He has decided to believe in the Tooth Fairy and I have decided to let him. Years ago, I was staunchly against the make-believes. Not because I didn’t believe in the Tooth Fairy and Santa when I was a kid, but because I didn’t like the idea of lying to my kid. I couldn’t – and still kind of can’t – wrap my mind around the notion that our kids are supposed to trust us above all others and yet we willingly make up these fantastical tales of magical people and swear to god that they are real, knowing that someday, the jig will be up and where does that leave us then?
I told The Who, when he was only just newly two years old, that Santa Claus was a character in a story. He was actually scared of the idea of Santa at the time. Scared of the mall guy, scared of illustrations, scared of the thought that he might slip into our house in the night, unnoticed. It all creeped him out. So, I told him. And I also told him that lots of kids believe he is real and think it’s fun to believe that and we don’t want to ruin anyone’s fun, so let’s just keep what we know to ourselves. I know. He was two. But he seemed to be on board.
A few years later, he decided that he wanted to believe in Santa. And so, being the good Jews that we are, we got ourselves a shiny little tree and set it up with lights in our living room and dammit if that old Santa didn’t come sneaking into our house on Christmas eve with bundles of Legos for our little believer.
Then, last spring, he lost his first tooth. Already a skeptic at the age of five, he asked me if the Tooth Fairy was real. Point blank. He said, “Did you ever actually see her?” I told him that I never did and I said it with an air of confidence because let’s face it – I hadn’t. I had woken up once to the distinctive sound of my mother’s thighs rubbing together in the middle of the night as she not-so-stealthily approached my pillow with a quarter. I opened one eye and squinted it at her. She squinted back. I closed it again and we never spoke of it. That tooth was a molar, I’m pretty sure, so I was probably on the cusp of non-believing anyway, but still. And I never saw the actual fairy, so it was fair game when he asked.
That first night, when he lost his first tooth, the Fairy left him a long letter in a swirly pink font with two golden dollars taped to the bottom of it. He awoke to the bounty and was fully on board. The second tooth was just as believable. And just now, round three, he woke up from a sound sleep, afraid that midnight was too late for her to come. “Mama! It’th too late! The’s not going to come!” he lisped through the gaping space where his front tooth had been. And so with tonight’s swirly-fonted letter sitting in the printer tray in the next room, I invited him onto my lap and assured him that she wouldn’t come until I was asleep.
“Why?” he asked, rubbing the sleep from his eye.
“Because,” I told him, confidently, “she prefers a quiet, dark house.” And as I said it, I was aware that what had begun as a shady little evasion of the truth was turning into a full-fledged lie. “Besides,” I continued. “I think I heard little tinkling bells outside not that long ago, so she must be in the neighborhood, just waiting.” Bells. Now she had bells.
He sat up on my lap a little. “Were they like jingle bells?”
“No,” I said. “More…tinkly.”
“Like this?” he asked, demonstrating light little squeaks tripping over his tongue.
“Yeah, just like that.” And then I kissed his forehead and sent him back up to bed, only half ashamed of the web of deceit I had spun.