wings are a slightly darker purple with silver sparkles.
2) I live in a little cottage in a far away village which is about three bright moonbeams away.
3) I am 243 years old. Pretty young for fairy years!
4) I may be able to grant you a $5 bill if perhaps you lose a large molar tooth.
Congratulations on losing your first front tooth!
I crafted it so it was long and thin like a scroll, then rolled it up with three one-dollar bills, tied it with a ribbon and put it in her fairy pillow in place of her tooth. The next morning I knew she had found it when I heard the high pitched squeal of “Momma, Momma the tooth fairy came and left me a note! She left me a real note! And it’s in cursive! I can’t read cursive!!” She waved the note in the air as she bounded out of bed, running to me and insisting I read the note for her, which I did. Her ensuing grin and giggly-ness were exactly what I had hoped for – childhood extended just a little bit longer. For her, and for me, and the Tooth Fairy, who lives to fly another year…