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The tooth fairy

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12/10/2010

The tooth fairy photo

"There is no tooth fairy." This statement caused a kid to cry and resurrected an old disagreement between my husband and me. But before that, we'd had a great day. Our good friends had left to celebrate their 10 year anniversary in the city and we had offered to watch their son for the weekend. The problem started after the Field Museum, after dinner, after the Indiana Jones DVD ended on the car screen, and after a dessert of fudge, ice cream and chocolate covered pretzels with four boys and a baby in the car driving home.

Our friends’ kid asked my son, "What'd you get from the tooth fairy?" He answered, "Three bucks." (That's another story...) One of my other boys said, "The tooth fairy is Dad." And another added, "Yeah. The tooth fairy is our parents." Then to verify, they all said, "Right Mom?" I responded by saying, "I believe in the tooth fairy." They switched teams. "Right Dad?" My engineer husband responded, "There is no tooth fairy. But we don't talk about that to other kids." After my husband kabashed the tooth fairy, I turned to him and whispered, "What about the kid in the back?" He rolled his eyes. "The kid is nine. Nine-year-olds don't believe in the tooth fairy anymore." The usual kid banter of who farted and who was annoying whom resumed and the tooth fairy discussion ended.

On Monday, I received a call from my girlfriend. "Hi. I just want you to know that thanks to you, my son now knows there's no tooth fairy!" Of course this was an uncomfortable beginning to a conversation, only made worse by the fact that I know this friend would rather chew off her own arm than be confrontational. She said her son was playing on the computer and suddenly burst into tears. When she asked him what was wrong, he responded, "Is the tooth fairy real? Annice says she's not!" Well, first of all, as earlier mentioned, I did not in fact say this. I had said the opposite. She then felt she had to tell him the truth. He was completely devastated. And I felt bad. Because I would like to still believe in the tooth fairy as well.

The initial spousal divide began when our oldest lost his first tooth. He asked me, "Is the tooth fairy real?" I relied upon the good old response of, "What do you think?" He said, "Yes! Yes! I think the tooth fairy is real." I then indulged myself with having him tell me what she looked like and what he thought she did with all those teeth. Not too long after this, my son asked my husband if he was the one who put money under his pillow. He said yes. And what about the tooth fairy? NOT REAL. I was really upset when my kid informed me that he no longer believed in the tooth fairy because Dad told him she didn't exist. My husband’s response to my hysteria was to say he doesn't believe in lying, and it's very important to always be truthful—especially with your kids. He rationalized that if you lie about the tooth fairy, maybe your child will decide you're lying about other things. I disagree.

Soon enough, my kids will learn the world in a cruel and unfair place. (Even more cruel and unfair than them being the only kid in their 3rd grade class—besides three girls—that hasn’t been allowed to see Avatar.) They will learn that people die senselessly. They will experience heartbreak. They will hear and read terrible stories about human rights atrocities. And, they will pay taxes. I feel like maintaining a fantasy/story/lore about a fairy sustains a very fragile innocence our children will lose soon enough. I don’t think that because I said I believed in the tooth fairy, that my kids can’t and won’t expect truthfulness from me. So now they know the truth. But you know what else they know? That the “fairy” dust I rub in between their eyes at night helps them have good dreams. And I know this is real because they tell me so.

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