The End of the Magic:: When Kids Stop Believing

Tooth Fairy Tales

A photograph of a hand lifting a pillow to reveal a tooth.

Ever since my two older kids starting losing their teeth and writing letters to the Tooth Fairy, I have been typing up responses in the night to disguise the true identity of the one who leaves them money and/or messages. I have one child who left a note in lieu of her first tooth {and every tooth after that} because she is a collector of things. I have another who scribbles a few lines but is expecting the moolah. And I have a little one who is terrified about the whole idea of teeth falling out of your head.

After the child goes to sleep, I would take my typed reply and shove it under their pillow. In my quest for authenticity, there were occasions where I printed my response on the back of their own note. Honestly, it was a lot of extra work and I sometimes resented the additional chore even as I was tip-toeing into their rooms, trying to avoid the squeaky spot on the floor. Why do I begrudge it? Because I never even told them about the Tooth Fairy.

Somehow, as children growing up in the United States, they taught themselves through books, television and friends that there was a fairy who gives you money for body parts that you leave for her before bedtime. It was also crucial that you tuck that little piece of you right nice and tight underneath the place where you sleep so that the poor fairy has to “Mission Impossible” herself to remove it without waking you up.

So then when my oldest lost his first tooth and excitedly put it under his pillow with a note, I did what any mom would do. I responded to it. And therein began half a decade of correspondence with my two older children. Sure, it can be fun to write back and forth because kids say the darndest things. But in the back of my head, I always wonder how long I should keep up the fibbing.

A Non-Magical Childhood

I never believed in any of this stuff when I was a kid. No Tooth Fairy, no Santa Claus, nothing. If you think I was deprived, I would challenge that everyone else was privileged. I did not grow up in a family where there was change to spare, where parents have the time or the language to respond to notes to fictitious characters, and where a large white man in a red suit broke into your house to leave lavish presents.

My brother and I grew up in stark reality. I remember leaving a couple of Chips Ahoy {blue package} cookies out for Santa one time, not really expecting them to be eaten, but just wanting to participate in American culture.

My plan with my own children was to be hands off about the whole Tooth Fairy and Santa thing:: I would not discourage it, but I would not encourage it either. My utmost concern was that I did not lie about important things to the children, so that they would trust me when it comes to my teachings of Jesus and our Christian faith. In our family, these are the things that are true and will remain true.

Santa Claus is Coming to Town

A child smiling at Santa Claus. Oh, wait. The Santa thing. There was one time where I broke my own rule. The children were adorably young, they were really into Santa that year, and I thought it would be fun to trick them like other parents do their kids. Isn’t that what Christmas is all about?

My husband borrowed his dad’s old Santa suit, dressed up in it, and bent over the gifts under our tree. I posed him in a way where we couldn’t see his head, and took a photo on my phone. On Christmas morning, we told the kids that we had heard a noise, came down, snapped a photo, and ran back to bed. They loved it!! “Irrefutable proof!” my son said, throwing the existence of that photo in my face when I suggested that it was all pretend.

In the last couple of years, I have been dropping hints, BIG hints that they have the story wrong. I told them that Santa definitely existed historically as Saint Nicholas and gave gifts and his spirit lives on everywhere. We even read a book about it. It wasn’t good enough. They responded by doubling down, my son labeling me as contributing to “what’s wrong with the world today.” {That’s a sentiment from the Christmas movie “Elf”.} Kids do say the darndest things, don’t they?

The End is Near

A child's written letter with the text: Dear tooth fairy is it ok if you give me money even thow I don't give you my tooth sincerely Kelsey.

So last month my daughter lost another tooth and left a note for the Tooth Fairy asking how much money she would get if she turned in all her saved teeth at once. It required such a short response, so I chanced it and wrote back in my own handwriting, barely trying to disguise it: “$1 a tooth”.

“That looks like Mommy’s handwriting. That IS Mommy’s handwriting!” she had said upon discovering the note. “Mommy, tell me THE TRUTH. Are you the Tooth Fairy??” I felt trapped. So I did what anyone would do in this situation. I ran away. Before I bolted downstairs, I heard my oldest shout “Mommy you’re the Tooth Fairy!” But he didn’t seem mad. It sounded more like he had solved a mystery.

No one chased after me so I let the subject go. Last week my son lost a tooth, but he didn’t put it under his pillow. It’s just sitting in a Ziploc bag on his desk. I’m not going to ask him about it. I’ll just let him arrive at his own conclusion.

When they finally accept the truth, will they be mad at me for lying to them all their lives? Or will they thank me for all the fun I created for us? Fingers crossed that it’s the latter.

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The End of the Magic: When Kids Stop Believing. Logo: Houston Moms. A photograph of a hand lifting a pillow to reveal a tooth.


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