Thursday, December 15, 2011

The Tooth Fairy Doesn't Live Here Anymore...

I'll never forget the look on my now 12-year old son Evan's face the night he was faced with the reality of what he had been suspecting since the fourth grade. Granted, most little boys don't notice much, which is why you can get away with many of the little white lies necessary to keep peace in a house with three kids... But after skillfully skirting the question of "Why does the Tooth Fairy's handwriting look like yours, dad?!" many times, we knew that the moment of truth was quickly approaching as our children grew out of their childhood oblivion and into the more skeptical tween years, we just didn't know when or how it would happen...

Anyway, the kids were all finally tucked in and I requested the appropriate note from the Tooth Fairy quietly sitting next to me in bed and then dutifully put my little package of money and chocolate beside me on the night stand so I would not forget to deliver it before I fell asleep, which, as you know, becomes a whole other white lie fabricated those many times after your 4-year old wakes up at 6am and storms into your room crying because the Tooth Fairy didn't come and you panic realizing that the last thing you remember was Elaine telling her "yada, yada, yada" story to George and Jerry! ("Oh, honey, the tooth fairy must have had sore wings last night and not able to fly, but I'm sure she will come tonight!")

So that particular evening, fairy package ready to go, as we settled in to enjoy our 100th Seinfeld rerun that we couldn't miss, Evan decided to come into our room to tell us something he had forgotten to tell us the third time he asked us to tuck him in, again, and just so happened to glance down and look straight at his favorite candy bar, a note with daddy's, aka The Tooth Fairy's, handwriting and $11 dollars all neatly stacked on my night stand and looked at us both with a look that can only be described as an instantaneous loss of childhood belief and wonder coupled with the detective's "I knew it!" smug discovery of proof of something he had suspected for a long time... 

Hardly able to register what had just happened to our mythical world, I quickly realized that there was no fantastic fabrication that could take care of this; the gig was finally up! At least for my 11-year old, anyway. (Yes, it did go on a long time for him, didn't it?!) And after swearing him to secrecy to protect the still-present faith of his younger siblings, we laughed in what was now his inclusion in our adult conspiracy.

Certainly, as we all already know or will come to know, that loss of our children's innocence is a little sad, as we begin to realize that our kids are quickly growing up and the days of implicit trust in the magic that makes fairies and reindeers fly or gives a gigantic bunny the strength and endurance to hop around to every house in the world delivering eggs and baskets are coming to an end. (Okay, I have to admit, I gave that one up a long time ago! I just couldn't buy into the giant, mutant bunny thing!)

But on the brighter side, as a parent, there is actually a bit of freedom that results from no longer having to carry out the ruse with Evan any any longer. In fact, now when he loses his 18th tooth at 8pm after a wrestling match with his brother, we simply look at each other with an implicit wink and I can relax, knowing that since I don't have any bills in my wallet again, I can just buy him a candy bar tomorrow, write him a check for $18 and fall asleep to Seinfeld without worry... And yes, what was I thinking when I told the kids that our apparently overly-generous fairy pays cumulatively per tooth? I obviously did not remember that children lose 20 teeth each and that they always fall out when you just used the last of all your real cash for your babysitter!

So, as Christmas quickly approaches and my two younger children have reached the wise, old years of 7 and 9, fourth grade classroom chatter from believers and non-believers alike has once again taken over and we are now being bombarded with questions as direct as "Mom, are you Santa?!" and threats of staying up all night to find out once and for all if our chimney really is big enough for someone so fat and jolly.

Skillfully dodging these questions with "Well, if you don't believe, then he may not come!", we manage, so far, to buy some more time, dodging the truth to try and preserve just one more year of delight and wonder at how Santa was able to faithfully deliver exactly what they asked him for on Christmas morning...

Surprisingly, now that Evan knows the Tooth Fairy doesn't live here anymore, and I am certain that he will recognize Santa's handwriting on the note left by the half-eaten carrot and plate of crumbs beside the fireplace, he has not asked a single question or uttered a word of doubt. Perhaps he is secretly protecting his brother and sister from what he thinks, but doesn't quite know yet, is the truth. Or perhaps, in his currently complicated 12-year-old, pre-teen, angst-ridden world, he is protecting his own need for the comfort and reassurance of a belief that for him, still represents the magic and simplicity of being a little kid. And as an adult who has often longed for simpler times myself, I am happy to perpetuate this last myth. So, Yes, Evan, the Tooth Fairy may not live here anymore, but there is a Santa Claus!

Finally, I'd like to wish all of you your own very uncomplicated, happy, safe and relaxing holiday season. Thank you for reading my blog, personally sharing your great comments of understanding and support, and being part of all these universal experiences we share together. Here's to the existence of magic in all our lives!