With four kids, Michelle and I weren’t always up on things – especially when it came to losing teeth and getting the kids compensated for their lost teeth.
Around late September of this past year, our youngest got out of bed and came into our room long-faced and disappointed.
“I put my tooth under my pillow last night. Nothing was there when I woke up,” she said.
Michelle, a painfully honest person, said nothing. Dad, on the other hand, offered encouragement and planned for a deception.
“Are you sure you checked around your bed?” I asked.
Quickly, I gathered some small change and slipped into her room while she continued to talk to her mother. Under the guise of looking for the money myself, I quickly sprinkled it around the side of her blanket. As she walked in, I was busily searching for the missing loot.
“You know, sometimes your brothers and sister would find it under the bed.”
Sure enough, a few moments later, she came up with an adequate amount of money for the tooth and happily placed it in her stash of cash.
That evening, Michelle and I decided it was time to have the grown-up talk. We would have to be brave, but it was time for us to admit that all the make-believe of her younger years was only that. It was time to tell her all of that was just for fun.
We expected it would be painful.
Lengthy discussion followed. We talked about things for quite some time, discussing the pros and cons. We went back to the years before when we had the same talk with her three older siblings.
Our oldest was matter of fact about things, probably around 8 years old or so.
“I haven’t really believed for a few years now, but since it’s fun, I decided not to say anything. I just haven’t understood how Santa could do all of that for a number of years. I’ve had questions for a long time, maybe since I was 7.”
Our next-to-oldest never messed around with any funny business. He’s usually the one who figures out angles and doesn’t appreciate any kind of sugar coating. He broke the news to us one night, whether we liked it or not. He probably around age 8, too.
“There’s no Santa. Riley (his older brother) told me anyway,” he reported.
Although he teases his sisters unmercifully, he let us know he would keep the news under his hat for the sake of her. He only had one sister at the time.
Our older daughter, a quiet girl, said very little. When we finally talked to her one day about Santa, she smiled a polite smile and we knew exactly what she was thinking. She didn’t have to say a word.
“I kinda stopped believing a while back,” she said quietly.
Since our youngest came along 8 years after our older daughter, we all recaptured a bit of the magic surrounding St. Nick. Having a little one around makes things more fun for everyone.
But after the tooth incident, it was decided we’d go for broke one evening. Might as well cover the Tooth Fairy, the Easter Bunny and Santa in one swoop. Get it over with and move on.
There was worry and anxiety after all; wasn’t she past the expiration date anyway? Weren’t most of her friends already over the whole Santa thing? Is our child backward and immature? We did an informal poll of our friends who still had young ones. There were divided opinions. We discussed things a little more. We took a deep breath.
It was time. Let’s do this.
She bounded into the room after being called away from a game she was playing with some of her Messenger Kids friends. We started by talking about the morning when the Tooth Fairy had failed to make an appearance after the lost tooth incident.
We asked her what her thoughts were.
“I saw Dad walk into my bedroom. I knew he had the money anyway.”
We were shocked. Our little innocent baby. We questioned her further and she admitted she had known about the Tooth Fairy for a while.
“It was just fun getting money,” she said.
Shades of her older brother began to appear.
Perhaps the final blow would be softer than we thought.
We asked her what her thoughts were on the Easter Bunny and Santa Claus. She looked at the ceiling and smiled the same shy smile her sister had smiled, although she is practically the complete opposite of her sister.
“I really already knew that Santa couldn’t be real. The Easter Bunny too.”
After some investigating and response time, we found she really hadn’t fully believed for a couple of years. She’d talked to her friends about it, and most of them had just decided to keep their mouths shut about the whole matter.
Maybe they were sparing their poor, trusting, out-of-touch parents.
Those little stinkers.
Being our most emotional child, we had fully expected this incident to be like ripping off a bandaid. Once she found that none of these icons actually existed, surely the tears would flow. Surely we would have to explain to her why her parents were pitiful liars. Most likely, she would blame us for destroying part of her childhood.
Why would her parents do something like that to her? We were ready for to be disowned and chastised.
“Are we finished now? My friends are still playing the game.”
She politely asked this question, with just a shade of pity in her voice. Perhaps she thought she had made us extremely sad after looking at our open-mouthed faces.
No. These are the looks of dumbfounded parents.
We sat there, realizing how we wouldn’t have to wrap presents on Christmas Eve anymore. We could actually go to bed earlier. We could wrap presents and put them out immediately. No more scarfing down cookies we weren’t hungry for. No more slurping milk. No more cranky, late nights that stole our Christmas joy. No more tiptoeing around and being stressed on late Christmas Eve nights.
“I feel like we should have a glass of wine or something,” said my wife.
Merry Christmas, everybody!
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