On The Tooth Fairy and The Fibs We Tell Our Kids

ToothfairiesandotherliesFar past this eight-year-old’s bedtime, my daughter tiptoed down the stairs to the family room.

She had a streak of blood on her chin and more welling up behind her bottom lip. Her small hand was outstretched, cupped gently, and as she approached us she took careful steps.

She finally lost that damned tooth.

She had a bottom tooth that was, one morning a week or so earlier, a touch wobbly, and by the day’s end painfully loose after having been pushed down and hitting her mouth when she fell. It had been causing her a whole lot of pain, to the point where she wouldn’t touch it, rare for an obsessive wobbler such as she. It was really hurting at bedtime, and we still don’t know if she just yanked it out in frustration, or if it fell out on its own.

Returning to her room, we searched unsuccessfully for her tooth fairy pillow (a saving grace for parents of a light sleeper.) She remembered a tooth fairy box that she had made in art class earlier in the school year and quickly located it. Ever so gently, she placed the tooth in the box and then the box by the fairy door on her wall.

(Doesn’t everyone have a magical fairy door, one that can be opened only by the fairies? It provides a magical passageway back home for them, so they don’t have to carry teeth quite so far.)

She slipped a brightly written note under the box, blocking my view as she looked at me self-consciously. “It’s a note for the tooth fairy. I wanted to leave her a note.”  Now very late, she crept into bed.

An hour later she was up again, asking for medicine because her mouth still hurt. Again she crawled into her bed, worry etched on her face. It was late; what if the tooth fairy didn’t come because she was awake?

I assured her that the fairy would come if she could.

She didn’t. (Momma forgot and went to bed. Bad mommy.)

I realized this in the morning as she stormed downstairs in a flood of tears, crumpling her letter and throwing it angrily in the recycling bin. “I wrote it all wrong. I said it all WRONG and she didn’t come!”

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Oh, my heart. My precious dreamer, how hard it must be to live in a land of disbelievers. How hard it must also be to be an inquisitive child with so much belief in fantasy. (How crap to have a mom who can’t hold up her end of the deal.)

She curled up on my lap, sniffling. Having read the letter (when she wasn’t looking), I asked her if she had asked for proof.

“Yes, and I asked all wrong. Everyone says she isn’t real. Everyone says she doesn’t exist. I told them she is real. I TOLD them MY mommy doesn’t leave me money!”

I died just a little bit inside at her words. What do you do? What do you say?

She loves the magic, the mystical. She is gifted with the most beautiful imagination, just like her big brother has.

Like her mom had. Has.

Is it selfish to want her to keep the fantasy just a little while longer? I couldn’t bear the thought of the look on her face if I had to admit the truth. But I don’t want to lie to her.

I spoke carefully.

“Do you remember the story of The Polar Express?” (A sniffly nod, yes.) “Do you remember the bit about how the children who believed heard the bell ring, and when children (and grownups) stopped believing, they couldn’t hear the bell anymore?” She nodded thoughtfully, and snuggled in closer.

“I believe, Mommy. I really do”   (Thank you, Chris Van Allsburg.)

As I breathed in her little girl smell, fruity toothpaste and strawberry lip balm, I thought about how close to the edge of this special part of childhood she perched.

You see, my son is 10, and the last few months have been a struggle for him as life’s realities encroached on the safe little bubble of the kind of dream world that young children live in. His dad’s job search, the thought of another relocation and starting over, all this had unsettled him. But Miss M, safe in her little sparkly bubble, has remained seemingly untouched by these fears.

I think I will let her stay in that pretty bubble just a little longer.

And the tooth fairy WILL come tonight.


She wrote the tooth fairy another letter:

Dear tooth fairy:       I have a few questions for you, here they are:

What is your name? What do you look like? How do fairies get there magic? What happen’s when a child starts believing in fairies? What happens when a child stops believing in fairies? When do you now when a child lose’s his or her tooth and how do you now when a child loses’s his or her tooth? What ever happens, I will always believe in fairies!

Love, from: MRB
I  <heart> fairies!

 

I wonder if she will get a response…

 

*Have you ever lost a draft because you have so many uncompleted drafts? If not, good for you.

If you have, then you know the joy when you rediscover it – and it’s find pretty much finished;  it’s not unlike finding a $10 bill in the pocket of an old coat.

This was written this past spring but never published. Enjoy. *

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