Tuesday, November 20, 2007

Cut your teeth on fairy tales

This morning, my eldest son, Jacob, asked if there really is a tooth fairy. Actually, what he really asked was, "Did you sneak in my room last night and take my tooth?".

We were all huddled in the bathroom, with the adults overseeing the kids' teeth-brushing, hair combing, face wiping thing, and talking about what the tooth fairy had brought Jacob last night in exchange for the tooth he had lost, his third. When he asked us, his mother and I were a bit taken aback. The looks we gave each other were that almost frantic parent semaphore: do we tell him the truth, or do we try to shore up this one more childhood myth and keep him a little boy just that bit longer?

We tried to put off the question, or rather the answer, for a little bit. I played at being surprised. "Why do you ask?", "What do you think?" He wouldn't be put off. He's a smart kid. He asked outright again, and it was clear he really wanted to know.

So, his mother told him the truth. I knew she would (even if I was too chicken to do it). She believes it is more important to be truthful to kids – when they need that honesty – than to shore up adults' sentimentality about childhood's innocence. Jacob looked pleased as punch to have discovered the truth about the tooth fairy – to have found his parents out and unlocked some secret parents' business. It wasn't really out of the blue though. He had asked his mother a day or so before if the tooth fairy were real. Which says to me he'd been working on this line of thought for a while.

So, last night my eldest son has passed another milestone of growing up: he lost another baby tooth. But he has passed another, more significant, milestone this morning: readily giving up one of those traditions that mark young childhood, his belief in the tooth fairy. Perhaps seven really is the age of reason after all.

I am a bit worried, though. Now we can no longer blame it on the tooth fairy if he's not please with the going rate for milk teeth. And he's going to come negotiating directly with us in future!

And I wonder what will happen to Santa Claus this Christmas?

[Image by Walsh (cc) ]

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At November 21, 2007 3:29 pm, Blogger Shelley said...

I love your description of that morning, Mark. I see that loss of innonence as a sort of end to the belief in 'magic'(for the time being anyway). It's like in the movie 'Bedknobs and Broomsticks', when the middle child refuses to get on the enchanted bed, because he simply won't believe that it will fly. The Angela Lansbury character breaks into song, empathising that he is at the that awful inbetween age, the 'age of unbelieving'. The younger child has no such doubts about magic, while the eldest child (probably 14 or so) accepts that she can still be surprised.


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