Something wondrous is afoot amouth. My Baby Bear has lost her first tooth. I remember when that tooth came in. With pain and toil did I bring it! (Or so I thought.) Dr. Awesome was away on a long, tropical and enviable business trip, so naturally his firstborn needed to do something really horrible to Mommy like cut a tooth and spike a fever and refuse to sleep for seven straight days. At least that’s how I remember it. I truly cannot believe that tooth I fretted over has had the gall to come out. I am excited for her, of course. The grown-up tooth behind, wouldn’t you know, is already in—already up! I shuddered at the sight because it was so far back and immediately began estimates on future orthodontia. But the dentist assured me that it was fine and normal, and the permanent tooth would work its way forward as soon as the milk tooth came out. It’s been less than 48 hours, and that permanent tooth is already almost where it needs to be, and the other milk teeth, which seemed so close together, seem to be shifting aside for it. The way children grow is truly a miracle.
It is bittersweet to me to see my baby lose her first tooth. Has it been five years already? I am also touched by the sweetness of seeing Bitsy’s come in while Bear’s come out. Of course, there is a lot less fretting over the baby teeth than there used to be. While with the first child I frantically felt the gumline every six hours whenever there was any more fussing, drooling, or gnawing than usual, by the third it’s more like the baby smiled one day and I said, “Oh wow, look at you with those three teeth!”
With the exit of the first tooth comes the entrance of the Tooth Fairy. And here we examine the Lies We Tell Our Children. Where does the fun stop and the guilt begin? I will be honest and say that I never really considered whether or not we would do the Tooth Fairy, and instead got right down to Just how cheap can this Fairy be? (The going rate for a five-year-old tooth in my house, if you’re wondering, is a crisp dollar, and the only thing disappointing about that seemed to be that Bear was hoping it would be made out of chocolate.) I was freaked about slipping the buck under her pillow. I was sure I would get caught, and I planned to tell her I was just so eager to see if the Tooth Fairy had come yet that I was checking to see if it were so. As it turns out, after I slipped the buck and pocketed the tooth I discovered that Boo had wet his bed and managed to get him cleaned up with pants and sheets completely changed and Bear never stirred from her sound slumber in the bed “next door.”
But I will also say that a part of me, the part that tries to raise my children with full knowledge of the truth of this world and the next as I understand it, wants to know why I am perpetuating flat-out lies that only get more and more complicated as the questions get asked. (And Bear is a perfect interrogator. We have found that she asks us questions separately to confirm our stories. She also runs her own experiments. More on that later.)
Well, I guess, we want to recreate for our children some of the lore we loved as children. Advent is almost upon us, and the Elves have already been up and down our street, so I’ve told it, peeking in on good and naughty children. It makes me wonder, are we obligated to tell our children the whole truth all of the time? We do Santa Claus in our house. We stress the Saint Nicholas aspect and try to make everything as much about Jesus’s birthday as possible. We don’t do the Easter Bunny, partly because I find those big stuffed characters creepy and mostly because I just couldn’t make the connection. We do Easter baskets, and this year we left it as it is fun pretending there’s an Easter Bunny but since you asked, the Easter Bunny is Mommy. But it’s OK for us to pretend. But still we lead our kids to believe that a magical fat man in a red and white suit brings them all the presents in their stockings and under the tree.
Why? Because we love our children. And we loved being children too.
So with the loss of the tooth and the entrance of the Fairy and the first Sighting of the Elves (conveniently while someone was being naughty) the questions began tonight. First, she asked me why only grown-ups can see elves. “I think it’s something that happens to your eyes, like one of many changes your body goes through to grow from a kid to an adult.” And I feel the elaborateness of my answers digging me in deeper. At bedtime I heard her interrogating Dr. A through the wall.
Is there one Tooth Fairy, or many? “Hmm… I always thought there was one, but you’d better ask your mother.” (Note the classic paternal deflection.)
Why did Bobby from my class get candy instead of me? “I’ve never heard of anyone getting candy for a tooth, because candy is bad for your teeth. So maybe there are many tooth fairies…”
How big are elves? Are they tall like you? “Oh, small. Like kids maybe.” What color was the elf wearing? “It was so dark, I couldn’t see.” Mommy said he was wearing green. “Well, that makes sense. Green is a hard color to see in the dark.”
He came out of there sweating. We have since corroborated elf size, elf apparel, elf spying tactics, and elf species dimorphism.
And I have uncovered another reason we tell these lies to our children.