It all began innocently enough: we went out to eat, Little Man, my Mom and me, on the day after my birthday. After chowing down for a bit, Little Man began to fiddle in earnest with his loose tooth– #8, the last one he would lose for a few years. It had been loose for a while, slowly working its way free of the root, and I could see it was now hanging by a biological thread. Hoping to keep him from swallowing the darn thing (not EVEN going there!), I whisked him off to the restaurant bathroom where he successfully pulled it out all by himself. We wrapped it in a napkin and I tucked it away in my pocket to keep it safe. Returning to the table, he proudly gave Grandma a bright, gap-toothed grin. All was right with the world.
Getting ready for bed that night, Little Man wrote his note to the Tooth Fairy and told me not to forget to tape the tooth on to it, then ran upstairs to brush his remaining choppers. I followed his instructions and laid the Scotch tape encase parcel to rest on his dresser.
Then, as we snuggled up to say our goodnights: “Mom,” he said, in his angel sweet voice, “are you the Tooth Fairy?”
And there it was.
I lay there a minute, looking blankly into his adorable almost 8-year old face. Did he really just ask me if I was the Tooth Fairy? Seriously?
I tried to pretend that I didn’t hear him: “Time for bed now.”
“But Mom, you didn’t answer me.”
Playing dumb: “Answer what, honey?”
“Are you the Tooth Fairy?”
Dang it! That didn’t work!
Psychology: “Do you think I’m the Tooth Fairy?”
Pressing the question: “What do you think?”
“Yes and no.”
Reprieve? “Why yes?” And why no?
“Well, yes because you always know when I lose a tooth, and you are very quiet, so I wouldn’t hear you come in my room. And you can type, so you could type the notes the Tooth Fairy leaves. Oh, and you have fancy scissors, too, like the Tooth Fairy uses on her notes.”
Wow, some serious logic at work there. I try not to react. “Ok. Why no?”
“Because maybe there is a Tooth Fairy.”
Avoidance: “Maybe there is.”
“So are you?”
“Am I what?”
“The Tooth Fairy! Mom, please. I really want to know. Are you?”
“What if I am?”
“If you are, then I will no longer believe in any mythical creatures. And if not, I will still continue to believe in some mythical creatures.”
It was at this point that I began to giggle. Not because what he said was funny; although the way he said it was somewhat amusing, I found his words quite sweet and yet heartbreaking at the same time. Instead, it was that nervous laugh you sometimes get, bordering on hysterics. When you literally don’t to whether to laugh or cry. It’s a 50-50 shot either way.
I looked into his face, half hidden in the shadows of the falling sun peeping through his window. He would not let it go. And I did not want to answer. I am not entirely sure why I was so adamant about withholding this information. I was hoping the questions would just go away, like a random pain in your side. But I knew they wouldn’t.
Finally, I managed to pull myself together: “Why do you want to know?”
“I just want to know. I won’t tell anyone if you are. For real. It will be our secret.”
“So then why does it matter?”
“Because I want to solve the mystery, the mystery of the Tooth Fairy. If it’s you, then I’ve solved it. And if it’s not, I can cross you off my suspect list.”
Well, that made me laugh outright. His ‘suspect’ list? What, now I’m on CSI??
“Please, Mom, PLEASE! It’s ok if you are. I just want to know.”
We went on like this for a little while longer. For some reason, I just could not say it. I had to put him off for one more day. I told him that we were both tired and it was past bedtime. I told him to go to bed and ask me again tomorrow if he still wanted to know.
It was the Meatloaf response: Sleep on it, and I’ll give you my answer in the morning.
He looked at me through sleepy eyes. “Will you tell me the truth?”
“If I answer the question, I will answer it truthfully.”
Later that night, when I was quite sure he was asleep, I crept into his room to remove his note and tooth, trading his pint sized printing for the Tooth Fairy’s fancy font. Then I snuck back downstairs to contemplate the next morning’s query that I knew would come.
I would not lie to him. I had hesitated in the first place when venturing into ‘mythical creatures’ like the Tooth Fairy and Santa, as I knew the day would eventually come when the myth would be revealed. I have always encouraged my Little Man to think what he wants to think and believe what he wants to believe, and to be content to let others do the same. There’s a part of me that is actually surprised that it took him this long to figure it out, as his mind moves at a lightning speed. Maybe he had figured it out long ago and just recently summoned the courage to ask the question, the type of question that you are not sure you want the answer to. But an answer he was obviously ready to hear, even if I was not yet ready to speak it.
The next morning, he came bounding into my room, note and silver dollar in hand.
“So are you?”
“Well, good morning to you, too.”
“Sorry, Mom! Good morning. So are you the Tooth Fairy?”
Sigh. “I don’t know about THE Tooth Fairy. But I am YOUR Tooth Fairy.” There. I said it. Out loud. A little icy stab to my heart as a bit of his childhood fell away. I hugged him tight and swallowed hard around the knot in my throat.
Was he broken up about it? Hardly.
A big smile spread across his face: “I thought so! But I wasn’t totally sure. It’s OK, Mom. I won’t tell anybody else,” he said quietly, pleased to be sharing a confidence. “I do have a question, though. Where do you get all those silver dollars?”
Big hugs and kisses all around. He read over the note I left him once more, then hopped out of bed and ran off to put his loot in his piggy bank. Hesitating for a moment in the doorway, he looked back at me and smiled again.
“Oh, and Mom. Thanks for telling me the truth.” :-)