A couple months ago, when S lost her first tooth, she was all excited about getting a few shiny coins and a letter from the tooth fairy. She put her tooth in a nice little plastic bag and wrote a thank you note to tooth fairy. She waited as long as she could at night but eventually fell asleep.
I took her tooth and put an envelope with a short letter thanking her for the shining white tooth and for brushing well, and, a few coins in exchange. I thought I did great.
The next day… After all the excitement of discovering the letter and the coins, she suddenly sat quiet for a few seconds and said, “Mommy, tell me the truth. There is no tooth fairy, right? There’s no fairy in the world, right? Or is there? Was it really the tooth fairy, or was it you? Are you the tooth fairy?”
I was surprised, but not too surprised. I knew that one day she would ask, “What do you think?”
“I think you are the tooth fairy! Tooth fairy is not real, then… no fairies are real. That’s not fun!” She sulked, “But am I still going to get coins next time I lose a tooth?”
“Yes, you will still get the coins.” I said, trying to sound cool.
“Mommy, do you know why I know?” She added.
“No…” now that got me really curious, “Did someone tell you? How did you know?”
“No. Nobody told me. I saw the letter was your handwriting!”
Oops… my bad… I forgot to write with my left hand. I hugged her and asked, “Sorry! Are you OK with discovering this?”
“Yeah. Actually, I’m glad I heard the truth. I’ve been thinking maybe tooth fairy is not real. I’m glad I was right!” She smiled her million-dollar big smile with genuine joy.
“Mommy, is that a lie?” She raised her eyebrows after a while, “You know, telling kids that there’s tooth fairy?”
Now that really caught me off guard, “Hmm… it’s mythology carried out for fun to show love… so grown-ups can join the fun and find connection to a child’s world, like pretend and play. As we are pretending and playing together, it feels real. It’s the feeling that counts. I love you. You feel happy. We both feel happy and loved.”
“Oh, that’s true! I am happy and I do feel your love.” She beamed, her white teeth shining with her new little gap, “But tell me Santa is real!”
“What do you think?” I tried not to pause or sound surprised.
“Santa is REAL! Yay! Santa is REAL!” She exclaimed, jumped to her feet, and went on to play.
I smiled. She can figure out the world and herself in it her own way.