This lying thing is a slippery slope. You start by innocently teaching your kids about the Tooth Fairy or Santa Clause or the Easter Bunny—envisioning their little faces lighting up with anticipation and delight at the magic—and the next thing you know you’re shelling out $10 a tooth or crafting letters from one of Santa’s elves and wishing you could just stop the madness.
Take the Tooth Fairy, a rather innocuous fabrication used to ease the fear and anxiety of losing a tooth. The first couple of times it is so great to see your kids’ toothless grins when they run out of their rooms in the morning clutching a few dollars. But after a while it becomes a bit of a drag, so, if you are like me, you try to take a shortcut.
Last year I decided that I would simply swap out the tooth for the money at the same time that I tucked my youngest into bed. This way, I thought, I would lessen the chance that I would forget to leave the cash.
What I did forgot, though, was that my kid might grab for the tooth just to make sure it was still there as he drifted off to sleep.
Which, of course, was exactly what he did.
So when he whipped open his bedroom door seconds later, he found me skulking away with an envelope containing his tooth. Many tears and accusations later the truth was out: I was the tooth fairy.
But now, tis the season for Santa and my 11-year-old has me in a state of confusion. How do I respond when he asks: “Mom, is there really a Santa Claus?” Does no tooth fairy=no Santa? And more importantly, does he really believe or is he milking me for more presents?
Our oldest was 7 when I ruined Santa for him. “Santa’s not real, right Mom?” he would ask. I ignored his questions as much as I could but then one day I thought that maybe my scientific-minded child really wanted to know the truth. And, besides, I shouldn’t be lying to my kid, right?
And so I told him: “No, honey there is no Santa Claus.”
So much for my scientific minded child wanting to know the truth. His little face fell and tears ran down his cheeks. I had taken away something magical. Not to mention the fact that I had been lying to him for 7 years.
“So, is the Easter Bunny fake, too?” he asked next, in between sobs.
Now what was I supposed to do? Well, the fat guy was out of the bag, I thought, the bunny may as well be, too.
Shortly after that the tooth fairy went the same way as her make-believe counterparts (although we did continue to give him a few bucks per tooth out of guilt).
Now, when faced with the prospect of outing Santa again, I refuse to be the bad guy. I have smoothly dodged many Santa Claus traps over the past few years and maintained the fantasy: multiple department store Santas? (“They’re Santa’s helpers!”); collateral holiday characters (of course Rudolph is real!); But now, there’s “The Elf on the Shelf”. Would this 10” ridiculous looking elf be my undoing?
For the uninitiated there is a fairly new Christmas “tradition” known as “The Elf on the Shelf,” a small elf doll that, as the story goes, magically appears in your house on December 1st to keep an eye on the kids for Santa. Every night the elf is supposed to check in at the North Pole and then reappear the following morning in a different location in your house. This goes on until December 24th when the elf returns to his home to give Santa the final update.
After 3 years I thought I was done. I had dutifully dragged out the Elf on December 1 and moved him around every night since my youngest was 7 (Ok, so I forgot a few times but I tap danced around the gaffe pretty well: “Maybe it was his night off?!” and “Maybe this is the best vantage point?!”).
I decided to test the waters this year and not break him out on time. A few days went by without a peep, until yesterday when my son told me to bring out the Elf.
“What?” I scoffed. “Me, bring out the Elf? The Elf just shows up,” I reminded him, watching closely for signs that he was fishing for information. But there was nothing.
So, I dug out the Elf and here he sits, smiling smugly as he perches on his shelf. And here I am, just keeping up the charade. I already ruined too many childhood fantasies—I hope I’ve learned my lesson.