A while back, when I was wrestling with guilt over not being a toddler mom, someone told me that the questions get harder as they get older. My cocky response was “bring it on.” And I stand by that, but I have to add a caveat:
I hate lying to my children.
You can bring me tough questions of theology and interpersonal relationships to sink my teeth into, and I’ll revel in it. I love that stuff. To me, the really hard questions are about Santa. And the Easter Bunny. And our newest friend: the Tooth Fairy.
For months, Alex has been learning to classify things as real or not real. I breathed a sigh of relief when he learned the difference between reality and fiction; he took the news that his superheroes were all made up in stride. (It was pretty dicey there for a while; he was getting mad because he never saw any of them in real life.) As the holidays rounded the calendar this school year, he started asking things like, “Are leprechauns real?” And I, knowing the danger, answered honestly: “No.” Because I don’t believe in lying to my children. (I don’t believe in lying at all, but that’s another post entirely.)
But this summer, he’s been hanging out with some neighbor girls whose parents don’t do Santa & co. And they’ve been really in his face telling him about it. “E. says that anyone who comes to your house in the night and leaves stuff isn’t real,” he said. “But I told her I knew Santa was real, because I saw Rudolph’s nose in the sky.”
But it got him thinking. He lost his first two teeth last week, back to back on Friday and Saturday. In the middle of the night there was great wailing and crying in our room because he couldn’t find the envelope containing his tooth. (We had to put it in an envelope because he thrashes around so much at night, we knew we would never find it.) Then he turned the light on and tore the room apart and came running back in great excitement to inform us that the Tooth Fairy left him TWO QUARTERS. (There were actually four, but he’d managed to thrash two of them onto the floor.)
And at lunch on Monday, he began asking very hard questions about the Tooth Fairy. Deep, practical questions, hard to answer because they require lies, and I hate lying to my kids. “How does the Tooth Fairy even find out a kid has a tooth missing?” he demanded.
This is the turning point, I thought. I have two choices: a) cop out and call it “magic,” or b) lay the groundwork for future revelations. I chose option B. “Mommies and daddies have a way to let her know,” I said.
“Well, what is it?”
“I’m not telling!”
He paused, put his hands on his hips, and started giggling like a madman. “YOU GUYS PUT THE MONEY IN THERE YOURSELVES!” he shouted.
Well, at least he laughed about it.