The day after Christmas, while we were at the cottage, Oliver’s wiggly tooth fell out while he was brushing his teeth, and I remember being glad it didn’t fall into the drain, lost forever. He put it under his pillow straight away, and I know he checked on it a few times that day, just to be sure it was still there.
In the morning when he wandered out of his bedroom, with his little molar in his palm, wondering why the tooth fairy hadn’t come. Craaaaaaap! I had to try really hard not to look as guilty as I suddenly felt. I just clean forgot.
Me: Oh, Oliver… I’m so sorry! Look… you’ve seen all the snow… and with Christmas AND tooth fairy business all up in the sky like that these days? I’m sure she’ll come tomorrow. Don’t you worry about it.
He: Maybe she didn’t know we were here?
Me: Maybe… or maybe she just had trouble finding the place. She’ll come. Don’t worry.
And indeed, as his grandfather dropped by later that morning, and after hearing the story about the rogue and feckless Tooth Fairy, he dipped his hand into his pocket and produced a toonie and two loonies, saying he’d just run into the Tooth Fairy on the road, and that she’d said to give Oliver these coins. The kid was delighted.
And skeptical. Lately, he’s been looking at me sideways, like this:
He’s had the natural kinds of thoughts a kid his age begins to have about Santa, and the Easter Bunny, and indeed, about the Reaper of The Teeth. Is it really you, mum? Some of my friends say the Tooth Fairy doesn’t exist… I decided the next time this kind of conversation came up, I would give up the jig. I don’t want him to feel lied to (and there’s a point when the whole charade becomes nearly impossible to keep up) but once you know, there’s really no going back to imagining. He’ll be nine in a couple of weeks.
The other problem about the confessing is we’ve often had such conversations while his younger sister is sitting in the room with us, and I’m not about to spoil things for her.
Cut to yesterday morning when Oliver padded into the kitchen after losing yet another molar the day before…
Me: Good morning, my love.
He: *tooth in palm* The tooth fairy didn’t come, again.
Ho. Li. Crap. Again?! I am such a failure, I can’t even…
He: *worried eyes* Why does she keep forgetting about me?
Me: Oh, my darling boy… she didn’t forget about you. *kisses his cheek* She’d never forget about you. She probably just got… busy.
He: *stares at me sideways*
Me: You know… maybe a bunch of kids lost their very FIRST teeth yesterday, and you know, it’s waaaay more important to get to the kids who’s first time it is. I mean, you’ve lost lots of teeth already. Just at Christmas… then yesterday… she comes here all the time! She didn’t forget… how could she forget YOU? *rubs his head* Lemme see that tooth again? Nice! Very clean. Good job, Oliver. She likes teeth like these the most.
He: But is she real? I mean really real?
Just then his sister sidles into the kitchen, rubbing her eyes and yawning. She’s already got a tutu on over her pajamas. (Regular Monday stuff.) Obviously, this talk will have to wait.
Me: Good morning, Ava Scarlett! Would you like to eat something?
Me: Why don’t you put it back under your pillow so it doesn’t get lost, okay? *gets busy making breakfast things*
Of course, when he came home from school yesterday, he went straight for the pillow, and found his tooth still lying there. Does she only come at night? If she comes in the day, how come you never see her? Is she big, or small?
At dinner, he was thoughtful and quiet.
Me: Good dinner?
He: Yes, it’s good. But um… is the Tooth Fairy real, mummy?
His sister is sitting across from him, happily eating her chicken stir-fry, picking at the cashews with her little fingers.
Me: Use your fork please, Miss. Um, well… let’s talk about it after dinner, okay?
He: Can you just tell me?
Me: Well, what do YOU think?
He: *conflicted face* I’m just not sure… *stabs at chicken bits miserably*
Me: Eat your dinner, Boo. Don’t worry so much.
And later in the evening while they were apart from each other, off doing seperate things, I walked over to him and just handed him a toonie and two loonies. “Sorry I forgot last night,” I said without blinking. “I won’t always give you this much for a tooth, but I forgot yesterday. Sorry.”
He looked at me, and at the money in his hand, and back at my face. I smiled a tiny bit and put my finger to my mouth. “Shhhhhh… DON’T tell your sister. Never, okay? Promise me. It’s spoils the fun, and she’s little. She hasn’t even lost ONE tooth yet. Leave her alone.”
He: Okay. *beams*
Me: And don’t tell the other kids at school, either. You don’t have to mention it at all. You can agree if someone says they don’t believe, but it’s really a bad thing to wreck this for little kids, especially on purpose. You understand?
He: Yes. *beams more*
Me: I mean it! Don’t tell Anderson, either. He’s only six, right? It’s too soon for him to know.
He: Oscar says he thinks she’s fake…
Me: I don’t care what his brother says… don’t YOU say it to him, okay? It’s really not a nice thing to tell a little kid something like that, especially when they weren’t even asking. Okay? Promise me? *lays palm out for slapping*
He: *slaps palm* Okay. But… what if he asks?
Me: If a kid asks, just tell him to ask his mum.
He: Well… what about Santa?
When it’s over, it’s all the way over, I reckon…
Me: Ho, ho, ho… *winks*
He: *eyebrows high* Really? *laughs to himself* Does everyone know that?
Me: *shrugs* We have to help the little kids believe. It’s fun for them, okay?
I’m glad he wasn’t upset by any of it. I’ve heard of kids freaking out a little bit when they come to learn the truth… but I suppose, it’s all in the way they find out. It’s mean to ambush a kid. Especially so when the ambushing is by other kids.
This morning as he brushed his teeth getting ready for school, he casually asked, “So… Easter Bunny too?”
“Would you like a carrot, Oliver?” I asked with a smile, handing him a towel. He grinned at me with that look of New Knowledge concealed behind his smiling lips, like a secret.
I know the second child seldom believes for as long as the first, but I sure hope he does the right thing.
How old were your kids when you confessed about the Imaginary Holiday Beings?