I remember the day when I had to throw the Tooth Fairy under the bus to save Santa Claus. My then 6 year old was getting very curious about Santa, the Tooth Fairy, the Easter Bunny and all of the other imaginary characters we tell our children exist. She had just lost a tooth and said, “Mom, I know there is no Tooth Fairy. How could she fly around and get all of the teeth of the children who are losing them? Where would she keep all of those teeth? There is not a place big enough to keep all of the teeth of all of the children in the world.” And I realized that she knew the truth, she knew that the Tooth Fairy didn’t exist. She had been asking questions about Santa and the Easter Bunny too.
I had to make a decision about what lengths I was willing to go to to save The Big Guy. Then she said, “The other thing about the Tooth Fairy is that she leaves a quarter at one house, a dollar at another and I heard someone got five dollars. That doesn’t make any sense at all. Why would kids get different amounts of money? That’s not fair. I think it’s the parents.” I realized the jig is up and so I decided it was time to give up the Tooth Fairy to try to save Santa Claus, “You are right, Sweetie, there is no Tooth Fairy, it is the parents”. “I knew it” she said “there are just too many teeth”.
Soon after she asked about Santa, “How does Santa get the presents to every kids’ house around the world all on one night?” I think I deflected nicely by asking, “How do you think he does it?”. “It’s the elves” she said, “the elves help him and he’s also got the reindeer. Besides, how could all of the parents around the world hide the Christmas presents without the kids knowing and get the presents under the tree without waking them up. It’s just not possible.” I smiled and said, “You are so smart”.
I remember when each of my 3 of my kids had doubts about Santa and how we handled it. I was always the queen of deflection with, “What do you think?”. I feel a little guilty that we are lying to our kids and continue this charade of these made up characters but is it so unbelievably cute when they believe and, selfishly, it makes Christmas so much more fun.
I remember when my now twelve year old son once said, “I don’t want that fat, jolly man named Santa climbing down our chimney and coming into our house. Can we please leave the presents outside?” And we did. We left the presents on the porch that year.
Then a couple of years later when our daughter was a baby, he said, “My baby sister is scared of Santa. I think we should write a note on the door and ask Santa to leave the presents outside of the house so she’s not scared”. And so we did. Now my 7 year old is the only one in our house who still believes in Santa so that makes Christmas a little tricky. This year my 9 year old did a lot of air quotes about Santa and lots of obvious winking whenever anyone mentioned him.
I’m not sure how the 7 year old didn’t clue in. Luckily my 12 year old is just happy to get presents and goes with the flow in the “if you believe you will receive” philosophy (or at least not rat out Santa to younger siblings). We somehow got through the holidays with my youngest still believing. I feel a little bad that I had to throw the Tooth Fairy under the bus but I think it was necessary to save Santa for at least one more year.
There are other little white lies we’ve told our kids other than the obvious Santa, Tooth Fairy, Easter Bunny etc. Until my kids were each about 7, they believed I had eyes in the back of my head. I called them my “back eyes”. I said that parents could see what was going on behind them. I’m not sure why I told that little white lie, probably in part to have them think I had some super human ability but also to keep them on guard so they’d think parents were all knowing. I’d really play it off by having someone stand in front of me and then asking my kid to hold up fingers and my mole would hold up the same number discreetly so I could call it out correctly. Or I’d stand by a mirror so I could see their reflection. I got them every time.
Then, when they were getting a little older and wiser, they would do it when no one else was around or hold their fingers where I couldn’t see them and realized I didn’t have back eyes after all. Maybe we watch too many superhero movies but I liked having my special Super Mom power and I’m sad they are all onto me and I’m back to just two eyes in the front of my head.
There are white lies we all tell our kids. Like how the shot they are about to get at the doctor’s office won’t hurt or it will just feel like a pin prick. Sometimes it does hurt and we probably all lose a little credibility every time it happens. Or when you put them in a time out for 5 minutes but it’s so quiet that you stretch it into 10 since they can’t tell time yet. At bedtime I some times tell my 7 year old I’ll sit in her room for an extra, say, 15 minutes if she keeps her eyes closed the whole time.
Once I hear her heavy sleep breathing start, I often sneak out, even if it’s before 15 minutes. Yes, it’s a little white lie but I think to think it’s a little brilliant. She can’t stay awake very long with her eyes completely closed and I’m usually ready to be off parent duty. I think we all say, “I’ll be right back” when it’s 15 minutes or multiple hours and I know we all tell our kids, “There are no monsters in your closet” or “I’ll keep you safe” but do we really know that’s true? Maybe not but it makes us feel better and I think it makes our kids feel better too.
I actually try to tell my kids the truth as much as possible so I’m not going to beat myself up when I tell a little white lie to keep them little kids as long as possible or just to save my sanity for a few minutes. I think the little white lies we tell them about these imaginary characters are a right of passage of childhood. Of course, they will probably spend years in therapy over it and in 20 years we’ll realize how much we damaged them but I’m going to stand by it for now. I might even write a note to Santa this year telling him about how I gave up the Tooth Fairy to save him and I think he will be grateful that we may have one more year in our house of someone believing in him. I just send him a letter to the North Pole, right?