Telling lies for fun and profit: The Tooth Fairy

AJ missing a toothLast night I enjoyed one of those moments of fatherhood I never thought about before we had kids: pulling teeth. Twice now I’ve gotten some dental floss from the cabinet, tied a knot around a loose tooth, and pulled, to reveal a bloodless tiny kernel of dentition in a tangle of nylon twine. AJ has now lost his front two lower teeth, and he’s already got the tips of the new one poking through the gum-line. (Those were the easy teeth. I worry about the others now.)

Before Jennifer and I married, we discussed what we would do about Christmas, Halloween, Easter, and other childhood stories. I was adamant: no myths. No lies. No Santa.

No. Tooth. Fairy.

I would not lie to my children for the sake of entertainment or shielding them from the uncomfortable truths of life. There is no grab-bag toting, velour-sporting grandpa dumping presents under the tree. These gifts come out of the hard-earned cash in my wallet! There is no winged woman with a wand trading hapless teeth for cash. What would I say when they ask me what she does with the teeth anyhow? What is the Tooth Fairy, some benign sort of Hannibal Lecter collecting discarded body parts for fun and profit?

No. No way am I layering my children’s minds with fanciful lies and fables.

Then we had AJ. And now Elisabeth.

:: sigh ::

Now nearly every night I lay down by my son’s side and what do I do? I spin a yarn. I tell a tale. I fabricate entertaining lies that quiet my child, make his eyes widen, and maybe teach him some truths. I’m a fairy taler. I’ve told stories about flying magical beds, runaway cars with a mind of their own, boys that engineer trains, children who save the space stations from evil pirates. I’ve described little men in UFOs that talk to boys in their bedrooms, children who escape slavering Tyannosarus Rexs, children with special powers, children with handicaps, fears, and phobias.

And yes, we’ve included Santa Claus in our repertoire of fables. And now, the Tooth Fairy.

I’m a great big, fat liar.

Nevertheless, knowing my formerly trenchant opinion on the matter, my bride asked what I thought about a service a friend of hers now offers. She proposed, “How would you feel about spending $8 so a friend of mine could send AJ a customized letter from the Tooth Fairy.” What, you say? Eight bucks for a letter I could very well write myself and send on my way to work? Eight bucks to send my son a letter from a magical being that does not exist (as far as I know) and who, presumably, would not need to use US Postal Service if she did? I’m already out $0.71 for my theft of his tooth from under his pillow last night, and now I’m supposed to seal the deal with another eight Washingtons?

“It’s a new business my friend started up. Give her eight bucks and she’ll write a custom letter to AJ about losing his latest tooth and he’ll love it. She also does Santa Claus, and other characters.”

To send a letter I could send myself?

That got me The Look. You know, the one that says, “Right, like you’re going to stoop to actually writing letters from fairies and sending it in the mail when you haven’t written a letter or licked a stamp in ten years.”

Without a word, she had me there.

“Okay, sure.”

So, there you have it. Letters from Fairyland. AJ’s head is going to be so messed up. What’s next? Instant Messages from the Easter Bunny?

By the way, if you’re interested in sending your kid (or some other impressionable minor) a similar character letter, head on over to Donna Rushing’s new enterprise: Duckels Designs Kid’s Mail. You can order custom letters to suit every theological and mythological persuasion including Santa, Frosty, Rudolph, Cupid, the Easter Bunny, a “friendly” Ghost (no poltergeists were harmed in the making of these letters, though, I’m sure), the Tooth Fairy, and a “Friendship Letter.”

Stick around for another 10 years or so and I’ll tell you what effect this has on AJ.

[tags]BlogRodent, kids, bedtime-stories, stories, tooth-fairy[/tags]

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22 Responses to Telling lies for fun and profit: The Tooth Fairy

  1. Jennifer says:

    I did NOT give you a look. I had something in my eye.

    Personally, I’m excited to see what Donna’s letter will look like. This may be one for the baby book, I think.

  2. Rich,

    I love your titles.

    But, you shouldn’t think of telling stories to your kids about Santa Claus and the Tooth Fairy and such as lies. Kids need stories, and so do adults. We learn to live our lives by them, even if they never actually happened, i.e. the boy who cried wolf.

    There is an application of this principle to the interpretation of Scripture too. But that’s a different post for a different day.

    Shane

  3. Jim says:

    My last pastor preached to the congregation about how to raise their kids for several years. He would “never”, either. Then came a wife and kids of his own. He not only changed his view on everything, he even admitted to climbing into the youngster’s crib beside the bed one night to entice him into leaving their bed… My wife and I, by the way, eliminated Santa Claus from my three girls’ early years out of such beliefs as you state here. It remains one of those things, in watching the grandchildren so enjoy the holiday, that I now regret…

  4. Rich says:

    Well, Bride of mine, maybe you didn’t give me The Look. But, then, I had just shaved 90% of the hair off my head so I was mourning. I was in emotional distress.

    Thanks for the compliment on my titles, Shane, they’re the best part of writing this blog. I leave the titles for last.

    Maybe “lies” is a bit strong for the process of fiction, but, really, a fiction is a lie in the sense that the story itself may not have happened, but it can still contain truth. Alternatively, we can tell stories of things that actually happened that contain a good deal of lies. The mainstream media passes this off as news every day! :: grin ::

    But, really, I agree with you. I cut my teeth on fiction. I used science-fiction, fantasy, animal stories, espionage, international intrigue, courtroom dramas, and police procedurals to escape during my childhood, and my financially burdensome habit continues to this day. I haven’t counted, but I wouldn’t be surprised if we have two or three thousand books scattered around our house and on bookshelves. Whenever we move, I curse the day I learned to read!

    Yes, stories are an essential part of a developing moral mindset, and it’s why I love telling AJ stories at night. I don’t have a stuctured approach. I lay down and ask him what the story’s about (so he can participate in the storymaking process) and he gives me a character and a situation. Like, the other night, he tells me, “A letter comes off the wall and turns into a monster.” (He has an illustrated alphabet strip running around his room.) So, given my story “seed” I then try to come up with a simple story that involves some sort of moral lesson. And I try to do it before I pass out next to him. (For some reason, cuddling with my son while telling him a story in a darkened room is a powerful antidote to wakefulness!)

    Incidentally, AJ loves to read. He’s just turned five and is reading first and second grade materials. I’m proud of him, and grateful that he’s reading for different reasons than I did as a child. Ellie is fast on his heels.

    Jim, it’s interesting, isn’t it, how our conceits about child-raising born in bachelorhood give way to reality when children appear in our homes? I have to say that my children have taught me more about God’s grace and love than I ever learned in seminary. Oh, and they’ve taught me a bit about original sin, too. Ha!

    Regards,

    Rich
    BlogRodent

  5. Dave Godzwa says:

    Ah yes, we do start off so well, but something happens when we are in the midst of parenting that causes a change. We don’t “do” Santa Claus and the Easter Bunny for obvious reasons, but the Tooth Fairy works at our house too.

    Actually, I believe that these stories are the last threads of “tradition” that we hang on to in this globalized, mobile culture. We don’t have grandma at the dining room table, but we can continue the tradtions that grandma had taught in re-telling the story of the tooth fairy. So we understand, sympatize, and here in Costa Rica where we are confronted with the unordinary everyday, we do the same as you.

    Dave

  6. carl says:

    I don’t know. My son is five and the other night he asked us if God is on T.V. This might sound like a strange question but he had come to know that there is a Santa. He is a character that is on television around Christmas time and that sometimes people dress as this character in the mall and in parades. The same with Dora and Big bird. They are real, but only as fictional characters.

    When he asked about God and television, we knew the Holy Spirit was drawing him and we told him in fact that God was not just a fictional character but that he was real. We went on to answer his question as to why he did not see him (God is spirit and that we don’t normally see Him or His angels but that they are here) why he did not hear Him (he needed to be filled with his spirit) how he could know him the way his mom and I do (be born again) which he was that night.

    I know there is no formula for child rearing (I was raised heathen and I am doing ok now) but my wife and I decided that our children would pray to no other God. Not a fat man on the North Pole, not the Easter bunny, no fairies. Angels yes. Jesus yes. The Holy Ghost yes.

    I doubt that 10 years from now your child is going to be a wiccan who casts spells on their friends because of the tooth fairy letter. And I definitely don’t have all the answers. My kids and I make up all kinds of fictional stories about crazy adventures but My wife and I present gospel truths as the truth and fictional stories as fiction. To be enjoyed, but not believed.

  7. I was happy to read that you use your creative talent to ignite your children’s imaginations! Your commentary shows how your thoughts and ideas have changed. I think it is a marvel how children influence adults and I love how they bring out the child in us so the fun and laughter continues in this stressful world. I personally (so does my Tooth Fairy character) thank you for including a link in your blog to my website. My wish is that when AJ receives his letter, that he beams the biggest gapped tooth smile you have ever seen!! God bless you and your family!

    Sincerely,

    Donna Rushing

  8. Brad Drell says:

    Rich:

    Dude, it will be okay. Just make sure you tell the kiddos about Jesus, and I know you will. As they say, teach them in the way they should go…

    YBIC,
    Brad

  9. Rich says:

    Brad,

    Thanks for the encouragement.

    Speaking of teaching them about Jesus. My son just turned five. A few weeks ago, we were cuddling around story-time and he asked, “Dad, if God is everywhere, does that mean he can do two things at once?” Imagine my surprise. Yes, son. He can. Something I seem to forget at times.

    Tonight, we were sitting at our table dining on burritos and quesadillas and we were talking. Our near-two-year old baby, Elisabeth, held up two fingers and said, “Doo!” which we all found remarkable. Then AJ began a riff about how in China there are people who talk Spanish and they say “dos” for two. Which led to a series of questions about geography.

    “AJ, do you know where Romeoville is?”

    “It’s the city we live in.”

    “Do you know where the city Romeoville is located?”

    With typical five-year-old exuberance: “It’s in the world!”

    “That’s right, but did you know that it’s in a place called the State of Illinois?”

    “Yeah, that’s why we say ‘Romeoville, Illinois 60446.’”

    “Right, and do you know where Romeoville, Illinois is?”

    “No.”

    “It’s in a place called the United States of America. Do you remember who George Washington was?”

    “Yes! He was the first President of the whole world, then after that God and Jesus are the president!”

    Dear me.

    Yeah, we’re teaching him about Jesus, all right. He’s the President.

    Rich
    BlogRodent

  10. Rich,

    I think your son was making a subtle allusion to the growing theocratic menace of the Bush Administration.

    Good for him.

    shane

  11. Steve May says:

    This is funny, Rich, because I went through the same thing. Same conversation with my wife: no Santa, no tooth fairy. When my daughter was about three years old she said something about Santa and I said, “Elizabeth, let’s clear this up now. There’s no such thing as Santa Claus. He’s just pretend. The toys you get for Christmas are from me and your mother, because there’s no such thing as Santa.” My daughter said, “Daaaaad, yes there is!” So much for that. I guess around 6 or 7 the kids stopped believing in Santa Claus, though at 20, 19 and 17 they still leave milk and cookies out for him. They don’t seem to be worse off for having endured the Santa myth.

  12. Brad Drell says:

    Actually, if you tell your children Santa Claus doesn’t exist, you are not really telling the truth. In point of fact, I suspect he is up in heaven now, but was a real man here on earth.

    He died on December 6, 343 A.D. He was the Bishop of Myra in Turkey. He is the patron saint of children, and is known as the gift giver.

    Here is some information on old St. Nick: http://www.stnicholascenter.org/Brix?pageID=38

    Santa Claus is merely two words — Santa meaning Saint, and Claus being a translation of Nicholas. This stems from the German Sankt Niklaus (say it, it sounds like Santa Claus) and Dutch Sinterklaas.

  13. Gordon Jewett says:

    Your friend Donna has exercised her imagination and tried to earn some income by it. Nothing wrong with that, but you’re not obligated to help her. All you had to do regarding the offer of the $8.00 letter was say “No, thanks,” and let that be the end of it.

  14. Rich says:

    Thanks, Gordon, but I felt no obligation. It’s an experiment at bringing some delight to my son’s eyes.

    Regards,

    Rich.
    BlogRodent

  15. Steven says:

    i have a younger sister that i am woried about, she sleeps in the hallway rite outside of my room and she is afraid of monsters and ghost, she is 10 years old. She says that if she sleeps in her room, a ghost will get her first since her room is the closest to the stairs that lead down to the first floor. What do i do to get her to sleep in her room?

  16. Common Swift says:

    Instead of yanking, give him a piece of caramel.

  17. Rich says:

    Common Swift, thanks for the advice. I hadn’t thought about caramel, but maybe on the next tooth we’ll try it. Fortunately, since this post, we’ve lost a couple more teeth, and they’ve all fallen out naturally except for the one.

    Incidentally, AJ loves it when I call him my “Gap-Tooth Boy.” First time I said that he fell off his chair in laughter. He reminded me tonight at bedtime that this is one of my nicknames for him, and he still delights in it.

    Kids. You gotta love ‘em.


    Steven, sorry I haven’t responded before now. I think, in my mind I did respond. Maybe I did privately. I don’t know.

    But I can tell you this, in some ways this isn’t your burden, it’s your parents. Ask your mom and dad how you can help. They’re probably the best source of wisdom on this since they know you and your sister the best.

    You can always pray with her and help her put more trust in God and his protection, that might surely help. And you can also pray for her on your own, that God grant her courage to face her fears.

    In any case, I think most kids grow out of this over time.

    Peace,

    Rich
    BlogRodent

  18. BlindHog says:

    Telling stories to your children isn’t lying to them — unless you go to great lengths to convince them that you are not telling stories, but describing reality. Telling your children about Santa Claus in the same way you tell them about Cinderella or Jack and the Beanstalk — as make-believe for fun — is simply diversion/entertainment for them. More power to any parent who does that! But trying to convince your chldren that Santa Claus is just as real as Daddy and Mommy — or just as real as Jesus — is telling them lies. And I don’t really see that there’s an upside to that kind of deception.

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  20. CAT says:

    Wow…sucha shame. We actually know a family that does not do the “Santa thing”, as they refer to it..”telling lies to our children..” Ridiculous…Heaven forbid a kid should have some fun. We DO celebrate Christmas as a Christian Holiday but also pretend with Santa…No big deal. Fantasies are fun and fine.

  21. Maxx91 says:

    This is a trick question, right? ,

  22. Hi

    Welcome to the real live toothfairy. I put the work in; the children have to get educated on how to save their adult teeth; thus Tooth fairy city. A city where on quadrant of the mouth are teeth characters building up their cusps (muscles) and finding the right foods to eat at their factory. Cindy Central has a crush on Central instructor, she stands alone for her angles are different than the others.

    Love
    The Tooth Fairy

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