Tooth Fairy, I believe; help thou my unbelief

Setting: last week. After school. The back seat of a crosstown taxi, sitting next to my first grader.

SEAMUS: Mom? Why do some kids say the tooth fairy is really your parents?

ME: (stalling) Hm? Huh? Who says that?

SEAMUS: Lots of kids.

ME: Uh–

SEAMUS: So is it? Is it really you?

ME: …what do you think Seamus?

SEAMUS: I’m not sure.

Mom isn’t too sure either. The cab driver looks at me in the rear view mirror, eyebrows raised.

ME: Seamus, you’ve only lost two teeth, so… I think you should keep believing in the Tooth Fairy for a while.

SEAMUS: (teary) I want the Tooth Fairy to come.

ME: She will! She will!

SEAMUS: But I just need you to tell me. Tell me the truth. TELL ME, Mom. Is it really you?

Pause.

ME: Okay. Yes. Yes, the tooth fairy is really me and Dad. Me or Dad.

Seamus nods, looking out the window.

ME: But even though you know now, when you lose your teeth, we’ll still give you money under your pillow. Okay?

Seamus breaks down sobbing.

SEAMUS: No! I don’t want you to do that. You can’t do that!

MOM: Why, buddy?

SEAMUS: Because what if the real Tooth Fairy is looking in the window and sees you doing that, and then leaves? Then how will we EVER know she’s real?

The cab driver looks at me in the mirror again. He smiles. I smile back, ruefully. How bad did I just screw that up? 

It is remarkable how, even in this hurry-to-grow-up world, a child can still find a scrap of innocence to cling to, a small piece of driftwood in a vast ocean of too much, too soon. I thought my son wanted me to help him grow up a little. But what he was really saying was I believe; help thou my unbelief. 

I’m so glad he showed me how to help him stay little just a little longer.

Has your child ever asked for the truth, but not really wanted it?

 

tooth fairy photo from forbes.com

  • christina

    http://www.amazon.com/Dad-Are-You-Tooth-Fairy/dp/0439667453 I liked this book for older kids on the edge of believing.

  • Mollie

    I love this post a lot.

  • sharisim

    Oh, I just loved this. The issues of faith, and holding onto it despite evidence to the contrary… just lovely. And the addition of the cab driver made it a scene out of a movie :-)

  • Sean

    I probably already told you this, and Lisa can tell it better, but at some point Lilliana came home and told her parents that somebody at school was saying that Santa did not exist. But Lil did not believe that. “He must be real. No way could you guys afford all the stuff we get for Christmas.”

  • Amy Zimmerman

    Hey Amy….
    I wrote such a similar post about three years ago!
    Check it out:  

    http://zimwex.typepad.com/weblog/2009/05/not-yet.html

    Its funny. They want to know whats true; and they also really want to believe.
    In that way, I guess they are not that different from us!!
    Amy Z.

  • http://twitter.com/csiracusa Christine Siracusa

    Reading your book now, recently read the chapter on lying. This must have been a tough conversation for you. Also, I feel like I know Seamus. Although he’s older now. No more babytalk :(

    My son is 9 and still believes in Santa and flirts with asking about it but stubbornly chooses to hang in there and believe. It is very sweet to see. I was like that as a kid, too. But I was so much more sheltered than he is. It’s very nice for me to see him give himself permission to be a kid when there is so much to tempt him away from that choice.

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