The tooth fairy blew off my daughter.
She lost a front tooth Wednesday at the dentist, who gave her a molar-shaped container to store it in, which she then put under her pillow at bedtime. So far, so good. Except yesterday morning she taps me on the shoulder, holds up the yellow plastic molar, then shows me that it still has her little tooth inside.
The tooth fairy broke my kid’s heart.
“Daddy, she didn’t come,” my baby says to me with dewy Disney eyes of sadness. “Why didn’t she take my tooth?”
Several answers popped in my head – tooth fairies get busy, she didn’t see it, it was her night off – but all those implied my daughter and her tooth weren’t important enough to this fairy to complete a transaction she handles easily thousands of times a night.
Now that I think of it, all of the fairies and elves, Bunnies and Claus’s who visit our home are pretty weak. Bargain gifts, haphazard time schedules, mediocre presentations. Weak. When I was a kid, these mystical creatures had game, they were more into it, but nowadays, at least at our house, it seems like they’re just kinda phoning it in.
And I think I know why.
They’re all lies. Fantasies. Horse dirt. And I’m raising my kids to be truthful. How do I look them in the eyes and tell them fairies buy teeth or that a jolly round stranger wants to hand deliver yearly gifts or that a giant bunny likes to share chocolate? Then as soon as they get to school, all their little friends with Google tell them the truth and they come to me wanting answers and I have to dodge.
“Daddy, the kids say there is no Tooth Fairy, that it’s you and mommy.”
“What do you believe?”
“I guess that it’s a real fairy.”
“Then that’s what it is.”
Only it isn’t, and at some point, they’re going to find out I was lying and feel betrayed.
Professor Christopher Boyle, of the University of Exeter, writes in the Lancet Psychiatry:
“The morality of making children believe in such myths has to be questioned. All children will eventually find out they’ve been consistently lied to for years, and this might make them wonder what other lies they’ve been told.” (Link to Article)
In other words, I’m gonna get busted.
Eventually my two kids are going to find out I’ve been fooling them for years and they’re going to be ticked off, maybe even hurt.
“Why the lies, father?” they’ll ask, and I’ll have to tell them.
“Because everyone else was doing it, that’s why.”
It’s true, my wife and I began following these traditions because our families raised us that way. We didn’t give it much more thought than that until pre-school started. Then so did the questions which forced me to tell even more lies.
- “How does a sleigh travel worldwide overnight?”
- “Santa slows down time using North Pole technology.”
- “How does a bunny carry so much chocolate?”
- “She doesn’t. She gets her assistant bunnies and chickies to do it.”
- “What does a fairy do with so many teeth?”
- “She’s grinding them down to make pixie dust, of course.”
The lies start out easy, but after a while, they take work to maintain. As Veronica Roth says in her book Divergent, “Lies require commitment.” Or as Mark Twain puts it: “If you tell the truth, you don’t have to remember anything.”
But what is the truth? Why do we parents lie about fairies and elves?
“Because real life sucks, kids. So for just a few years mommy and daddy do our best to protect you from that ugly fact. We invent elves and fairies who bring gifts and candy because it makes you feel safe and happy and we wish it were true. We wish magic could protect you forever, but it doesn’t. So we pretend it does until you figure it out.”
Too soon for that.
So instead I told my daughter yesterday that the reason the Tooth Fairy didn’t come is because we did it wrong. The other times we had put the tooth in an envelope and had written a note, so that’s exactly what she did last night. It read:
Dear t.f. here lies my tooth! Please take it. My tooth is shiny and clean! From Gwen. P.S. My dad pulled it yesterday, and you didn’t come because we did it wrong.
She made three bucks this morning, because my daughter and her teeth are important.
- Mike Lukas
QUESTION: Why do YOU tell your kids there’s a tooth fairy and Santa and etc.? Are you afraid of the day they discover you’ve been lying? What’s your speech going to be?
I’d love to read your answers!