Sunday, February 1

The Persistence of Myth

I am going to go out on a limb and say that being astounded is a kind of not getting it. Today, here's what I didn't get (among other things...really, it happens all day long).


This story concerns the Tooth Fairy. You can consider that a spoiler of sorts, and for heavens sake, if your kids are reading over your shoulder, Stop Reading Right Now and pretend like you wound up here by accident while you were looking for more info on that fascinating story you read on Or maybe while you were looking for a new pair of boots. Whatever. Just don't keep reading and then write me comments asking if I've ever seen "Miracle on 34th Street", okay? Yes, I've seen it. Yes, I love it (the original, that is). That was a movie. This is real life.

The tooth fairy has now been coming to our house(s) for about three years. Both fortunately and unfortunately (if you're a parent, you'll get both), she really made quite an impression upon her first visit, and, well, kinda set the bar high, if you know what I mean. I am happy to share the details with you some other time, or maybe I'll let Phoebe do that, since she is clearly more closely acquainted with the Tooth Fairy than am I. We're not talking about high dollar amounts, let's just leave it at that.

In any case, the Tooth Fairy had quite a run of it. It went on for the standard amount of time, a year or so, in which teeth were lost and redeemed hand over fist. And then, as these things happen, she got a break. And in the course of that break, the child aged. Go figure, huh?

And you know what comes with age. Skepticism. Reality testing. Loss of innocence. All those nasty things and more. So it was bound to happen.

About three or four weeks ago, Phoebe and I went to a movie. We saw "Bedtime Stories", Adam Sandler's recent film. I have never before willingly gone to see an Adam Sandler movie, but I have to admit, this one was pretty cute. But that's beside the point.

After the movie, we got in the car, and headed for the exit of the parking lot. And she said it. "Mommy, I have an important question that I want to ask you. But if I ask you, I really have to know that you are completely going to tell me the absolute truth". I replied that of course, I would tell her the absolute truth, and that she could ask me anything she wanted. So she did.

"You know how the tooth fairy used to come?"
"Yes" (uh-0h)
"Is there really a tooth fairy or was it you?"
Uh-oh. Yes, again.

Now, usually, I'm pretty good at these things. But this time, not so much. I paused. I stammered. I panicked a little. I reminded myself that she is nine years old and I just promised to tell her the absolute truth, no matter what. So I decided to start with the stupidest answer first (just to save time, dontcha know). I summoned up my best therapist-self, and asked her why it felt important for her to know, what made her think of it. (I know. I'm rolling my eyes too.) She said that it just was. So that idea was shot.

And so I told her. The absolute truth. She asked where the teeth were. I told her.

And then, bless her heart, she gave me an opening for which I will be eternally grateful--and with great pleasure, I walked right into it. She asked "How did you think of all that stuff?", and I said (drum roll please)..."I don't know. Maybe the tooth fairy helped me." She smiled and said "Yeah, maybe she did." And the conversation was over. A few days later, I let her other mom know what had taken place, so she would know that the lid was off the jar. End of story. All's well that ends well.

Until yesterday.

I was cleaning out the drawers in my room, and well, you know what I came across. Phoebe happened to wander in, and asked me what it was. Since, as I've said, the lid was off the jar, I handed it to her. I didn't think there was any particular risk in it. I thought she'd smile, with some nostalgia (to the extent that a nine year old can be nostalgic) and remember our Absolutely Truthful Conversation. She did smile. She looked at it with pleasure and recognition--no shock, no dismay. And then you know what she did? With a look of concern, she clapped her hand to her forehead and said "Oh my god! I must have never left this one for the tooth fairy!! I'm going to put it under my pillow right now!" And she did.

You know, I take some pride in the fact that I understand kids and their development and the ways they think better than most. It's been my life's work, for more than 30 years now. But this one just threw me. I sat there, stunned, as she ran off to put her found treasure under her pillow.

As of today, the Tooth Fairy is back in business. High bar and all.

Kids are astounding.

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