The tooth fairy made her first visit to our home this week.
My daughter’s tooth came out at bedtime the other night and caught me unawares. She’s had a couple of loose teeth for a while, but I thought I had more time to get ready. I was going to make these tiny little fairy-sized notes which would, in my less-than-crafty hands, undoubtedly turn out looking like post-it notes from a nightmare. But I had a plan until that tooth popped out during story time.
So I wrote a letter (after stealing lines from some “Letters From The Tooth Fairy” templates I found online…because I’m an asshole), found a dollar in my husband’s wallet, and made it work.
This half-hearted attempt got me thinking about my general lack of skill when sharing those age-old children’s fables. There isn’t much of a method to the way I pick and choose which lies/magical childhood stories I tell them, and I’m kinda half-assed about all of it.
Let’s take a look at a few of the big ones:
Santa: Oh hell yes. Christmas is my favorite holiday. I love all of it — decorating, trees, lights, cocoa, and Santa. When I first talked to my kids about Santa, however, I found it a lot more difficult than I expected.
Child: “How does Santa get in our house?”
Me: “He slides down the chimney.”
Child: “How does he get back up?”
Me: “He jumps back up the chimney.”
Child: “But I saw in a book that he taps the side of his nose and then goes up the chimney.”
Me: “Oh. Well, sure…maybe he does that. No one really knows for sure because no one ever sees Santa.” (KA-ZAM! Nailed it.)
Child: “Then how do we know about him?”
Me: “Um, because Santa has been around for so long that everyone knows about him. And also, magic. Hey, who wants to watch a show?!”
The Easter Bunny: No. My family was never that into it when I was growing up, either. One Easter my mother went down to the local bodega, bought us some candy bars, and tossed them to us while we were watching cartoons. Aaaaaaaaaaaand there’s your Easter. So when it came to deciding whether or not to celebrate Easter with my kids, I had nothing pushing me to do it. Honestly, I don’t think I could pull it off even if I wanted to. I have no clue how I’d be able to be convincing when talking about an enormous rabbit that leaves eggs under the couch. I can picture the conversation now:
“Why does he do that Momma?”
“Because the Easter Bunny is a dick, sweetheart. We don’t hide eggs in people’s houses and then offer them candy if they find them. It’s not nice.”
The Tooth Fairy: Yeah. I guess. I mean, what else do you do when your kid loses a tooth? All of their friends have already told them about it, so it’s become gospel among the kindergarten set. And I am more than happy to do the whole Tooth Fairy jive, but, again, talking about it gets me confused.
Child: “But Mom, if the Tooth Fairy is so small, then how can she lift the tooth?”
Me: “Because she’s magic, honey. She uses magic.”
Child: “And how does she get under the pillow without getting hurt?”
Me: “…Sooo much magic. Hey, who wants a cookie?!”
I have found that “magic” tends to be my last ditch answer to everything. When they hit me with a question I can’t answer or don’t have the energy to come up with a good lie for, I just say, “because of magic,” and we’re all good. Because magic doesn’t need to explained; it can’t be explained. Magic is the soft, elastic ground that childhood walks on; it cushions and comforts and thrills. And I keep up those fictions for the same reason most parents do: we want our children to float gently for as long as possible before they look down and realize that there’s nothing but dirt and rock beneath them, and that’s all there ever was.
So I force myself to create fun lies and reasonable stories, even when the easiest thing to do would be to throw up my hands and say, “You got me, kid. Sorry.” But we have a trip to Disney World coming up next year, and I’m not sure how I’ll explain that though Santa is real, The Little Mermaid is just pretend.
I’ll have to go with either Gloria Steinem or magic.