Saturday, November 24, 2012

The Complicated Relationship Between Santa Claus and the Tooth Fairy

My eldest child is in middle school now.  In the last few weeks, my husband has urged me to have the talk with the boy about the fat man in the red suit.

I can't do it.

He still believes in Santa Claus.  He still believes in the Easter Bunny and the Leprechaun that comes the night before St. Patrick's Day and the Tooth Fairy.  He believes in it all.

My husband is afraid he will get picked on if the kids at school catch wind of the fact that he still willingly writes letters to this mythical man, that he still wants to go sit on Santa's lap at the mall, that he still insists we leave out milk and cookies.

It's a legitimate fear that my husband has.  I worry about my son too, of course.  He is a gentle and trusting kid, he finds the good in everyone, he is genuinely happy.  I've been dreading the day that comes when he realizes that not everyone in the world is good, that his friends will betray him, that he will have his heart broken.

I can't break his heart for him, even if I'd only be doing it to protect him.

I can't steal the magic.

I can't crush him like that.

I can't.

There is a part of me that hopes he can somehow believe quietly and secretly.  That he will find a way to make it look good for the kids who've been told the truth, that he'll play it off like he doesn't believe anymore, that he will still get the nervous giggles on Christmas Eve and ask me to track the sleigh on Norad.

I hope that someday when he's home from college, there will still be something beneath the tree for him from Santa and he will smile.  I hope that when the day comes when he becomes Santa himself, the transition will be seamless and unspoken.  He will just understand that it wasn't all a lie, that it isn't all a lie, that it's more than that. It's believing.

I hope.

If I needed any more reason to resist telling him the truth, it came just a few nights ago.  The night before Thanksgiving, he pulled out a tooth.  I asked him what he wanted to do with it.  If he wanted to do some science experiments with it, throw it in a glass of soda to see if it will really dissolve overnight like they say it will.  I thought for sure he'd want to do that since he spends so much time obsessing over science class now.

Instead, he found a tiny baggie, pulled out his tiny Buzz Lightyear tooth shaped pillow, and tucked it under his head.

My husband looked at me in disbelief that night.

He still believes?


For as long as my children are alive, they will believe in the tooth fairy.  I still believe in the tooth fairy, even if I know better. In our house, the tooth fairy isn't just a magical character that exchanges lost baby teeth for golden dollars and sugar free gum.

In our house, the tooth fairy is my Dad.

Many years ago, this boy of mine asked what everyone in the family did for work.  Some were easy to explain, others more difficult for a child to understand.  From the driver's seat in the car, I told him that Grandpa made new teeth for people who'd lost theirs, since kids don't know what dentures are.  He immediately, and without a moment of hesitation, asked me if Grandpa was the tooth fairy.

Yes, of course he is.

From that moment on, Dad was the tooth fairy.  He got the first phone calls every time one was lost.  He talked the kids though their dentist appointments.  He got to supervise a few losses in person.  And he took the last tooth lost on his watch with him when he left us, tucked into a tiny baggie in his front shirt pocket.

Even in death, he kept this, his last job.  The kids reasoned that he just has a halo to go with the wings and tutu now.

You'll have to forgive us if we let our kids hang on to this imagined fantasy world just a little longer than they should.  If we bend over backwards to keep the magic alive.

I can't ask them to stop believing.

I still believe.  

I just needed a visit from the tooth fairy this week to remind me.


  1. LOVE THIS! I think its so awesome that you keep the magic alive. You know I struggle with it. My friend who has boys in junior high and high school tells them, "As long as you believe, you will receive." I think that's a neat way to put it. And what a great "job" for their grandpa to still have.

    1. We are pretty lucky to have this cool story. :)

  2. You are always making me cry! (in a good way) What an awesome experience for your family. I have always wanted my kids to believe for as long as possible.

  3. Well, I'm a hormonal mess right now, so forgive me for crying in front of the computer. Your family is amazing. My brother believed in Santa until middle school, too.

    1. xoxo. I love hormonal messes. I resemble that remark.

  4. Beautiful. Our beliefs should never be taken from us, even in the name of growing up.

    This story makes me smile even more than usual, because I just saw "Ris of the Guardians" yesterday, and that's what it's all about: belief. When North (Santa Claus) explains that HOPE is at his centre, is what makes him who he is, I teared up. :)

  5. Lovely memorial. We should all be lucky to have such a beautiful connection to the Tooth Fairy.

    Truth and magic can coexist. I thrive on the intangible joy of life. It's the cynic's secret weapon. :)

    1. Thanks, we are pretty lucky to have this tie to him.

  6. This is so sweet! I often wonder how we will handle situations like that. I still have no idea how we will eventually present Santa Clause to our now 10 month old. I laughed out loud when I read the part about your dad being the tooth fairy! What a great post.

  7. this is so beautiful.....crying now.


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