I don’t remember quite how old I was. I believe it was late grade school, fourth or fifth grade. It was the third night in row that she had forgotten and by then, I was pretty upset. No tears…yet, but very disappointed. I took the tooth downstairs to my mother and in a slightly broken voice told my mom (thankfully no older brothers were around) that The Tooth Fairy had failed to visit 3 nights in a row, and that I didn’t understand, and I wasn’t sure what was going on. My mother, bless her, looked both shocked and embarrassed. Starting with an apology, she told me the truth, that SHE was the elusive Tooth Fairy and that SHE had forgotten my tooth, three nights in a row.
And how, might you ask, did I react? Tears or shouting? Sobs or anger? I remember it quite well: What she said made sense and it kind of “clicked” in my head, and everything was okay. And that’s what I said, “Oh. Okay.” And walked off to throw my tooth in the trash. I’m not sure why, but that truth really didn’t bother me. Maybe because I already knew that Santa wasn’t real. Ah, the wonders and innocence of youth.
Christians have very diverse opinions on the classical mythical characters of Santa Claus and The Tooth Fairy. I know because I have heard and read the gambit; from vehement, total rejection to passionate, total inclusion. In my home, we have leaned toward inclusion without blatant lying. Yes, a hybrid of sorts. For example, we put presents under the tree on Christmas Eve, but don’t say “From: Santa” on the tag. Just leave it blank. But I have never been one to blatantly lie to my children. If they ever asked me point blank if there was a Santa Clause, and they have, I tell them point blank “No.”
Now this may seem shocking, but it has never been shocking to my children. When my older two girls asked me about Mr. C., and I told them he wasn’t real, they laughed. Hard. And said, “Oh Daddy, you’re so funny!” Yep, I told them the truth and they wouldn’t believe me. And that routine went on for the next 4 years until they finally asked someone else about it, and they believed them.
When I forgot to get the tooth for my oldest daughter 2 nights in a row, and she was upset, I decided enough was enough, told her the truth and gave her extra money. Yes, I “bought her off.” She took the news well. I’m pretty sure I repeated this financial exchange for my next daughter a year later.
Now years later, we come back to the present. Last week, to be exact. I had, not surprisingly, repeated my mother’s error of forgetting a tooth 3 nights in a row for one of my younger two daughters. To her great credit, she was not as upset as I once was. But, instead of dreaming up some fancy tale as to why The Tooth Fairy didn’t come, that night I decided it was time to tell them the truth. I took a quarter and an extra dollar for each of my twins (Couldn’t break the news to one and not compensate the other!) and went to them. They were upstairs waiting for me to come and say goodnight. The tooth was under the pillow. With the lights full on and them watching, I pulled a shiny quarter from my pocket, reached under the pillow, and swapped it for the tooth. The reaction was immediate.
Shrieks and giggles.
“Daddy, stop! The Tooth Fairy won’t know where to find it!”
“Daddy, you’re so silly!”
“Daddy, you’re not The Tooth Fairy!”
And more giggles.
“Yes I am. I am The Tooth Fairy. I have been The Tooth Fairy for over ten year!”
Even more giggles.
“Daddy! Ha, ha! You’re no fairy!”
I was getting absolutely nowhere. Just like their older sisters, they took my offering of truth as a joke. I decided to enlist some help. If they wouldn’t believe me, maybe they’d believe their older sisters. I called them both upstairs and shortly they stood before me and their younger siblings, who were still giggling. Can you see the train coming?
Knowing my older daughters penchant for dramatization, I set the stage by stating, “I’m going to ask you a question and I just need a yes or no.”
They looked at me, and then at each other, and started giggling themselves.
“Is the Tooth Fairy real?”
There was much commotion after this question, with laughter by all four girls, so I felt the need to repeat myself.
“I only need a yes or no.” My oldest is grinning so broadly that I know I’m in trouble. “Is there a Tooth Fairy?”
Both older daughters loudly say, “Yes!” and emphatically nod their heads. Oh, the giggles. I was utterly defeated by 4 young girls.
“Fine.” I was prepared for tears, prepared to pay, and prepared to cuddle. I wasn’t prepared to be laughed at. I sighed, put the tooth back under the pillow, and put the quarter back in my pocket. I thanked my older two “For nothing!”, kicked them out, finished saying “Goodnight” to the twins, and went downstairs.
A few minutes later, the older two were, between laughs, telling their mother what had happened. It was a classic set up, and if I was in their position, I probably would have done the same. It was great situational comedy which they thoroughly enjoyed. At my expense.
But I couldn’t leave it that way.
“Just remember, you will both grow up, and some day be married, and some day have your own children. And they’ll ask me, ‘Grandpa is there really a Santa Claus because mommy says there isn’t.’ And I’ll remember this night and how much you helped me and said to your children, ‘Yes, there is a Santa Claus. Your mommy’s only saying that because she was very naughty when she was young and got mostly coal in her stocking.’”