J2 Content – Perspectives

A varied collection of thoughts on education and parenting

The Real Tooth Fairy

“Mommy, is the tooth fairy real?” I should have known this question was coming! My eight-year-old daughter, Ashleigh, has lost three of her front teeth in the past few months, and she is in third grade – where kids start questioning what their parents have told them about the tooth fairy and Santa.

I paused, not sure how to answer the question. Should I be truthful with her, and spoil the fun of believing in the typical imaginary things of childhood? Or should I continue the charade? She told me that many of her classmates have been telling her that there is no such thing as the tooth fairy or Santa, that it is actually just your parents giving you money under your pillow and gifts under the tree and in your stocking. The thing is, kids seem to really love believing in the “magic” of these things. Is there any harm in this? Are we just lying to our children, only to leave them disappointed later when they find out the truth?

So, I beat around the bush for a while. I read her a story called The Real Tooth Fairy by Marilyn Kaye, which deals with this issue. In the book, a little girl named Elise wakes up in the middle of the night to find her mother taking her tooth and putting money under her pillow. She then believes that her mother is THE tooth fairy and has the important job of traveling all over the world and putting money under all the children’s pillows. Then Elise’s friend at school says he woke up to find his father putting money under his pillow. Elise asks her mother about this, and she tells her that the tooth fairy transforms to look like someone the child knows so that if they wake up in the middle of the night, they see someone they know and trust so that they don’t get scared and think it’s a stranger in their room.  She enjoyed the story, but then asked me, “Mom, what is the genre of that story: realistic fiction, fantasy, or nonfiction?”

Wow! Kudos to her third grade teacher for teaching her about genres, but I also think this was Ashleigh’s way of asking me if the tooth fairy is really real!

I told her that it is up to her to believe or not believe, but if she doesn’t believe in the tooth fairy or Santa, she will no longer receive gifts from the tooth fairy or Santa. I reminded her about how this happened in movies like the Polar Express, Miracle on 34th Street, and The Santa Clause.  I pointed out to her that is her choice to believe or not believe, but children who choose not to believe can sometimes miss out.

I am still debating on how to answer Ashleigh’s questions. She has told me that she wants to know the truth. I feel like I should honor her request, but I also don’t want her to be disappointed, or even upset that she has been “lied to.” One thing I know for sure – my little girl is growing up!

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2 Responses to “The Real Tooth Fairy”

  1. Scott
    on Apr 19th, 2011
    @ 8:43 am

    My 8-year-old still believes. She’s made some observations like “Dad, your handwriting looks a lot like Santa’s” and “wow, when I saw that big bag of candy in the dining room I thought for a minute that maybe YOU were the one who put the candy in our baskets”, but I can tell that she doesn’t want there to be a reasonable explanation.

    I find it very frustrating that how long her faith lasts is largely out of my hands. As you say, there are plenty of know-it-all kids who are all too eager to make it all come crashing down.

    I think you’re walking the line well, respecting her desire to be told the truth but also respecting her age and the specialness of the moment.

  2. Ashleigh's 3rd grade teacher
    on Apr 20th, 2011
    @ 7:33 pm

    The genre of the Toothfairy story in my household would have definitely been a tragedy since our toothfairy often forgot to show up. Maybe he/she was a little forgetful, but always had good intentions….and an empty wallet due to acrued interest that had to be paid to the recipient. I think the rate was about 300%.

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