Friday, February 23, 2007

Who is the Tooth Fairy? And why does she have pesos?

Last night, around 10 p.m., a voice from Nick's room. The light is out; he's supposed to be asleep.

"I need a tissue..." trailing off.

I bring him one.

"Thanks, Mommy."

"Why are you still awake, Nick? It's late."

"It's my loose tooth. It's really hard to sleep with a loose tooth."

"Well, try to ignore it and go to sleep, OK?"

He can't. Through hard work and concentration, he manages to pull it out. The tissue is bloody; he is triumphant. We get the tooth wrapped in a (clean) tissue, and placed in a small box I find on my dresser. (There used to be a little gingham pillow for the tooth fairy, but who knows where it is now?) He rinses out his mouth, marveling at all the blood, and returns to bed. But before I leave the room:

"Mommy, S. and J. think your parents are the tooth fairy."

I shrug. He looks at me, hard.

"Mommy, tell me you're not telling me that you're the tooth fairy."

I can answer this honestly. "I'm not telling you that I'm the tooth fairy."

"I think maybe some kids' parents are the tooth fairy. But I know you aren't. You didn't even know there were golden dollars until I got one from the tooth fairy!"

"That's right, I didn't." [small lie]

"M. thinks her mom is the Tooth Fairy because once she asked her if she wanted Russian or American money. But I wouldn't care, because I don't spend the money the Tooth Fairy brings. Unless it's quarters!"

"Good night, Nick!"

After several more such exchanges, I turn the light out again and he settles down.

My alarm goes off at six. It's dark. I tiptoe into Nick's room with a 2000 peso bill (um, that may have been a mistake. The currency converter tells me it's worth $181. 458. Can this really be? Why has it been sitting in my jewelry box for untold years? Can I possibly get it back?) and four quarters in my hand. No time to get another golden dollar late last night.

I slip my hand under Nick's pillow. He's in the top bunk, and I can't reach to the far end of the bed. He shifts, and I duck down, hoping he doesn't see me. Can't feel the box. I try again; he shifts again; I leave.

After my shower, I try again. I write a left-handed note (Nick can identify hand-writing now) from the Tooth Fairy.

Dear Nick, Where is your tooth? I heard that you had lost it while I was travelling in Mexico, but I can't find it in your nest. Please leave it again tomorrow night. Love, T.F.

I wrap the note around the bill and leave it under his pillow, figuring I'll work out how to get him the quarters somehow tonight. I'm afraid he sees me, but I creep out and dress.

As Mariah and I prepare to leave the house for her bus, Nick comes down the stairs, looking sleepy and distraught. I ask him if the Tooth Fairy came and he bursts into tears.

"I couldn't sleep all night! And I wanted to write the Tooth Fairy a note, so I took the box out from under my pillow, and then I saw Daddy with his hand under my pillow! But I don't want Daddy to be the Tooth Fairy!"

The tears fall freely now. I sit down, mouth to Mariah that I'll take her to the secondary bus stop (this buys us ten minutes), pull Nick onto my lap.

"Nick, I can promise you, Daddy is not the tooth fairy. He couldn't be! He didn't even know you lost your tooth--he was asleep when you lost it. Do you think maybe you dreamed it?"

"No, I know I saw Daddy. Or I think I did. I felt a hand under my pillow, and I saw a face, and I thought it was Daddy. And I don't want [voice rising to a wail] I don't want Daddy to be the Tooth Fairy!"

"Nick, where's the box now? Did you check to see if anything happened? Was there anything under your pillow?"

"I put it under the lamp on my dresser. But then I put it back under my pillow, just now. I didn't look in it. I don't want Daddy to be the Tooth Fairy!"

Mariah is sympathetic, takes over with Nick while I go upstairs to see what has transpired. As I walk upstairs I hear her reassure him that Daddy is not the Tooth Fairy.

I look into the bedroom, give Mark a quick update on the situation, and come back down with the box (grr! If I'd only known he'd put it under the lamp!) and the note. He is taken aback by the note--and the bill. He reads it slowly.

"See, Nick?" Mariah says. "She did come. That note's not from Daddy."

We have to leave or we will miss the bus at the secondary stop, and I don't have time to drive her all the way to school this morning. More hugs, more kisses, while Nick begins to explain to Mark (who has just made it downstairs) what has happened.

In the car, Mariah finally laughs. She's been holding it in. But it's a kind laugh, a nostalgic laugh. "He's so cute!" she says. "I don't remember it being that big a deal for me." She thinks she's convinced him that he had a dream, that there was no Daddy with a hand under his pillow.

Not long ago--maybe last Easter?--Nick figured out that I was the Easter Bunny, but insisted that I was neither Santa nor the Tooth Fairy. He saw his grandmother accepting thanks from Mariah for a present clearly marked "from Santa." He asks, and then he rejects the answers if they aren't what he wants. How long can this go on? How long should it?


anna said...

If by "this" you mean the struggle between knowing and not knowing, between the comforting fantasy of childhood and the grounded reality of something approaching adulthood, I thnk it should go on as long as each child needs it to go on.

My sense is that my job, as they struggle, is to never lie (not even a little!) and to let them be in charge of what they know.

So, when my Youngest, well past the age where everybody figures out about Santa, asked me if I was Santa, I said to him, "If you want me to, I will tell you everything there is to know about my relationship with Santa, but I want you to think if you really want to know the answer to this question. Cause you never want to ask a question that you really don't want to know the answer to." He thought for a minute and then replied, "Nahhhh, forget it."

Libby said...

That's exactly where we are right now, Anna. He asks, but he doesn't really want to know. So far I don't think I've had to lie outright--even, actually, about the golden dollars, since I really didn't know they existed until I got him one. I have offered to tell him what I know, and he has rejected it. So we'll see how this one plays out.

Mom said...

Oops, sorry for spilling Santa's beans!

Mom (Grandma!)

Wormwood's Doxy said...

Oh Libby---I feel your pain on this one! My 10-year-old son still "believes." I think he really knows, but he's not ready to give up the story yet, and I am loathe to pop his bubble---though I worry that his classmates will ridicule him.

He keeps asking me, "Mom, do YOU believe in Santa?" And I can honestly reply that I do! ;-)

My little one is going to jettison Santa before her big brother does...