Do You Believe In Magic?

Tooth PillowMonkey lost another tooth the other day. She was excited to again put it in her tooth pillow, go to sleep, and wake to find out what the Tooth Fairy would bring. After I tucked her in, however, it wasn’t long before she ambled out to the living room, a somber look on her face. I asked her what was wrong, and she quietly said “Momma, you lied to me.” It was then that I saw what was in her hand; the small little container that usually lives at the bottom of my jewelry box within which I keep her baby teeth (some of you may remember me talking about this before here). Then, it all came together, what was really happening. The veil of mystery had finally been lifted for my almost-8-year-old daughter; she knew.

She went and sat sadly on the stairs, head hanging down. She told me she knew I was the Tooth Fairy because I had all her teeth, and the notes the Tooth Fairy had left her. She asked again why I had lied. At first, I didn’t know what to say. I try, most of the time, to be as honest with her as I can; but this was a clear violation, and I had no way to counter it. So I knelt down next to her, and simply told her what was in my heart.

I shared that sometimes, Mommies and Daddies have a hard time letting go of their babies. It’s difficult for us to see them grow into big girls. When they’re little it’s so wonderful to see them play and imagine and believe in all the magical things that little kids do. So occasionally, Mommies and Daddies do things to help the magic stay around just a little longer, even though maybe we shouldn’t. She said, “Like pretend to be the Tooth Fairy?” I nodded yes. It was then that the most amazing thing happened… My girl looked up at me with her big blue eyes and said, “But Momma, I won’t ever stop believing in magic, no matter how big I get.” I almost didn’t know what to say, I was so struck by the weight and beauty of her words. “Me either,” I whispered, as I leaned over and hugged her as tightly as I could.

If that’s not evidence of magic, in itself, I don’t know what is.

Blood, Sweat and George Washington

The ups and downs of parenting; unpredictable, sometimes unmanageable, and yet often immensely enjoyable.  Case in point – my daughter; she alone is a 7-year-old ball of volatility.  Combine that with parental efforts at lab work, random rites of passage and motherly attempts at hairstyling, and you’re on your way to a snapshot of the last 24 hours in my parenting journey.

Initially it started off with my daughter’s desire for lovely bouncy curls.  She wanted ones resembling those she received at the hair stylist the other day after a quick trim (and truly, they were quite fetching).  The problem?  Momma is not adept at styling hair.  Mostly, we leave that to our Auntie – she owns her own salon, and can do mighty amounts of hair magic.  But currently she lives 2,500 miles away, which leaves Momma quite on her own, and very in the lurch for delivering on the hair front.  Since it was late on a school night when the request (more like ‘demand’) was made, and we currently don’t have any curlers, I had the bold idea of trying to rag-roll her hair as an experiment.  She seemed up for it, so we washed, half-dried, and rag-rolled our way to a happy little knot-tied head in no time.

Next we had a not-so-pleasant task to attend to.  We needed to take a small blood sample from my daughter’s finger for a food sensitivity test we are running on her.  As they kindly sent us two lancets, we had already used one on Daddy’s finger a few days earlier as an example (which didn’t seem to be as useful as we had hoped).  Now we needed to do the actual deed on her finger, and she was not having it.  We tried preparing her for it, reasoning, cajoling – nothing.  We then tried the ‘forceful hold’, which led to immediate hysterics and a physical clamp-down.  Not pretty.  We took a break so we all could breathe, which resulted in her locking herself first in the bathroom, then in her bedroom.  Then we all sat down for another conversation; she gave us a rather convincing argument of why she didn’t need the test at all, and we tried to use the kindest possible way to knock her argument down and explain that we were doing it anyway.  She somehow let slip that she had poked herself with a sewing needle earlier that day; oddly enough, that was our in.  We were able to convince her that the lancet wouldn’t hurt any more than the needle; that (along with a bribe that eventually was upped to $20) finally got her to reconsider.  Her last request was that she be able to push the lancet herself, to which we agreed.  Only given that we were now 45 minutes into the ordeal and the parental units were tiring quickly, we didn’t realize that we had actually fallen for a carefully calculated ploy.  No sooner had I set the lancet in my sheepishly grinning daughter’s hand did she launch it behind the dresser; the heavy, immovable, unable-to-reach-underneath-flat-against-the-wall dresser.  We’d been had; and my patience was about gone.  We retrieved the lancet and again resorted to the ‘forceful hold’; we finally got a finger free, and got the lancet in place.  Again the hysterics ensued, at least until the blood started to flow; then she was fascinated.  “Wow, Mom, look at it drip!”  All at once, she was fine.  We filled all five circles in no time flat.  My husband and I just looked at each other in wonderment.  The whole ordeal had taken over an hour; we were exhausted, sweating and spent.  I wasn’t sure which turnip we had really just gotten the blood from; her, or us.

A mere half hour later, my daughter popped out of bed and into the living room full of excitement.  It seemed the lower front tooth she had been wiggling for the last two days had finally worked its way loose.  As she animatedly waved her tooth in the air, she yelled she had lost it and then gave us a huge happy grin.  Only she looked less like a seven-year-old and more like a boxer in round seven of a prize fight; teeth and gums smeared with red, and more blood oozing from the gap in the front.  Honestly, it kind of freaked me out.  I was ready for the gap in her teeth; I was not so ready for all the blood.  She was so thrilled, standing there smiling from ear to ear, and I was trying ignore my gut instincts towards my daughter and her bloody mug.  I pasted a fake smile on my face and steered her towards the bathroom where we rinsed her mouth out, secured the tooth in her fairy pillow, and finally got her snuggled into bed.  I was hard pressed not to immediately follow her; it had been one heck of a night, and I’d had enough blood and sweat to last me quite some time.

Lest we forget about the rag-rolled hair…  Fast forward to next morning; she was super excited to take the rags out to see what the result was.  I reminded her that it was an experiment, and whatever the outcome, we could always make sure it looked okay for school.  I unrolled the first couple of strips, and we could already tell the experiment was a dud; her hair has natural curl already, and I think the strips were just too thin and her hair really took it in.  It was really more of a funny kinky curl instead of the lovely large rolls she was hoping for.  As I took more of the strips out, her expression got worse; I reminded her of the ‘experiment’ discussion, and that I could simply re-wet it and dry it straighter for her.  Once they were all out, she took a final look in the mirror and exclaimed, “Mom, I can NOT go to school like this.  I look like Mayor Washington!”  It took me a minute to grasp her train of thought, but once I did I asked her, “Do you mean George Washington?”  Her response, “Yeah, Mom, my head looks just like George Washington!”  I couldn’t help but laugh out loud as I also corrected her, and explained that George Washington was actually a president, not a mayor.  She then corrected herself, “Okay fine, but I STILL can’t go to school looking like PRESIDENT Washington!!”  I’m happy to report that after employing a little water and hot air, her hair was presentable for the day; no George Washington in sight.

It was such an absolute shift from the night before; no stress, no pressure, no guilt over bloodletting my own child.  Instead it was a complete release of laughter and joy and sincere delight over the amusement of seven-year-old logic.  It almost felt like compensation for the trials of the previous evening.  I suppose, in a way, that’s exactly what the ups and downs of parenting are. You face countless struggles; many unpredictable, even unmanageable.  But the rewards are often more enjoyable than you would ever imagine; they make all the blood and sweat worth it.

The Tooth Fairy Lives On

“We have a problem,” I stressfully whispered out of the side of my mouth in a sub-audible tone as I sped by my husband the other night, coming out of the bedroom.

“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):

“Dear Katie,

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!

Love,

Tooth Fairy” 

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…