Of Course We Have an Elf Story
Contains spoilers. Do not read aloud to your three year-old.
When my daughter lost a molar last January, she decided to follow up on some lingering questions about the Tooth Fairy.
“Can we read tonight?” she asked, as we tucked the tooth under her pillow.
Sure thing, kid.
We had danced around this since Christmas, or, four straight weeks of her being enthralled with, and suspicious of, our Elf on the Shelf. She kept asking why the Elf never appeared in her room. Because the sound of a butterfly landing on a blade of grass three states away jolts you from a dead sleep, that’s why.
“I just want to know the rest of the story about the Tooth Fairy,” she said.
The first part of the story was me sputtering something incoherent as I debated whether or not to tell her. I bailed on it with a promise to finish the story when she lost her next tooth. She wasn't actually supposed to remember, for crying out loud.
Now what? I wondered. Do I just blurt it? Do I cry and beg forgiveness for my years of deceit? Right before I opened my mouth, it occurred to me that maybe I should let her talk first.
“How do you think the story ends?” I asked.
“I think the Tooth Fairy is the mommies and the daddies,” she said. She was smiling. She looked so grown up to me. She looked wise and ready.
I realized then that knowing the truth doesn’t mean she’s lost anything. The myth just evolves into something different, into a new way of understanding the world. She had the experience of believing in something magical. Now she knows how to create the magic.
“Congratulations,” I said. “Now you know the truth.”
We covered it all – Santa, the Elf on the Shelf, the Easter Bunny. I told her that even though they're not real, the joy I find in sliding money under her pillow, or putting out presents at night, is very real. It is one of my favorite parts of being a mom. Except when I wake up in a cold sweat at 2:00 a.m. and realize I've forgotten to move the Elf.
But then the real test: would she blab to her sister? My girls will protect other from harm to the ends of the earth, but you can’t give one of them even half a cookie on the sly without them running to the other yelling LOOK WHAT I GOT THAT YOU DIDN'T GET.
The next morning, she waited until her little sister left the room, even made sure she was busy, then motioned to me. She put her face close to my ear.
“You forgot to take the tooth,” she whispered.
So much for going out with a bang. Other than that? I think we both did okay.
(Stay tuned for Part II, in which we're now both trying to figure out what to do with the Elf, and are equally ungraceful about it.)