My son lost a tooth two days ago. We are well used to this routine, and Cheating Husband dutifully reminded me that the tooth fairy was due for a visit that night. I, of course, promptly forgot all about this and my concomitant need to go and draw money from the ATM. I was reminded only when my son started making flurried preparations for his nocturnal visitor. This was already about two hours after his supposed bedtime, and it was easily the coldest night of the year. I briefly thought of selflessly making my way to the 24 hour shop down the road. Fortunately this thought was swiftly replaced by the self righteous notion that all domestic fuck ups do not necessarily have to be borne by me. This time it was the Tooth Fairy’s chance.
I found an unused card (that had escaped prior use by slipping behind my bedside table) and wrote a pitiful note from the Tooth Fairy explaining how she had, unfortunately, dropped his money somewhere along the way to visit him, but that she would return the following night with cash in hand. Vaguely dreading his disappointment in the morning, I snuggled under my duvet with the sure knowledge that even if he was upset, I could not possibly be blamed.
The following morning he awoke eagerly (as he only does when some fabricated creature has forcibly entered our house and left cash or gifts for him) and ran to find his school shoe (his slippers having disappeared about two days before the first real cold front of Winter). He opened the card and read the message aloud. My heart stopped as I waited for his response. As usual, it came completely from left field.
Son: Mom, how could the Tooth Fairy have bought a card from the shops?
Me: I don’t know. The way we would I suppose.
Son: Thats preposterous.
Me: Well maybe she made it herself?
Son: No. Theres a barcode here. That means it was in a shop.
Me: I dont know. She has her ways.
Son: Well how did she write on it if she is so tiny. How could she hold the pen?
Me: (Getting irritable). I don’t know, I’m not the tooth fairy.
Son: Well, apparently you are.
I stumbled, unsure of whether to confess and shatter his childish naivete, or to stand firm and lie. I basically chose the latter so as not to have to take responsibility for the still-missing money. “Why”, I asked him “would parents possibly want to lie to their children about something like this? What would be the purpose?” This had him stumped, and he ran off eager to tell his little sister about his windfall.
It had me thinking though. Why do we let the Tooth Fairy, the Easter Bunny, Father Christmas take credit for all the lovely things we do for them? For the money, the chocolate, the gifts? It didn’t seem fair when parenting is such a battle field, and I am the soldier that is constantly shooting myself in the foot.
The answer came to me as I yelled at him half an hour later. “Father Christmas won’t bring you presents” I blustered. He looked at me with the calm of a child who knows Christmas is still five months away. “And he will tell the Tooth Fairy not to bring your money” I added. He stopped walking along the back of the couch (the one situated in front of a large sheet of plate glass) and sat down. And then I realised the beauty of the deal my fore-parents had struck. For three days a year we buy stuff for which we get no credit. In return we get an entire childhood of a ‘bad cop’ that is not us. A bad cop with a smoking gun. I was filled with a renewed resolve to keep them believing for as long as I could. Until young adulthood if I could.