My 6-year-old twin daughters never really believed in Santa and the Easter Bunny was out of the question. When they told me about a friend whose little brother had his beloved pacifiers taken by the "pacifier fairy," they could barely get the words out, they were laughing so hard at the sheer nonsense. You see, I've got two skeptics who love ... reality. So when the first tooth was lost, I thought, here's my chance to inject some good, old-fashioned wonder into their iPad-wielding, Katy-Perry-singing childhood.
They'd been getting mixed messages on the tooth fairy's existence from friends who reported receiving everything from American Girl dolls to $20 bills to zilch under their pillows. Everyone's fairy is different, I explained, and the creative logic flowed from there. We'd put the tooth in a baggie along with a note asking our tooth fairy if we could please keep the tooth and if she could also leave a little something for both sisters since they're twins. My girls stood in their nightgowns and nodded gamely. They seemed almost embarrassed by my enthusiasm. I, however, felt great.
In the morning, when the tooth-loser found the silver dollar I'd left, she was all in. She wanted to take it to school or put it in her special box or both. Her sister marveled over her coin for a few minutes until she thought about it and the interrogation began. But how'd she get into the apartment? I left a window open in the living room. Isn't the money in exchange for taking the tooth? We asked to keep ours!
Tooth number two got the same treatment. How did the tooth fairy know she was assigned to us? She got your names in the hospital when you were born. Will she run out of silver dollars? Maybe, I said, wondering how many I had left. I thought you said grandma was your tooth fairy? Did I? It got more complicated. Tooth number three came out on a weekend away -- no coins! -- and I said we'd do the under-the-pillow-thing with a note when we got home because our fairy probably didn't know where we were. I was slipping. I remembered a story Heidi Klum told where she went so far as to dress up in a silver tiara and take a blurry photo of herself running out of her daughter's room as evidence. I might need a visual.
By the fourth tooth my little skeptic was pleased with her present -- the tooth fairy changed it up and went with crisp $2 bills -- but exceedingly frustrated. She sat me down on her stool, put on her serious face, and looked me in the eye. I think she even held my face with both hands. "Really," she said half laughing, half crying, "for real life ... is it you, mama? Is it you?" This was turning into a cruel lesson in hypocrisy and deception for no good reason and I had to wonder why I was so attached to keeping this thing going. I guess I felt -- and still feel -- like it's a personal failure of mine that I haven't been able to create or sustain that suspension-of-disbelief notion, the one that I can't even put into words, but sounds like the trill of a wand in a Disney movie. Isn't it nice to feel like there are magical beings who give you gifts and have the capacity to spread joy unconditionally? Also, my girls went from Elmo to Taylor Swift in what seemed like a minute. Isn't it okay to keep them as my babies a little longer?
I did not have a great answer for her and I still don't. Here's what I came up with: "When it's your turn, we'll write a letter and ask her to tell us the truth, ok?"
"Fine," she said trying to wiggle her firmly-in-place bottom teeth with her fingers. "I think they're loose. I'm getting an apple."
How long do you think kids should believe in the tooth fairy?
Image via Bit-O-Me/Flickr